Facts & Feelings:
Evaluating the Book of Mormon
"And when ye shall receive these things,
Two young Mormon missionaries asked me to put this promise to work in evaluating the Book of Mormon, and then see what impressions or feelings I got. I did just what was suggested, and I believe God showed me the truth.
Perhaps millions of people who have followed this course have decided the Book of Mormon is true, for there are over ten million Mormons in the world today (a large percentage of that number are children, however, and a large percentage as well are inactive members). Are they right?
I believe there are two basic ways of deciding that question: through facts and through feelings. In this evaluation, I'd like to look at BOTH the facts and the role of feelings, and I ask you to be the judge of them, and of my conclusions.
Note: if you wish to skip to the MAIN POINT, scroll down to #10.
The question has been posed, "How could any mere man have written such a book?" Let's look first at the facts, with that question in mind.
1. CONTENTS. It is a long book, or collection of books -- over 500 pages. An estimated 17,000+ words (26+ pages) of that material are either verbatim quotations of the Bible, or advance revelations of what would be written later, all in 1611 King James wording. Much of the remaining "sermon" content could have been spoken by preachers Joseph Smith heard in churches he had attended. Some of the material is repetitious. A number of the plots parallel Bible stories. If we subtract all this from the book, little else remains except a few imaginative stories and some battle scenes between two enemy nations.
Could Joseph Smith have written such sermons and narratives? One of Smith's contemporaries in his teens labeled him as a "passable exhorter" in the Methodist Church (History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorhams Purchase, 1851, p. 214). And Joseph's mother said he was, at age 18, able to recite very interesting and detailed descriptions of the lives and struggles of people who lived on this continent many centuries ago (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, p. 85).
In another vein, I have an article on-line presenting facts relating to the theory of Solomon Spaulding's writing being used as a basis for the book. (Index - Book of Mormon Origin). Also check out http://www.solomonspalding.com/index.htm and http://www.mormonstudies.com
The The basic idea of the book -- that several groups, primarily of Israelites, came to the Americas, and that their descendants are the American Indians -- had already been proposed in the book, View of Hebrews, by Ethan Smith, which was published and available in New York in the 1820's. (And interestingly, Spaulding knew Ethan and had perused his work.) No anthropologist today, however, would label the Indians (Mongolian by anthropological category) as Jews; Jews are Caucasians.
2. CLAIMS. The Book of Mormon claims to be an abridgment (condensation), yet seems to be in need of condensing in many places (see IV Nephi 1:6, & 14; Jacob 4:1-2; and Jacob, chapter 5, for examples).
Another claim made for the book is that it is "the fullness of the everlasting gospel" (Introduction). But most all of the distinctively Mormon doctrines are missing from the book, such as the three heavens teaching, celestial marriage, temple covenants, handshakes, garments, baptism for the dead, Word of Wisdom requirements, flesh and bones God, law of eternal progression, and pre-existence.
It is also claimed that the Book of Mormon is "the new covenant" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:57). But four-fifths of the Book of Mormon was written to and about people who lived during the old covenant time period. (Christ initiated the new covenant when he died -- Luke 22:20, Hebrews 9:15-16, John 1:17.) Nowhere in the Book of Mormon do we find a unified statement of the four basic new covenant promises as found in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Hebrews 8:8-13.
Instead we see covenant confusion. New covenant practices such as churches being organized, baptism, communion, all believers being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and receiving spiritual gifts, are seen repeatedly in an old covenant time setting; but there is scarcely a mention of events taking place that should have been happening at that time, such as the Passover, the Day of Atonement, the other feasts, and the Year of Jubilee. Under the law covenant God's altars in the holy of holies existed for incense burning and burnt offerings only, and these things were to be done only by Aaronic priests set apart to God for this ministry (Numbers 18:7). But in the Book of Mormon we find God's people worshipping before the altar, for which travesty they should have died! (Alma 15:17, 17:4). (The "altars" of Joseph Smith's day WERE used as described in the Book of Mormon.)
Additionally, it is claimed that the Book of Mormon fulfills prophecies given in Ezekiel and Isaiah. The two sticks described in Ezekiel 37:16-17 supposedly represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon becoming "one". But the object lesson is interpreted BY GOD in verses 21 and following. It refers to the then-divided nation of Israel becoming one again, under one king (vs. 22). (Doesn't God warn us about adding our own interpretation to His word?)
Isaiah 29:4 speaks of the voice of a "familiar spirit" speaking out of the ground, which is said to represent the Book of Mormon. But throughout the Bible, the phrase "familiar spirit" refers to an EVIL spirit, not a good one (see Leviticus 20:6, I Samuel 28:3-9).
It is claimed that the book was written within a fairly short period of time. But upon careful examination it would appear there is NO time frame in which is could have been written. Here is what I mean:
According to the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, chapter 2, the sequence of events surrounding the writing is as follows:
The problem begins with the actual date of the revivals. The records of ALL THREE of the churches mentioned place the revival date at the fall of 1824 to the spring of 1825 (documentation: "New Light on Mormon Origins" by Wesley Walters). No revivals show up in the records in the time period of 1818-1822; no gains in memberships...but in 1824-25 each of the churches gained around 100-200 members.
This places the first vision at the spring of 1825 (earliest possible date, vs. 14) and that places the visit of Moroni at the fall of 1825. This means Smith did not get the plates until September of 1829, but church records place the COMPLETION of the translation at June, 1829 ("A Short History of the CJCLDS", p. 18). It would appear that the translation was completed 3 months before Smith got the plates. Obviously one of the links in the above chain of events is wrong. Other church records admit the official first vision date is wrong. Why hasn't it been changed then or even footnoted? The actual sequence of events is not the issue here...the issue is that the "official" story simply isn't true and the church leaders know it but have chosen not to set the record straight. Does such a hierarchy deserve our trust?
3. LANGUAGE. While all the Bible manuscripts were originally written in Hebrew, the native tongue of the Jews, or in Greek or Aramaic, the predominant language of the day, yet we find Jews choosing NOT to write their sacred scriptures in the language God used from Mount Sinai. Instead, the language of a heathen, enemy nation was chosen, and a form of that language so rare (if it indeed existed), that no trace of it can be found. (Samples have been found of the Hieratic form of Egyptian used at that time.)
The Bible's message was to be proclaimed, not concealed. But "reformed Egyptian" was an unknown language (Mormon 9:34). Why was such a language passed down from generation to generation for nearly 1000 years merely to be buried? This is a crucial question, for, according to several witnesses, Joseph Smith "translated" the Book of Mormon without looking at the plates! Instead, he put seer stones in a hat, buried his face in the hat, and the translation would appear in the hat, one word or phrase at a time (Jerald & Sandra Tanner, Mormonism, Shadow or Reality, pages 36-41, where primary sources are given). WHY WERE THE PLATES NEEDED?
4. COPIES. Over 30,000 copies of parts of the New Testament have been found and are available for us to see in museums and universities around the world. This proliferation of copies demonstrates that the Bible was accepted as extremely valuable literature (scripture). Why wasn't this true in the new world? The people were commanded to make copies of God's messages (II Nephi 9:13-13, III Nephi 27:23-24). But not one copy is available for us to see. The manuscript score is 26,000 to zero. All of the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon who claimed to have seen the one set of plates apparently later turned from the church at least temporarily - see J of D 7: 114-115. One later said he had as strong a testimony for Shakerism and its divine book as he had for the Book of Mormon. That man, Martin Harris, in all, changed his religious affiliation 8 times. Another of the first three, David Whitmer, later wrote a book called "An Address to all Believers in Christ" in which he said that if we believe his testimony about the Book of Mormon we should also believe God appeared to him again and told him to separate himself from the Mormons. And it would appear that these "witnesses" never saw the actual plates (if they existed) because according to D & C 17:5, they saw them with the "eye of faith". What this means becomes clear when we discover that they went to the WOODS to see the plates when the plates were actually at that time in the HOME of the Whitmers where the translation work was being done. (See D H C Vol. 1, pages 48-49, 54)
5. GRAMMAR. A check of the 1830 version reveals grammar problems on virtually every page of the book. Over 4,000 changes have been made to the book since that printing (Mormonism, Shadow or Reality, pp. 89-93). Some spelling problems are found, and some word mix-ups as well, such as "mouldering" for molding, "wrecked" for racked, "constrain" for restrain, and "arrested" for wrested. The ONLY parts of the book free from such errors are the parts which parallel the King James Version word for word. Yet it is claimed the book was translated "by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost." The Bible manuscripts, by comparison, were (also) written by some unlearned men (Peter, James, John), yet the grammar and spelling in our oldest manuscripts are of the highest quality.
6. STYLE. Great variety of style can be seen in the books of the 40 or so authors of the Bible. But the 20 or so alleged authors of the Book of Mormon all seemed to write in the same tedious, wordy style, overworking the phrase, "And it came to pass," an unnecessary phrase to have used on limited space plates.
7. MATERIALS. Though we have no original manuscripts to look at, it is claimed they were metal plates. All of the Bible manuscripts extant were written on papyrus or parchment at that time in history. It would have been a much more tedious process for Nephi to engrave on metal (I Nephi chapter 9).
8. ACCEPTANCE. Of course the LDS Church says the Book of Mormon is of God. But in practice it denies some of its doctrines:
If the LDS Church does not accept ALL of the Book of Mormon's message, why should anyone else accept any of it?
9. ARCHAEOLOGY. Bible maps exist showing the location of most every city mentioned in the Bible, and no one disputes them. Bible characters' existence has been verified; Bible coins, and other artifacts have been found. But thus far the Mormon community has not agreed upon the identification of a single person or place in the Book of Mormon's new world.
The Smithsonian Institution has often been asked whether it uses the Book of Mormon in its research, because a rumor was circulated that it did. It does not and never has, and does not plan to do so. It has printed a two-page, detailed statement to the effect that many of the metals, crops, animals and fabrics mentioned in the Book of Mormon (II Nephi 5:15, Ether 9:17-18, Enos 1:21, for example) simply did not exist in the new world in pre-Columbian times.
10. AGREEMENT. It is a fact that God has given us a means of evaluating such revelations. "(Look) To the law and the testimony (i.e., God's Word); if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20). This command was the first thing that came to my mind when I had sincerely prayed the prayer of Moroni 10:4 in accordance with its requirements.
What did I find in my study? Both agreement and disagreement! The areas of agreement are outlined under number 8 above, left side of chart . As you can see, in each case, other LDS Church writings reject those doctrines that agree with the Bible (and the Book of Mormon). Here are areas of disagreement:
Was I misled in looking at these doctrines rather than just my feelings? I don't think so. In later study I discovered that to depend on feelings ALONE can be dangerous (see Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 16:25, II Cor. 11:14). If Satan can cause one to have a false vision (Jeremiah 14:14) he must have the power to simply cause a "burning bosom" feeling. I say our feelings can be influenced by MANY factors other than the Holy Spirit.
I have had several of what LDS call burning bosom experiences myself. They led me to become a missionary TO the LDS people. I also know a man who became a Catholic after entering a Catholic Church and having a burning bosom experience. I also know a young man who went through the Moroni 10:3-5 challenge in Book of Mormon class at BYU and states that God showed him the Book was NOT of God. Feelings can lead one astray (no matter who you choose to feel was misled in this list of examples).
For every Mormon who has believed in the Book of Mormon, there may have been dozens who ultimately rejected it when approached by the Mormon missionaries. My daughter did. My son did. Others have told me they did. (Otherwise, church growth would be ten times what it is.) Obviously, if it is a case of YOUR feelings versus MY feelings we have got to have an OBJECTIVE way to decide the issue. And God has given that to us in Isaiah 8:20 and Galatians 1:6-9.
Some might object that surely God would not fail to answer our sincere prayer. But that is just what is portrayed in the LDS temple ceremony. Adam prays to God and Satan answers. God has already told us how to evaluate the book; if we ignore His instruction we are asking for trouble!
These passages don't meekly suggest a method. One is a command; the other curses those who reject the Biblical message. I'd say the fact that the Book of Mormon offers a different means of evaluating it than the Bible method is a MAJOR reason to reject it!
In my opinion, the Book of Mormon simply doesn't measure up to the Bible in any of the areas we have looked at.
Admittedly I began my Book of Mormon study with preconceived ideas of truth based on my study of the Bible. Did that disqualify me as an objective evaluator? Hardly. Moroni 10:4 says we are to have faith in Christ, and that implies awareness of all He taught! I believe my background made me BETTER qualified than most people as an evaluator of the book. You can't spot counterfeit $100 bills unless you are very familiar with the real ones.
A second implication of faith in Christ is a personal relationship with him -- not just knowing about him, but knowing HIM (John 17:3). I Corinthians 2:11-16 tells us that spiritual truth is discerned ONLY by those indwelt by the Holy Spirit! I met this qualification, too. But most investigators of the Book of Mormon have not met either of these requirements!
So why am I publicizing this evaluation? Is it that I enjoy mudslinging? Hardly. With heavy heart I present this information as a warning to prospective members and as the sound of an alarm to those who have believed in the book, that IT IS DANGEROUS TO TRUST IN IT!
The first danger I would liken to a bait-and-switch tactic. People are being asked to judge Mormonism by the Book of Mormon. But as we have seen, it is not a book of Mormon doctrine. The primary Mormon teachings are missing, and some of its teachings contradict Mormonism. Thus I warn you against both the subjective METHOD (feelings) and the misleading MATERIAL used by Mormon missionaries.
The second, and greatest danger is related to the Book of Mormon's claim to be "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." Faith in the book is intended to open the door to faith in ALL Mormon teachings. But BOTH the Book of Mormon and the other Mormon teachings at times CONTRADICT THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE BIBLE! (Seen in #8 and #10). And here are some further contradictions:
Another site that outlines further doctrinal conflicts is http://www.irr.org/mit/default.html At this point I share with you four final false teachings of Mormonism which encompass the reasons given for THE MORMON CHURCH'S EXISTENCE.
*Some might question whether the translation of the above scriptures is the real problem. But note that all are essentially unchanged in Joseph Smith's Inspired ("corrected") version of the Bible, which was completed by him in 1833 according to History of the Church, Vol. 1, pg. 368.
My point is that the Mormon Church's very existence REQUIRES a four-fold denial of Christ's teachings But Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." (John 2:48). Jesus has warned us that to deny ANY of his teachings will be spiritual suicide!
To believe in the teachings of Christ is to deny that there is any need for the Mormon Church to exist. Because Christ said no truth would be lost and that he gave ALL truth already, to believe in Christ is to reject the Book of Mormon.
Some will undoubtedly label this article as unkind, unloving or unchristian. I can only say that if the situation were reversed, and you knew that I was being deceived into denying some of Christ's teachings, I would want you to warn me before it became too late. Jesus said for us to do unto others what we want done unto us, and God has burdened me to warn you. I have chosen to obey.
I believe the facts speak for themselves: the Book of Mormon is not the fullness of the gospel as it claims to be; it is not a book of Mormon doctrine as it is represented to be; it is not a book of Bible doctrine; it is not the new covenant; it is not an abridgment; it is not verifiable history; it is not totally accepted by the LDS Church; it was not translated from golden plates; and it is not another testament of Jesus, but instead testifies AGAINST him.
Is it of God? What do YOU think!
Your comments are welcomed. I will be happy to respond to them.
My primary concern for Mormons is not just to "put down" their beliefs, but rather to WARN THEM of an all-important problem. Click here for my study on this problem, which is entitled "MORMONS IN SHOCK".