Last time we saw that Mormon prophets contradict each other. Now we discover that Mormonism contradicts the Bible.
The foundational claims of Mormonism are contingent on the Bible having been corrupted in it’s transmission down to us today. On this basis Mormons are easy with the fact Mormonism contradicts the Bible. It is commonly believed among Mormons that modern Bible translations are ‘a translation of a translation of a translation.‘ Mormon scholars know different but don’t seem inclined to disabuse the typical Mormon of this idea.
A Corrupt Bible
Having started a religion that is based on an unreliable Bible they have realised what a liability they have in a message that distrusts the Bible and prefers the Book of Mormon. In Mormonism the Bible is the only book of scripture that is not viewed as wholly reliable. Just consider their eighth article of faith:
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.”
However, this idea cannot be allowed to enter into the perception of the world “out there” before there has been an opportunity to “explain” the Mormon position on the Bible. Consequently, the Mormon Church will claim it trusts the Bible until such time as they have won the trust of the people.
Only then will they begin to question whether the Bible can be trusted, and then Mormonism contradicts the Bible. Once the Book of Mormon is introduced as an authority they can use 1 Nephi 13 to speak of a ‘great and abominable church’ that has kept back ‘plain and precious parts of the gospel.’ Mormonism contradicts the Bible because everyone else has got it wrong. The apology for this is that Mormonism is correcting the Bible.
On the one hand the “official” stand before the world is that Mormons trust the Bible, on the other the true position is that the Bible is only reliable “as far as it is translated correctly”.
The typical Mormon’s knowledge of translation-work generally and how we got our Bible in particular, is woefully inadequate. They fall back on the myths manufactured by the Mormon Church and trust that their leaders are keeping them reliably informed.
The truth is that the popular Mormon account of Bible translation work is embarrassingly fanciful, with a built in prejudice against the Bible and for the restored gospel of Joseph Smith. A common Mormon understanding is that each translation is seen as a translation of a previous translation, a truly ridiculous notion, easily refuted, but still fondly adhered to by Mormons the world over.
Using this flawed reasoning Mormonism leads people to believe that modern translations of the Bible are merely paraphrases of previous Bibles, subject to the fads and prejudices of translators. Thus it becomes necessary that Mormonism contradicts the Bible as it has come down to us. The following is taken from the Bible section of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
The official position of the Church is stated in its eighth article of faith: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” The message of the Bible is held to be true, while details of accuracy and completeness are accepted within certain limits. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (TPJS, p. 327). And again, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled”(TPJS, pp. 9-10)
And the following was written by early Mormon apostle Orson Pratt:
The Bible has been robbed of its plainness; many sacred books having been lost…and what few we have left, were copied and re-copied so many times, that it is admitted that almost every verse has been corrupted and mutilated to that degree that scarcely any two of them read alike. (The Seer, p.213, 1854)
The very process of translation and transmission is seen as having a corrupting effect; the more modern the Bible, the more times it has been translated, the more corrupt the text. Thus the Bible is explained away and easily contradicted.
Having gained a hearing by presenting themselves as Bible believing Christians who simply have more to offer, they can then proceed to teach their message of a corrupt Christianity and an unreliable Bible. The trouble is that this leaves them with a claim to be a restoration of something that has always been here, and with a book (the Book of Mormon) that claims to be another testimony of something we fully knew all along.
How Reliable is our Bible?
When we consider the evidence for the Bible versus that for the Book of Mormon a different picture emerges. Where the Bible routinely has maps and illustrations showing places described in its pages, the Book of Mormon has neither.
I am sure you can, as I am doing now, go to the back of the Bible and find maps illustrating The World of the Patriarchs, showing Damascus, Hebron, Ninevah, Babylon, the Nile Delta, Ararat, the journeys of Abraham. There is a map showing the Exodus from Egypt, another showing the Twelve Tribes as they divided the land, Israel and Judah. Israel under Saul, David, and Solomon is clearly illustrated, Palestine at the time of Jesus, the missionary journeys of Paul.
I also have a particularly fine annotated illustration of Jerusalem as it would have appeared in the time of Jesus. Other cities illustrated include Babylon, Jericho, Philippi, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome. Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah is compared with that city at the times of David, Solomon, Nehemiah and, of course, Jesus.
When it comes to understanding the geography, topography, architecture, structure and culture of these societies and their times we enjoy an embarrassment of riches, with more coming to light every day.
Turn to the back of the Book of Mormon and you find – nothing.
Further, there is an abundance of archaeological, geographical, and historical evidence for the Bible: places; names; people; coins; pottery; culture; buildings; rivers; lakes; seas; mountains; manuscripts and documents that authenticate our Bibles, and evidence from both the religious and the secular worlds.
The practices and customs of the peoples of the land can be evidenced through history and observed today. Diets, clothing, architecture from different periods, private houses, synagogues, the temple (note the singular), official documents, tax records, business records, travel, marriage customs, family life, etc. all historically verified and authenticated.
Papyri, codices, city walls, coins (the widows mite), lamps (for lamp stands), common pottery, jars (for wine at weddings), languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), The Jewish people are with us today and, significantly, their lineage and origins are distinctly traceable through DNA.
Evidence for the reliability of the Bible as it has been translated and transmitted down to our time is there in abundance. If you want to look into this further one good resource is the Bethinking website. Another good resource is the Josh McDowell Ministry site.
New World archaeology has not turned up a coin, a shard, a brick, a name, a hill or mountain, a valley or river, a city, town or village to support Mormon claims for the Book of Mormon. If the places and people didn’t exist then the events cannot have taken place.
How could Jesus have appeared and preached to the people in the land Bountiful (3 Nephi 11) if there is no land Bountiful? If the seminal work of the Mormon faith cannot be depended upon to provide the most basic evidence for its claims what does that say about the rest of Mormon ‘scripture,’ Mormon teaching? Read more about Book of Mormon archaeology here.
Of course, many of the controversial claims and teachings of Mormonism are absent from the Book of Mormon. They come from the further and increasingly strange ideas developed by Mormon leaders, starting with Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith. All demonstrate that Mormonism contradicts the Bible. One example of how Mormonism contradicts the Bible is the truly strange picture it paints of God.
The Person of God
In his famous King Follett Discourse Joseph Smith delivered a funeral address in which he claimed:
‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.’
Brigham Young, second president of the Mormon Church declared:
‘It appears ridiculous to the world, under their darkened and erroneous traditions, that God has once been a finite being.’ (Deseret News, Nov,16, 1859)
God is Spirit
Any Bible student worth their salt will know this teaching of Mormonism contradicts the Bible.
The apostle John, who knew Jesus as intimately as any when he walked the earth, was one of those charged with passing on the teaching of the Lord. John made Jesus’ teaching clear enough when he wrote ‘God is spirit’ John 5:24 We may go further and, quoting Jesus again, find ‘a spirit has no flesh or bone’ Luke 24:39 The apostle Paul goes further still, writing that God is invisible Colossians 1:15
Mormon apologists will typically object that Moses talked to God face-to-face (Exodus 33:11) Taken on it’s own this can seem a good point, a challenge to our Christian understanding.
But if you are going to be so much a literalist you would have to conclude from Psalm 91:4 that God is chicken, ‘He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.’ ‘Face to face’ here indicates the intimacy of Moses’ relationship with God, just as feathers indicate God’s loving care for his people. God is neither a man, nor a chicken.
He Alone is God
Joseph Smith goes on to teach in this same sermon:
‘In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted [prepared] a plan to create the world and people it.’
Brigham Young said:
How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity. (Discourses, p.34)
Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th church president until his death in 1970, said:
‘Our father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father,’ (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:47)
The God of Mormonism is one in a pantheon, indeed one in an endless line of gods. Again Mormonism contradicts the Bible, which tells us:
Deuteronomy 4:39: ‘Know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.’
Isaiah 44:8: ‘Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.’
Isaiah 44:24: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth—Who was with me?’
Isaiah 45:5: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.’
An Unchangeable God
Further again in his sermon Joseph Smith teaches:
‘Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you…’
Not only does the Mormon God have a physical body, not only is he an exalted man, but he ‘became God’ as other gods had done, and men must learn to become gods.
But God himself declares, ‘I, the LORD, do not change…’ Malachi 3:6
James writes, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.’ James 1:17
The Psalmist writes, ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’ Psalm 90:2
A Reliable Bible from an Unchangeable God
Finally, our faith doesn’t simply come down to how we feel about it, as taught by Mormons. Nor does it come down to blind belief, the way Mormons understand the word ‘faith.’ It comes down to real evidence that can be examined, tested, and finally trusted, the true meaning of the word ‘faith.’
If you follow the link above to the Josh McDowell ministry page you will find a series of short videos convincingly demonstrating the reliability of our Bibles, bringing evidence we can trust. But here is a link to one that explains the scribes’ remarkable feat of translation and transmission evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
These things are important because it is only on the baseless founding claim of an unreliable Bible that Mormonism can build a ‘gospel that is no gospel’ and introduce a god that is not God. The evidence goes against every claim of Mormonism of a corrupt Bible passing through profane hands. It gives us confidence that God has overseen the work of keeping and passing on his written word down through the generations to today.
The same God is shown in the Bible to be God,’ from eternity to eternity.’ That same God is described as one, ‘with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,’ one beside whom there is no God. Mormon prophets contradict God’s reliable word and this is another reason Mormonism can’t deliver on its promises, simply doesn’t work.