Was Cain doomed to not die, but to wander the earth a lost soul? Is King David ‘still paying for his sins’ in hell? Are there two groups of Pentecostal penitents? For Mormons misusing Scripture, all these may well be true.

I want to show you, from chapter 9 in Spencer W Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness, an example of a Mormon – a Mormon leader no less – misusing Scripture, misapplying Bible texts, and ripping them from their natural context. It is an example generations have followed to produce a myriad Mormons misusing Scripture.

The Miracle of Forgiveness was published in 1969. By 1998 the total printed in all languages was roughly estimated at 1.6 million copies. From 1976 to 1988 it was on every Mormon missionary’s ‘required reading’ list. The book has proved so devastatingly Pharisaical over the years that it was withdrawn from publication in 2015. You can understand why, given his insistence that ‘trying isn’t good enough,’ repentance isn’t enough, as he insisted on a doctrine of perfectionism.

Matthew 5 ends, ‘You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Mt.5:48 (ESV). I remember being taught that God wouldn’t command anything we could not obey, therefore perfection is possible. A lot of sin remained hidden, weaknesses never confessed, as many must have been thinking, ‘It must be me, then.’ My wife and I began our journey out of Mormonism the day we confessed to each other that ‘Mormonism simply doesn’t work.’

I have noted down and counted the relative Mormon and biblical texts in this chapter of Kimball’s book and discovered that a total of 29 Mormon sources are quoted compared with a total of 13 Bible texts. That is more than twice as many Mormon texts as Bible texts. (notably, one Bible text is taken from the Joseph Smith ‘Inspired Version’ of the Bible, making that, in some people’s thinking, one less Bible text and another Mormon text)

MormonOld TestamentNew Testament
Alma 34:35Genesis 9:161 John 5:16-17
Helaman 13:38Exodus 21:12Hebrews 6:4-6
Mormon 2:13Leviticus 24:7Mat. 12:31-32 JST*
Ether 15:19 2 Peter 2:20-22
3 Nephi 27:17 John 6:70
Alma 39:6 John 17:12
Mormon 10:5 Acts 1:20
Helaman 14:18 Acts 2:29-34
Helaman 4:24-25 John 20:29
John 12:6
D&C 84:41  
D&C 43:33  
D&C 132:27  
D&C 22:2  
D&C 84:33-41  
D&C 88:24  
D&C 76:31-38  
D&C 76:44-46  
D&C 42:18,19  
D&C 42:79  
Teaching of PJS  
Teachings of PJS  
Teachings of PJS  
Improvement Era  
Improvement Era  
Gospel Doctrine  
Gospel Doctrine  
Gospel Doctrine  
Doc .Hist. of Church  
1st Pres. Message 1942  

The argument could reasonably be made that of course Mormons quote and cite more Mormon sources; after all, they believe in them. But a careful reading, backed by sound Bible knowledge, demonstrates that the argument put cannot be made from the Bible. The Mormon writer has to work from Mormon texts, using badly applied Bible texts to back up the argument.

The Bible texts used serve only to back up a Mormon argument, often being wrought from their context to make a point they were never meant to make, supporting a point that cannot be made from the Bible itself.

The chapter concentrates on the “unforgivable sin” seeking to define it and warn against it, but that isn’t going to surprise you, is it? Mormons are frequently preoccupied with what might cause them to, “slip across the line” as Kimball puts it.

As we look at examples of Mormons misusing Scripture, I want to look at three things: The peculiar fate of Cain, the curious judgement on King David, and the odd response of Peter to those who repented at Pentecost.

The Case of the Hirsute Murderer

There are two unforgivable sins in this chapter, actually. There is the denial of the truth once you have received it and there is the shedding of innocent blood – murder. The former appears to be difficult to define, even by modern prophets. He says of apostates who commit this sin:

We cannot definitely identify them [as unforgivable] individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before the fall.”

Somehow I am not reassured…

After speculating on this subject he turns to a more easily identifiable sin, that of murder; although, even here, he prevaricates between murder and manslaughter. But, turning to “the first murderer” he seems to be on more solid ground (though you might not agree).

Cain, we are told, was “thoroughly taught the gospel by his parents…” This may come as a surprise to Bible students who know well enough that this gospel of Jesus Christ was a “mystery hidden for long ages past” (Ro.16:25, c.f. 1 Cor.2:6-10) Anachronisms of this kind are pervasive in Mormon teachings abut the pre-Christian world.

Kimball is fascinated by this character and can’t help but retell a story he read from The Life of David W Patten, The First Apostolic Martyr, by Lycurgus A Wilson (strangely enough, I thought that title of first apostolic martyr went much further back than the early 19th. Century). Patten was an original member of the quorum of the twelve Mormon apostles.

“As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me…His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wonderer in the earth and traveled (sic) to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight…”

Several things in this popular tale demonstrate how Mormonism takes familiar Bible stories and bends them to the purpose of validating Mormon claims.

In Genesis the punishment Cain suffered is explained no further than that he was cut off from his livelihood as a farmer/agriculturalist in that he was made a wanderer, and further cut off from God. A mark was placed on Cain to protect him from those who might kill him, the nature of which mark is unknown so we might assume it isn’t important to know. This is not enough for an early Mormon leader who must demonstrate his credentials by knowing more than the Bible.

First, Cain is still alive, though the Bible clearly indicates he should die, since the mark of Cain was to protect him from premature death. There has been a long tradition of believing Cain’s “wanderings” as unending but the Bible says nothing about that. It is a sound principle that where the Bible is silent so should we be.

Secondly, his skin was dark, a dark skin traditionally considered by Mormons to be the mark of Cain and a bar to any dark-skinned male having the priesthood until the doctrine was changed in in 1978.

Thirdly, it was the exercising of Mormon priesthood that rebuked Cain and made him depart. This is the key to understanding this story. It validates Mormon claims to authority.

Thus we see how a fiction is devised to fill tantalising gaps in our knowledge, not to educate and enlighten but to make the Mormon Church the definitive authority, the ones who know, the ones with the power to command.

The Case of the King in Purgatory

King David, we are told, “is still paying for his sin.” Does that surprise you? Do you think a man can pay for his sin?

David, you will recall, committed adultery with Bathseba, the wife of one of his most trusted military leaders, Uriah the Hittite. When she became pregnant David panicked, called Uriah home from the battlefront in the hope he would lay with his wife and think the baby his. Noble Uriah refused, saying:

“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2Samuel 11:11)

Plan B: David has Uriah killed “in battle,” (2 Sam.11:14-16) and marries Bathsheba.

Here is what Joseph Smith said about David:

“A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.” (TPJS p.339)

Where does this thinking come from? Here it is in the Acts of the Apostles (but you must have a Mormon explain it because you would never…well take a look):

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ (Acts 2:29-35)

This is evidence, it is claimed, that David remains unforgiven. Kimball explains:

“…David is still paying for his sin. He did not receive the resurrection at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter declared that his body was still in the tomb.”

The text that is a clear prophecy of Christ’s resurrection becomes a prediction about David’s ultimate destiny. Mormon prophet Joseph F Smith explains:

“But even David, though guilty of adultery and murder of Uriah, obtained a promise that his soul should not be left in hell, as I understand it, that even he shall escape the second death.” (Gospel Doctrine, p.434)

But this text has nothing to do with the eternal fate of David.

David writes in Psalm 16:

“…you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

When he writes this, Peter insists, he cannot be talking about himself because,

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ…”

Stop for one moment. Read that last again,“Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ…” Could he make any clearer what this is about? Its about the resurrection of Christ.

“…that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Peter goes on to use Psalm 110 to press home his point:

“For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord (God) said to my Lord (the son of David, the Messiah) Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”

The fact of David’s still being in the tomb is used by Peter to explain that the risen and exalted Christ is so much greater than David, who prophetically calls Jesus ‘my Lord.’ This text is about Christ.

Nevertheless, Joseph Smith makes it about the convoluted Mormon priesthood doctrine, insisting that,“though he was a king, David did not receive the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the priesthood…” [which Smith did of course]

You see how it works? You begin with an unbiblical doctrine of priesthood, then you read the Bible looking for opportunities to insinuate that idea into the text, thus you miss the obvious in your pursuit of the ridiculous.

The Case of the Pentecost Penitents

Peter’s Pentecost sermon had a dramatic effect:

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…’” (Acts 2:37-38)

Kimball quotes Joseph Smith saying:

Peter referred to the same subject on the day of Pentecost, but the multitude did not get the endowment that Peter had; but several days after, the people asked, “What shall we do?”

Peter says, “I would ye had done it ignorantly,” speaking of crucifying the Lord &c. He did not say to them, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins”; but he said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19.)
This is the case with murderers. They could not be baptized for the remission of sins, for they had shed innocent blood.

I know! Isn’t that weird? Take the time to open your Bible as you look at this and read the text for yourself. He is referring to two groups of people met by Peter, one on the day of Pentecost, the other in the days following. He then makes the reply Peter gave in Acts 3:19 answer the question asked in previous days in Acts 2:37, which he had already answered in Acts 2:38.

He then misrepresents what Peter is saying. The KJV has:

“And now brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”

Smith makes this mean, “I would ye had done it ignorantly” (see above quote) clearly saying they did it knowingly. But every translation, even Smith’s own, makes the verse say,“I know that through ignorance ye have done this thing, even also your rulers.” (That is the so-called Joseph Smith Translation: wot means know, see Strongs)

He then makes the strange assertion that the call to repent (3:19) and have their sins blotted out, with no mention of baptism means they are not to be baptised because they are murderers. But in Acts 2 he told those who crucified Jesus (murderers?) they should repent and be baptised!

So what is going on here? The clue, again, is in the word endowment, meaning the peculiar Mormon idea that you can get endowed with secret knowledge and insight in the temple. Murderers cannot receive their endowment.

As with the story of King David, Mormonism has taken a clear enough to understand text and insinuated into it their peculiar idea of endowments of secret knowledge, implying they have insights other churches don’t have. When someone claims to be the sole channel of truth, through whom God speaks, they have to live up to that claim. Where “apostate” churches have no answers the prophets must have answers. This is illustrated with the Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Based on one Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 15:29, it might have seemed like a great idea back in the day to dunk a few followers in the pool and tell them their ancestors are now Mormons. But it has got completely out of hand with Mormon temples going up at a rate that Joseph Smith couldn’t have begun to imagine (Currently they have 335). And, of course, it detracts from the chapter’s true and wonderful theme, the assurance of resurrection to eternal life through faith in Christ.

In the same way, Smith has taken a clear enough to understand passage in Acts about repenting and being baptised in the name of the risen king, and turned it around to make it mean certain people can’t have certain blessings that are available alone through the good offices of the Mormon priesthood.

Whether we are talking about the obscure story of Cain, the eternal fate of King David, or of murderers, the point here is that Scripture is twisted for the sake of making it bow to Mormon authority and to make Mormon leaders look as if they truly are prophets.

Sadly, this too can get out of hand and, finding nothing of their teaching in the Bible, even plain verses are twisted out of shape to look like they are talking about Mormonism.

What makes me so sad is that a whole chapter, a whole book, a whole enterprise is wasted in the service of a lie that has long been forgotten to be a lie. It must be perpetuated because they think its true, even when the plain truth of the Bible says otherwise.

Read about Spencer W Kimball’s role in reversing Mormon Scripture doctrine