The Fulness of the Gospel?

A relatively recent addition to the Book of Mormon has been the Introduction, which explains that “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible…” Anyone looking attheBook of Mormon for the first time today may also find a book mark inside the front cover directing the reader to key references, including Christ’s alleged visit to America, Moroni’s ubiquitous promise – and the introduction.

Noteworthy is the statement at the very beginning of the introduction that The Book of Mormon,

“is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

Perhaps you want to read that again. The introduction to the Book of Mormon declares that the Bible contains “the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” The significance of this statement might be lost on those who do not understand that Mormonism claims to be a restored religion. It is a fundamental “truth” of Mormonism that the plain and simple truth, the “fulness” of the gospel, was substantially lost after the death of the apostles. The religion of Joseph Smith was a restoration of those truths.

The Book of Mormon itself says of the Bible:

1 Nephi 13

“24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book [the Bible] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God…

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, 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…

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.”

A promise is made later in the same chapter that these plain and precious truths, which had been lost through the corruption of the great and abominable church, would be restored:

“35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious [The Book of Mormon]; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb [through Joseph Smith]…

38 And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren [the Lamanites, or American Indians].

39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.

40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records [The Book of Mormon], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [The Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.”

The following is taken from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism under ‘J’ for Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible:

“A somewhat parallel statement [to that in 1 Nephi 13] came to Joseph Smith in June 1830 while he was restoring a revelation received by Moses, declaring that many things would be taken “from the book” which Moses would write, but that the missing information would be restored through another prophet and thus be “had again” among those who believe (Moses 1:41). Latter-day Saints believe that the “other records” referred to include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the JST, and other records still to come forth, and that the prophet divinely raised up to begin restoring the lost material is Joseph Smith (see Scriptures: Forthcoming Scriptures). In light of the foregoing statements, it is worth observing that the principal difficulty in the Bible apparently has been omissions. The remaining text may be generally correct in itself, but many important doctrinal items (resulting from the loss of a single word, a verse, a longer passage, or even whole books in some instances) are now missing. “

Now if the Bible contains the “fulness of the everlasting gospel” what exactly did Joseph restore? As Doug Harris is fond of asking, how full is full Mr Mormon? In the Book of Mormon we have a message, which declares that the Bible contains the fulness of the gospel while at same time declaring that the Book of Mormon is a restoration of the fulness of the gospel. Matters are further complicated by the fact that much of what we would today recognise as Mormonism is not to be found either in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The Mormon Church would claim that revelation is progressive in nature and that “further light and knowledge” is one of the benefits of having modern prophets. In other words further restoration work, if you will, as described in the above quote. This leaves us with a picture of the fulness of the gospel being consistently available in the Bible, being restored through the Book of Mormon, though it was never missing and being topped up by modern revelation, though we had the fulness of the gospel all along. How did the restoration of “plain and precious truths” come to be so confusing?

Another question might be how many different ways can you say the same thing? We have been here before, of course, and some might ask why are we looking at this again? Because this is the message of Mormonism on the doorsteps today. In an attempt to appear orthodox and align themselves with the mainstream Christian churches, the Mormon Church must embrace the book that everyone associates with the Christian faith, the 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. We have observed before that in Mormonism the Bible is the only book of scripture that is not viewed as infallible. Just look at 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 perceptions of the world “out there” before there has been an opportunity to “explain” the Mormon position on the Bible.

This is nowhere better illustrated than in the experience of a friend of ours who met several times recently with Mormon missionaries. On their first visit he set out to establish their attitude to the Bible, declaring, “I am a Christian and trust the Bible as the fully reliable word of God. I have been told that Mormons are not Christians and do not fully trust the Bible”. Their reply was an unequivocal endorsement of the Bible and they promised that they took exactly the same view as our friend. Several meetings later, frustrated by not being able to deal with the Bible verses our friend used to challenge what they were teaching, they declared the Bible to be unreliable and corrupt, “translated incorrectly.” Challenged to square this with their first declaration of full trust in the Bible they struggled to hold two thoughts in their minds at the same time. 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.”

Needless to say, the average Mormon’s knowledge of translation work generally, and how we got our Bible in particular, is woefully inadequate. They fall back on the myths that the Mormon Church churns out 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 and is designed with a built in prejudice against the Bible and for the restored gospel of Joseph Smith. A common Mormon explanation of how we got our Bible is that it is “a translation of a translation of a translation…” Each generation is seen as a translation of a previous translation.

Using this reasoning one might understandably conclude that modern translations of the Bible are merely paraphrases of previous Bibles, subject to the fads and prejudices of translators. The following is again taken from the same 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)

In addition, Mormon apostle Orson Pratt wrote the following:

“The Bible has been robbed of it’s 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 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. Not wanting the world to know this, they are happy to declare that the Bible contains “the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” Having gained a hearing by posing 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 that claims to be another testimony of something we fully knew all along.

The Book of Mormon – Another Testament?

In the early 1980’s, The Book of Mormon became The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Most people today, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, would be unaware that it was ever any other way. To Mormons this marked a welcome clarification that their faith is centred on Jesus Christ. It also served to strengthen in the public mind the claim that Mormonism is restored Christianity.

‘Another Testament’ implies another of the same kind and conjures in people’s minds thoughts of the original “testaments” to which this ‘other’ testament clearly alludes. We have already seen that the Book of Mormon is described as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” It takes no great imagination, therefore, to make the connection thus, Old Testament, New Testament, Another Testament and, of course, this is exactly the train of thought the Mormon Church wants us to follow. But is the Book of Mormon another of the same kind?

The word testament comes from the Latin testamentum. The Latin Bible comprises the Vetus Testamentum and the Novum Testamentum, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Greek for testament is diathéké and the Greek Bible comprises the hépalaia diathéké and the hé kainé diathéké. The Latin testamentum and the Greek diathéké in the biblical context both mean covenant, as in a solemn and binding agreement between two parties. The New Testament can, then, be called the collection of the books of the New Covenant. This is borne out in some key New Testament passages:

“This cup is the new covenant [testament in the KJV] in my blood” (Luke 22:20, NIV)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor.3:6, NIV)

And in Galatians 4, we have a clear picture of the old covenant, which is “from Mount Sinai and bears children who are slaves,” and the new covenant whose children are “children of promise.” The Old Testament is the old covenant, which is of the law and which brings slavery, and the New Testament is the new covenant which is of the Spirit and which brings freedom in Christ.

Given that we now have in The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ, it seems appropriate to ask what is the nature of this other covenant?

Of course, any Mormon challenged with such a question would readily explain that they mean testimony, not covenant. The Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ. But can testament mean testimony? Yes it can. According to Webster’s third New International Dictionary one definition of testament is, “a tangible proof or tribute: EVIDENCE, WITNESS…an expression of conviction: AFFIRMATION, CREDO…” But given this definition of testament can we say, as we are clearly meant to believe, that The Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, i.e. another of the same kind as the first two testaments? Having led us by that word “another” to think of the other testaments of our Christian experience, the Old and New Testaments, it seems reasonable to understand testament in the full biblical sense. In the Bible testament means covenant. The Old Testament is the old covenant whilst the New Testament is the new covenant “in my blood.” The Old Testament is not the Old Testimony; neither is the New Testament the New Testimony.

Again, we have here an example of Mormon doublespeak. It is clear that the addition of “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon is designed to help people associate the Book of Mormon with the Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament. It is clear from the introduction to the Book of Mormon that this other testament is meant to be viewed as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” Yet, the Mormon word testament means testimony while the biblical word testament means covenant. Once again, an attempt on the part of the Mormon Church to appear orthodox, when closely examined, shows anything but an orthodox, bible-based religion.

The Lamb of God

The Lamb of God is the Mormon version of the very successful Jesus video, which has been seen by millions around the world over many years. We have already mentioned the Mormon video in this column and many will be aware of the advertisements in the press, magazines and on television inviting folk to ring and order a copy in the lead up to Easter. Inevitably, two charming Mormon missionaries who will offer to share the Mormon gospel will deliver it.

Just as they are able to go from an apparent respect for and trust in the Bible to a position of total mistrust of the word of God, so Mormons are able to travel the great distance from this apparently innocuous and orthodox account of the last week of Jesus’ life to the more bizarre aspects of Mormonism we have discussed over the years. Having gained entry based on a familiar story, they move immediately to their claim that Christ’s Church quickly became corrupt and apostate and was ‘restored’ some 1700 years later by Joseph Smith. Having won people’s trust by speaking warmly of the Bible, they move immediately to their claim that the Bible is corrupt and unreliable while the Book of Mormon is “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 it’s precepts than by any other book”(Joseph Smith, TPJS, p.194).

Having been invited this Easter to gaze at the cross, folk have found themselves walking in a grove; having been invited to meet Jesus, they have found themselves in the company of Joseph; having been promised a Saviour, they have been given an American prophet of dubious character; having been told of a God, they have found themselves in the presence of an exalted man; having been offered another testament of Jesus Christ, they have been given a testament of another Jesus Christ; having been promised new covenant freedom, they will quickly find themselves trapped in the worse form of old covenant slavery.

“And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Cor.11:12-15)

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