Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, August 1

grego: My Critique of “Problems with the Book of Mormon” (Catholic.com)

grego: My Critique of “Problems with the Book of Mormon” (Catholic.com)

Original article found at: http://www.catholic.com/library/Problems_with_the_Book_of_Mormon.asp

The article, and my comments interspersed:

-=-=-=
“In these “latter days,” there are few people who haven’t been visited at least once by Mormon missionaries. At some point in your doorstep dialogue, these earnest young men will ask you to accept a copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and pray about it, asking the Lord to “send the Holy Ghost to witness that it is true.” Then, very solemnly, they’ll “testify” to you that they know the Book of Mormon is true, that it’s God’s inspired word, and that it contains the ‘fullness of the everlasting gospel.’

They’ll assure you that if you read their text in a spirit of prayerful inquiry, you, too, will receive the testimony of the Holy Ghost. That testimony supposedly will convince you beyond doubt that the Book of Mormon is exactly what they claim it to be.

Keep in mind that the missionaries want you to have a feeling about the Book of Mormon after reading it. They’ll tell you that you’ll receive the witness of the Holy Ghost in the form of a “burning in the bosom”–a warm, fuzzy feeling–after reading and praying about it. This feeling is the clincher for them. It’s the real “proof” that the Book of Mormon is inspired Scripture, and everything else follows from that conclusion.

But think about it. How often have you felt strongly about something or someone, only to learn your feelings were misguided? Feelings, although a part of our human makeup, can’t be a yardstick in matters like this.

After all, some people might get a good feeling after reading anything from the Communist Manifesto or the Yellow Pages. They could pray about such a feeling, and they could take the lingering of the feeling as some kind of divine approbation, but no such sensation will prove the inspiration of Marx’s or Ma Bell’s writings.”

g: Is the Spirit forbidden in the Catholic Church? What of the scriptures that testify of the feelings that the Spirit brings? Is the fear so strong that it’s better to convince Catholics not to feel the Spirit so they won’t convert to Mormonism, than to feel the Spirit and maybe convert? How is one to know of the things of God, if not by the Spirit? How is one to know the Bible is the word of God, if not by the Spirit of God? (There really is more to the Spirit than “warm fuzzy feelings” that might be mistaken.)

-=-=-=

“When you tell the missionaries you don’t need to pray about the Book of Mormon, they’ll think you’re copping out, that you’re afraid to learn the truth. Admittedly, you’ll seem like a cad if you simply refuse and leave it at that. You need to provide them with an explanation for refusing.”

g: Nope, it’s ok to say “I’m not interested” and leave it at that. (P.S. Note that telling Catholics to talk to Mormons opens the door for the Spirit and those “warm fuzzies” to enter into their hearts and could persuade them to leave the Catholic Church.)

-=-=-=

“The devout Mormon believes this text is inspired because Joseph Smith said it is. He believes Smith had the authority to claim divine inspiration for the Book of Mormon because the book itself says Smith was a prophet and had such authority.”

g:  Nope. The devout Mormon will say those things because of the Spirit. If you don’t believe me, ask some and see.

-=-=-=

“Jesus Visited America?
Let’s take a closer look at the text the missionaries offer. At first glance the Book of Mormon appears to be biblical in heft and style. It’s couched in tedious “King James” English, and it features color renderings of Mormon scenes made to look like Bible illustrations.

g: Yes, “tedious ‘King James’ English”–but much better than horribly tedious Latin. ;)
“Made to look like Bible illustrations”?? Is there an artists’ manual “Make Your Illustrations Look Like Bible Illustrations” somewhere I don’t know about?

-=-=-=

“The introduction tells you that the “Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” There it is again—the “fullness of the everlasting gospel.” Naturally, you ask yourself just what that phrase means.

According to the Mormon church, authentic Christianity can’t be found in any of the so-called Christian churches—only, of course, in the Mormon church.

Mormons teach that, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles taught the true doctrines of Christ and administered his sacred ordinances (roughly the equivalent of Catholic sacraments). After the death of the apostles, their successors continued the work of the gospel, but with rapidly declining success. Within a few generations, the great apostasy foretold in the Bible had destroyed Christ’s Church (contrary to Jesus’ own promise in Matthew 16:18).

The Mormon church asserts that the Church Christ founded became increasingly corrupted by pagan ideas introduced by nefarious members. (Sound familiar?) Over a period of years, the Church lost all relationship with the Church Christ established. Consequently, the keys of authority of the holy priesthood were withdrawn from the earth, and no man any longer had authorization to act in God’s name.

From that time onward there were no valid baptisms, no laying on of hands for the receipt of the Holy Ghost, no blessings of any kind, and no administration of sacred ordinances. Confusions and heretical doctrines increased and led to the plethora of Christian sects seen today.

Mormons claim that to restore the true Church and true gospel to the earth, in 1820 God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in a grove of trees near his home. They told him that all professing Christians on the face of the earth were abominable and corrupt and that the true Church, having died out completely shortly after it began, was to be restored by Smith.

Mormons run into no small difficulty in reconciling the great apostasy theory with Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

How could it be that Christ, who should have known better, would promise that his Church wouldn’t be overcome if he knew full well a great apostasy would make short shrift of it in a matter of decades? Was Christ lying? Obviously not. Was he mistaken? No. Did he miscalculate things? No, again. Christ’s divinity precluded such things.

What are we left with then? Could it be that Mormons are mistaken in their interpretation of such a crucial passage? This is the only tenable conclusion. If there were no great apostasy, then there could have been no need for a restoration of religious authority on the earth. There would be no “restored gospel,” and the entire premise of the Mormon church would be undercut.

g: There are other tenable conclusions (not for the Catholic Church, though). Plenty of scripture—Biblical—that shows the early church was in trouble. History books work, too. Heck, Boccaccio and Dante suffice for many.
Here are a few references: Acts 20:29-30, Amos 8:11-12, Revelation 1:11-20, Revelation 2, 3; Romans 10:2-3, Galatians 1:6-7, 2:4, Titus 1:10, 16; Jude 4, 1 Timothy 1:6-7, 2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, 1 John 2:18-19.

Let’s see how large a difficulty this really is. Did Christ say the Church would prevail against sin? Nope. What was the problem? Sin. Does the Bible really say “Powers of death”? My King James Bible says “gates of hell”; another Bible says “gates of Hades” = hell; Satan. Short term: yes; long term: no. “Prevail against it” = “not prove stronger than it”.
Now: Did Christ say the Church would be around till his return, uninterrupted? Nope. Why not just say that, if that’s what he meant?

Wait… How can anyone even be sure that Christ said that? Do we have the original to check? Wait… How do we know the original is what Christ said? Were you there to hear it? No? Then how do you know, if you aren’t supposed to pray to find answers, and get them through the Spirit? Can’t? Just because of tradition?

Ironically, what did Jesus tell Peter in Matthew 16:17? That *revelation from the Father through the Spirit*—exactly how Peter had gotten his answer about who Jesus was—is what the Church was going to be based upon, and the reason that Satan wouldn’t prevail against it. Yet revelation stopped, and much more—not because of God or Satan, but because of the people inside the church corrupting it; in other words, because of man.

-=-=-=

The fact is that the only church with an unbroken historical line to apostolic days is the Catholic Church. Even many Protestants acknowledge this, though they argue that there was a need for the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.

g: I would greatly expect some Protestants would say that–otherwise, what branch would they have to stand on?
Yet, the fact that they protested, is sure sign that they thought the apostolic authority was lost long ago. Hey, wasn’t there a quote by Luther or someone about that?

-=-=-=

“As non-Catholic historians admit, it can be demonstrated easily that early Church writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Eusebius, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp, had no conception of Mormon doctrine, and they knew nothing of a ‘great apostasy.'”

g: Might these “non-Catholic historians” the author refers to be those who also don’t believe in Mormon doctrine, perhaps? Might there be an ulterior reason for their thinking? But read the next part for the best part…

-=-=-=

“Nowhere in their writings can one find references to Christians embracing any of the peculiarly Mormon doctrines, such as polytheism, polygamy, celestial marriage, and temple ceremonies. If the Church of the apostolic age was the prototype of today’s Mormon church, it must have had all these beliefs and practices. But why is there no evidence of them in the early centuries, before the alleged apostasy began?”

g: Many *scholars* greatly disagree with the above paragraphs, and would say they are evidently false. Granted, this article I’m critiquing is a few years old, which doesn’t help; perhaps an update is in order?

-=-=-= 

“Church History Is Catholic

The fact is that there is no historical or archaeological indication of any kind that the early Church was other than the Catholic Church.

g: Hey, even lots of other churches would argue against that. Let me introduce you to them: Assyrian Church of the East, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the original Thomas Christians in India, other Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, the Old Catholic Church, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the Anglican Communion.

-=-=-=

When dealing with Mormon missionaries, remember that all the evidence is in favor of the claims of the Catholic Church. If you want to watch their sails go slack quickly, ask the missionaries to produce any historical proof to support their claim that in the early centuries the Church was Mormon. They can’t do it because there is no such evidence.”

g: What and where is “all the evidence” that is “in favor of the claims of the Catholic Church”?

The early church was *not* the Catholic Church. The early church was the early church, and it existed for a few hundred years before the Catholic church. Any evidence to the contrary?

(See the part about early Christianity and Mormonism.)

-=-=-=

“The Book of Mormon itself suffers the same fate when it comes to its own historical support. In a word, it hasn’t got any.

The Book of Mormon describes a vast pre-Columbian culture that supposedly existed for centuries in North and South America. It goes into amazingly specific detail describing the civilizations erected by the “Nephites” and “Lamanites,” who were Jews that fled Palestine in three installments, built massive cities in the New World, farmed the land, produced works of art, and fought large-scale wars which culminated in the utter destruction of the Nephites in A.D. 421. The Latter-Day Saints revere the Book of Mormon as the divinely-inspired record of those people and of Christ’s appearance to them shortly after his crucifixion in Jerusalem.

The awkward part for the Mormon church is the total lack of historical and archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. For example, after the cataclysmic last battle fought between the Nephites and Lamanites, there was no one left to clean up the mess. Hundreds of thousands of men and beasts allegedly perished in that battle, and the ground was strewn with weapons and armor.

Keep in mind that A.D. 421 is just yesterday in archaeological terms. It should be easy to locate and retrieve copious evidence of such a battle, and there hasn’t been enough time for the weapons and armor to turn to dust. The Bible tells of similar battles that have been documented by archaeology, battles which took place long before A.D. 421.

The embarrassing truth—embarrassing for Mormons, that is—is that no scientist, Mormon or otherwise, has been able to find anything to substantiate that such a great battle took place.”

g: Awkward? Embarrassing? Not really. I don’t know that it ever has been for many, though it might be for some.
Fortunately for those who need evidence before considering, there is more and more evidence that supports the Book of Mormon (note that near the beginning, when it first came out, there was hardly any at all). Here are a few websites with examples (and it’s a very incomplete list):

http://farms-stage.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=8&chapid=67

http://farms.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=8

http://comevisit.com/lds/bom-evid.htm

http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai105.html

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=14&num=2&id=376&cat_id=293

http://www.bmaf.org/page.php?cmd=view&id=59

-=-=-=

“‘Lifting’ from the King James Bible

There are other problems with the Book of Mormon. For example, critics of Mormonism have shown convincing proof that the Book of Mormon is a synthesis of earlier works (written by other men), of the vivid imaginings of Joseph Smith, and of simple plagiarisms of the King James Bible.”

g: Hmmm…. so, anyone know where the “convincing proof” is? Perhaps even a *name* of this “convincing proof” work/ book/ article? Any way someone other than the author can take a look at it?

-=-=-=

“The only Bible that Joseph Smith relied on was the King James Version. This translation was based on a good but imperfect set of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible.

Scholars now know the Textus Receptus contains errors, which means the King James Version contains errors. The problem for Mormons is that these exact same errors show up in the Book of Mormon.

It seems reasonable to assume that since Smith was a prophet of God and was translating the Book of Mormon under divine inspiration, he would have known about the errors found in the King James Version and would have corrected them for when passages from the King James Version appeared in the Book of Mormon. But the errors went in.”

g: Actually, that’s not the story—once more, a complete lack of understanding (unintentional or intentional, I’ll let the author answer). And the real story is actually more favorable to critics than this made-up one.
I don’t know if there is an explanation now other than, “I don’t know”. I’m ok with that—some things I have said that to before about religion and scriptures, have over time become “I know (and usually we were right)”.

-=-=-=
 
The “Fullness” of the Gospel?
“According to a standard Mormon theological work, Doctrines of Salvation, one finds this definition: “By fullness of the gospel is meant all the ordinances and principles that pertain to the exaltation of the celestial kingdom” (vol. 1, p. 160). That’s an official Mormon statement on the subject. But there’s a problem.”

g: “[S]tandard Mormon theological work”? “[O]fficial Mormon statement”? Says who?? Where? Once more, where is the source?
There are other definitions of “fullness of the gospel” that don’t include that. Is it fair to take one definition and let all the others go?

-=-=-=

“If the Book of Mormon contains all the ordinances and principles that pertain to the gospel, why don’t Mormonism’s esoteric doctrines show up in it? The doctrine that God is nothing more than an “exalted man with a body of flesh and bones” appears nowhere in the Book of Mormon. Nor does the doctrine of Jesus Christ being the “spirit brother” of Lucifer. Nor do the doctrines that men can become gods and that God the Father has a god above him, who has a god above him, ad infinitum.”

g: Wait… is all doctrine “principles and ordinances” necessary for salvation? Nope—though the author would have you believe that. So what are the basic principles and ordinances? Faith and repentance are the principles, and baptism by water and fire, and priesthood, are the ordinances. Are those in the Book of Mormon? Quite a bit.

-=-=-= 

“The Book of Mormon is Anti-Mormon

These heterodox teachings, and many others like them, appear nowhere in the Book of Mormon. In fact, pivotal Mormon doctrines are flatly refuted by the Book of Mormon.

For instance, the most pointed refutation of the Mormon doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are actually three separate gods is found in Alma 11:28-31: “Now Zeezrom said: ‘Is there more than one God?’ and [Amulek] answered, ‘No.’ And Zeezrom said unto him again, ‘How knowest thou these things?’ And he said: ‘An angel hath made them known unto me.’”

g: I hope that’s the “most pointed” because it’s pretty blunt—when put in context. Zeezrom is asking if there is more than one God that will save mankind; Amulek says no: just one way, just one Savior. Would you basically agree?

-=-=-=

“The Bottom Line

The Book of Mormon fails on three main counts. First, it utterly lacks historical or archaeological support, and there is an overwhelming body of empirical evidence that refutes it.”

G: So lacking support means it fails? How so? By the way, as I showed, there is plenty of support, and the trend continues.

And where is the “overwhelming body of empirical evidence that refutes it”? I missed it.

-=-=-=

“Second, the Book of Mormon contains none of the key Mormon doctrines. This is important to note because the Latter-Day Saints make such a ballyhoo about it containing the “fullness of the everlasting gospel.” (It would be more accurate to say it contains almost none of their “everlasting gospel” at all.) Third, the Book of Mormon abounds in textual errors, factual errors, and outright plagiarisms from other works.”

g: Already answered that.

Huh? “Textual errors, factual errors, and outright plagiarisms from other works.” Evidence, please. “Textual errors” make a book not scripture?

-=-=-=

“If you’re asked by Mormon missionaries to point out examples of such errors, here are two you can use.

We read that Jesus “shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem, which is in the land of our forefathers” (Alma 7:10). But Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1).

If you mention this to a Mormon missionary, he might say Jerusalem and Bethlehem are only a few miles apart and that Alma could have been referring to the general area around Jerusalem. But Bethany is even closer to Jerusalem than is Bethlehem, yet the Gospels make frequent reference to Bethany as a separate town.”

g: My goodness, again!?! Please, there are about how many hundreds of websites that made this a non-issue decades ago… (If you need help finding one, leave me a comment.)

-=-=-=

“Another problem: Scientists have demonstrated that honey bees were first brought to the New World by Spanish explorers in the fifteenth century, but the Book of Mormon, in Ether 2:3, claims they were introduced around 2000 B.C.

The problem was that Joseph Smith wasn’t a naturalist; he didn’t know anything about bees and where and when they might be found. He saw bees in America and threw them in the Book of Mormon as a little local color. He didn’t realize he’d get stung by them.”

g: Once more, what seems like a blunder by Joseph Smith turns out to be a wonder.

“[L]ocal” would actually most likely be in Asia, not America—go take a look at the text of the Book of Mormon and see if it mentions bees in the Americas.

Nevertheless—where did the New World Maya get their bees? I don’t know either, but it seems they had them (Cute ending; ironically, however, the bees are stingless–see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050615062105.htm , for example.)

-=-=-=

“Tell the Mormon missionaries: “Look, it is foolish to pray about things you know are not God’s will. It would be wrong of me to pray about whether adultery is right, when the Bible clearly says it is not. Similarly, it would be wrong of me to pray about the Book of Mormon when one can so easily demonstrate that it is not the word of God.”

g: If after reading all this you think the author of the original article is still correct, you’re likely to take his advice, which I imagine is his main desire. And, I’d also suggest not wasting your time reading or praying, either, as it likely wouldn’t do much for you.

Of course, you could be more honest and truthful and just tell the Mormon missionaries, “I don’t feel like it right now, thank you, I feel fine” or such.

-=-=-=

“NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004”

g: “Free of doctrinal or moral errors”?!? That’s a good one I’ll have to pass around sometime. Perhaps the Evangelicals could use this service, too? Is there a charge for it?

-=-=-=

“IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004”


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3 Comments »

  1. Ok folks, I wrote a critique of an article. That means, most likely, I did not write the original article. That means, most likely, you might want to direct comments like the below comment to the original author, not me. However, seeing the original author would likely not allow this type of comment on their site, I’ll allow this comment as another short response to the original author.

    -=-=-=
    Seth R. wrote:

    Try actually reading Moroni chapter 10 closely. Your critique misses the point of Mormon eschatology.

    We are NOT about “warm fuzzies.”

    Yeah, I know, plenty of lay Mormons may indeed be about superficial warm feelings and whatnot, but that’s decidedly not what our doctrine promotes as the way to a true witness of the Restored Gospel. If you read Moroni 10 closely, you’ll note that he’s assuming a few things:

    1. You’ve read the book with an open mind (i.e. not with a defensive “how can I debunk this piece of rubbish” attitude). The ENTIRE book. And you’ve pondered it and analyzed it.

    2. You’ve given some deep thought into how the book fits into the overall pattern of God’s dealings with His children. Such analysis will, of course appeal to the Bible and whatever else you have experienced and known about deity in your life.

    3. Then, once you have gained this INFORMED read of the Book of Mormon, you ask God directly and the Holy Ghost will witness the truth.

    You’re read on the Mormon approach may be popular in certain uninformed quarters of the Mormon population (it seems particularly popular among our summer youth camps). But it is not doctrinal, it is not what the Book of Mormon itself calls for.

    In short, you’ve taken some shallow elements of Mormon pop culture and asserted that it represents the whole. It does not. Mormon testimony is an intensely empirical and rational process as well as a intuitive and emotional process.

    And no one who claims to have a bead on what Mormons are about can claim to speak with any definitiveness about Mormon eschatology without tackling Alma 32 IN DEPTH. You will get a much different picture of Mormon witness if you read that passage seriously.

    The rest of the issues you bring up are not really something I have time to wade into with you. But most all of them have been adequately dealt with by Mormon apologists. Visit FAIRlds.org if you are interested.

    For instance the business about Christ being born “at Jerusalem” is easily explained away by the fact that Bethlehem was considered a part of the land of Jerusalem (a suburb if you will). It has been established that ancient peoples often spoke in generalities – identifying a minor city as being equivalent with a much more important neighboring city.

    Utter non-issue, and of no importance to the overall truth of the Book of Mormon whatsoever. The only people this kind of trivial nonsense matters to, are the biblical inerrancy crowd – a position utterly without Biblical support, and a recent innovation in Bible interpretation.

    Your other points have been similarly dealt with. But honestly, these apologetic, spiritual kung-fu sparring matches are really quite tiresome, and ultimately not determinative of faith anyway. I’d suggest looking elsewhere for true spiritual enlightenment. It is not to be found in apologetics.

    Comment by Seth R. — 2008, August 2 @ 12:18 am

  2. Grego,

    I have read 1 post and your main page. I like your personality that is radiating out of this blog.

    Do you have more posts that talk about ” The “Fullness” of the Gospel?”

    Comment by Miriam — 2011, June 8 @ 7:13 am

  3. Miriam,

    Thanks for the comment!
    Not in that context, I don’t. I searched and found there is still one on that topic in draft mode (from over 2.5 years ago!). Maybe I’ll get around to that soon…

    grego

    Comment by grego — 2011, June 9 @ 1:19 pm


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