Response/ Critique of the anti-Mormon Article: “Critique of 1st Nephi” (Book of Mormon)
This is a short response/ critique of the anti-Mormon original article: “Critique of 1st Nephi” by Jimmy Li, found at http://www.teamtruth.com/articles/art_1stnephi.htm.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormons, is a religious group that claims to be the only true restored church of Christianity. In addition, the LDS teaches unbiblical doctrines and also have three additional religious scriptures besides the Bible: the Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines and Covenant, and the most well known one of all, the Book of Mormon. It is supposedly, “another testament of Jesus Christ”.
grego: Actually, that would be “non-biblical”, not “unbiblical”. And the book is “Doctrine and Covenants”, not “Doctrines and Covenants”. (Just two small but important points, I think.)
Often, a favorite tactic of the LDS, especially among missionaries, is to give a potential convert the Book of Mormon (we shall abbreviate it as BoM) and ask them to pray for a “burning bosom” to confirm that it’s true. They would use the BoM at Mormoni 10:3-5 and James1:5 in the Bible to support the legitimacy of this act. But is this the right thing to do, and does the Bible really teaches us to pray for “burning bosoms” to confirm truth?
Certainly, no. Looking at James 1:5 again, we find that the passage is actually talking about wisdom, and the context deals with perseverance, not regarding confirmation of truth. The LDS considers the “burning bosom” as the testimony of their church. Personal and subjective testimony in itself isn’t a bad thing; but there must be elements of objective facts too. In this little booklet, we are not denying that God can have the power to penetrate lives and become very personal. We are concerned with evaluating the objective testimony of the LDS.
grego: In all that, I see nothing about what the Book of Mormon or the Holy Bible say about “a burning bosom”. (We seem to already be off to a bad start.) Nevertheless, that is one way to describe the feeling of the Holy Ghost. Now, what does the Holy Bible say? What does one make of this:
Jer. 20: 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But *his word was in mine heart as a burning fire* shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
What, objections that’s not really it? Well, how about this?:
Luke 24: 32 And they said one to another, *Did not our heart burn within us*, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Were the disciples lying, perhaps? (You know, the ones worthy enough to have Jesus appear to them and walk and talk with them?)
Or, was there a mistranslation of the Bible?
I don’t think Mr. Li would admit to either.
What is James 1:5 about? Paraphrased: “If you lack wisdom, ask God for wisdom”. Joseph Smith lacked wisdom; he asked God; he believed; he received–just like James 1:5.
In addition, I wonder if the author assumes that all LDS/ Mormons are less-than-intelligent people whose entire belief is built only upon a “burning bosom”; is this so?
I would be interested in knowing what the author understands about the Holy Ghost, its importance in understanding the things of God (as per Paul), and how God reveals Himself to man through the Holy Ghost. (And not just a bunch of “what the Bible says” references.)
Let us look at Jesus’ testimony as an example in John 5:31-37. In this passage, we find Jesus giving three testimonies, or witnesses, to his claim of being the Christ:
1. Verse 34: Testimony of John the Baptist and the purpose of that is so that some may believe
2. Verse 36: Jesus’ very works and ministry
3. Verse 37and 39: God the Father, through His scriptures, testify of Jesus as savior
Thus, we will examine the claim of Mormonism objectively too, and welcome any LDS members to examine the claims of Jesus Christ.
grego: So, I gather that the author believes that these three testimonies about Jesus are “objective”. How is it that many nowadays on the earth don’t believe these three “objective” testimonies? Are any of these three testimonies claimed in the LDS Church? What, all of them? So, does that make the LDS Church “objective”?
Whoops. What about the first “objective” testimony? Jesus himself says:
John 5:34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.
In other words, well, Jesus says the testimony of John doesn’t count as an objective testimony, and shouldn’t therefore be included in the examples above.
Given the limit of this booklet, we will evaluate only the first book to appear in the BoM. The Book of 1st Nephi is a critical book, since this is where allegedly the Mormon story all began in 600 BC. If it falls under examination, since this is the foundation of the Mormon story, then everything else in Mormonism falls too.
grego: And once more, we have a problem (even if “falls” might read better as “fails”). “If one part is wrong, the entire thing is wrong.” Let’s test this hypothesis.. If the book of 1st Nephi fails, does that mean that God doesn’t exist, that He doesn’t love us, and that He didn’t send Jesus Christ to save us (these are three other parts of “everything else in Mormonism” the author refers to as having to fall if the book falls). I think Mr. Li would agree that that obviously doesn’t work. Nevertheless, if something fails, it fails, so let’s continue and see.
Often, the writer is accused of being unloving and unfair. What is the goal of having a booklet like this? The Bible in Jude1:3 commands that we should “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” From this verse, we can see that the faith in which people can be saved has ALREADY been delivered to the saints, and “another testament of Jesus Christ” must surely be rejected. Sometimes, LDS members do not realize that the BoM attacks Christianity too. A look at 1Nephi 14 would clearly be an example of this.
We realize that LDS members are sincere people, and we love them and we will present them the truth in a loving manner. Attention was paid to the sensitivity of LDS members.
In addition, we recommend all would examine the verses referred to in this book in their proper context. Quotes from the Bible are from the NIV. It is the prayer of this writer that this booklet would lead some to the true Jesus.
grego: I have nothing whatsoever with someone presenting their point of view. I do have a problem with someone claiming to present my point of view, or others’ points of views, and doing so “unfair”ly, misleadingly, without comprehending, unintelligibly, or naively and stupidly. Which was the cause of what follows, I won’t judge, but I believe it might be at least one of them.
Critique of 1st Nephi
Summary of 1Nephi
In order to critique 1Nephi, we must understand the story of 1Nephi. It is a story of how one family, having a dad as a prophet name Lehi, tries to leave Jerusalem to escape the upcoming wrath of God and enter into a new promise land. The book is recorded by Nephi, Lehi’s youngest son. Throughout the book, Nephi records visions received by his dad and himself. They leave everything behind to enter the wilderness, but then Nephi and his brothers come back to get their property and some brass plates. After a short adventure and convincing the family of Ishmael to come along also, the party enter into the wilderness. Nephi along with his brother Laman, Lemuel and Sam, married the daughters of Ishmael. Much hardship took place. Two brothers, Laman and Lemuel was especially rebellious and harden hearted. Problems occur often. Finally, they got near the sea and God instructed Nephi to make a ship. When they took off, Nephi got bounded by his brothers but God was able to release him. Nephi makes more prophecy. Eventually, they will find the promise land (and this is suppose to be the American continent).
Problems in 1Nephi
Under examination, the book of 1Nephi contain some problems that is too hard to ignore (there is a list of points here, that is included in the following):
Christ is the Same Forever
1Nephi 10:18 states concerning Christ, “For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.” So from this BoM verse, we see that the way to come to him is the same forever, and never changing. In the Bible, Hebrew 13:8 states the same thing. Now, using the principle of progressive revelation, the second revelation is suppose to agree in it’s teachings with that of the first revelation. Progressive revelation means additional information revealed and not contradicting information. So, if the BoM (second revelation) contradict the Bible (first revelation), it’s the BoM that is in trouble! Remember this principle as you are reading this booklet. We will use this principle to refute 1Nephi and the BoM.
grego: This is an interesting doctrine of “progressive revelation”; is it Biblical? Aren’t there many instances where, in fact, later revelation takes precedence over previous revelation? Isn’t that the purpose of much revelation? Didn’t God send the gospel first to the Jews, then by a later revelation send it to the gentiles? Didn’t God curse the earth because of Adam first, then later take the curse from the earth because of Noah (Genesis 3, 8)? Didn’t God tell Jonah to tell Ninevah it would be destroyed, then change after they repented? These are not extreme or rare occasions where the idea of “progressive revelation” fails, even in the Bible. (Using the same reasoning, does that mean the author’s religion has now failed completely, because something he taught failed?)
Besides, is there any explanation that has to do with the title of this section?
If some don’t believe that the Bible according to Mormonism is a divine revelation, one just needs to look at the footnotes in the BoM. Bible verses appear everywhere!
grego: Um, Biblical belief was covered in the introduction, and is a really basic tenet of Mormonism.
One such footnotes is for 1Nephi 8:9-10. In these 1Nephi verses, it describes a place that is footnoted supposedly to be the same place as the Bible’s description in Matt. 13:38, Gen. 2:9 & Rev. 2:7. It’s interesting to note that, in the vain attempt of the LDS to make Mormonism appear “Christian”, errors appear. The applied verse of Matt. 13:38 is actually describing a different place than Gen. 2:9 or Rev. 2:7! Matt. 13:38 has the world as it’s location, while the two other verses describes the garden of paradise. Though such mistake doesn’t put LDS in total jeopardy, it does raise concern about possible verse abuse of the Bible…
grego: Ouch, the author is very mistaken in his assumption as to the meaning adn purpose of the footnotes. Those are references, like a concordance, scriptures for further study, topics, etc.–not “footnotes” like in a research paper!
Of course, to put it in “total jeopardy”, one would have to prove that there is direct conflict between the verses, and because of the problem mentioned right above, there isn’t.
Filthiness is Not Clear
But then the problem with the place described in 1Nephi as some kind of garden of paradise does not just end there. Picking up the vision in 1Nephi 15:27, Nephi said, “the water which my father saw was filthiness…?Since there are footnotes trying to establish this river as being in the garden of paradise as that of the Bible’s, we would expect it to have the same and not opposite description of the same place. How could the water in 1Nephi be filthy then, when in the Bible at Rev. 22:1 it describes the river as clear?
grego: Ok, I finally understand. The author assumes that Nephi is describing the garden of Eden; it’s clearly not so, the author is mistaken. Footnotes do not try to “establish this river as being in the garden of paradise as that of the Bible’s”. Seriously, I have never heard even one Mormon mention this as a belief (and yes, I have heard some weird things from some Mormons…). I promise you that sharing this with your LDS friends will result in massive confusion or inner laughter or, if they are better people than I, kind rebuke and instruction.
Saved Forever, Not Temporary
Continuing with the issue of 1Nephi’s “garden of paradise”, it’s realized that the fruits on the tree are the fruit of eternal life (cf. Gen.3:22;Rev. 2:7 in the Bible and intro to 1Nephi Chapter 8 in the BoM). Only those who were saved were allowed to eat this fruit. Yet, in 1Nephi, unsaved people ate the fruit of life, and were no longer saved, but fell away! Christianity teaches once saved, always saved, but not 1Nephi. Because there’s a difference between the two revelations, Mormonism is the one in trouble due to the principle of progressive revelation.
grego: Once more, the author’s argument is based upon false assumptions, so it’s pretty pointless after realizing this to continue to point things out. By the way, which Christianity teaches “once saved, always saved”–or do they all? So, was Judas saved or not? Or was he chosen an apostle, but just never saved in the first place? Is that possible?
Lord’s True Gospel
Concerning the Lamb’s seed, 1Nephi13:36 states, “in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” The Bible also states that if anyone preaches another gospel, it isn’t really any gospel at all (cf. Gal.1:6-7).
grego: True. “Another gospel” would also include–as apparent to anyone who reads the letters of Paul and understands why he wrote them–an incorrect interpretation of the true Gospel, right? So, which Christian church preaches the correct interpretation of the Gospel (and the Bible, along with it), out of the many interpretations?
Does the BoM have the right gospel? Their gospel is a gospel of works AND grace (cf. 2Nephi 25:23) The Biblical gospel is one of grace alone (cf. Eph 2:8-9). The LDS gospel is thus, a false gospel. It fails to recognize grace alone for man’s redemption from sin. Works come as a fruit of grace (cf. Eph. 2:10), not a co-factor with grace. We must thus come to God’s grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
grego: Ahhh, so all of Christianity outside of Mormonism is in accordance with this belief?
(See, here’s why Mormons chide others for Bible use; it has nothing to do with using the Bible properly, but improperly. They throw down one verse, ignore all the others, and say, “See! This is the only correct interpretation.” Oh?) Are there two verses in the entire Bible that say, “You are saved by grace alone and nothing you do has anything to do with being saved”? How about a person saying, “Jesus, I ask you to save me.” Is that a work? Did someone do or say something of their own will to be saved? Or is everyone–including those that don’t ask to be saved–saved by grace? Do works have anything to do with being saved?
And are we forgetting, say, the book of James; or was Paul greater than James? What does “progressive revelation” tell us about this if James was an apostle before Paul, and wrote before Paul?
Disarming the Counter-Attack
It happens often that an attack upon the Bible is made around this point. “The Bible is accurate only as it is translated correctly” the LDS would charge. Since the Bible is used to undermine the BoM, an attack on the Bible seems tempting.
grego: I see no need for “attacking” the Bible “around this point”. I do, however, see a need to disagree with one person’s interpretation of a scriptural passage.
It seems theoretical that in attacking the Bible as inaccurate from the original manuscripts, the BoM is spared. But we must realized that the Bible has one of the most reliable and accurate ancient manuscripts in history, which gave us many manuscripts in the original language for us to translate…There is original language Bible text to check verses that might not make much sense in English.
grego: Not really. If I recall correctly, at best, especially for the New Testament, we have copies of translations. By the way, does this really have anything to do with the argument?
Many scholars in this field, whether Christians or not, would agree that the Bible is translated correctly.
grego: Interesting (or naive?) comment, in light of there being numerous non-LDS/ Mormon Christian translations of the Bible, which often disagree with each other. (Mr. Li himself noted which translation he would be using.)
But the real issue here is actually whether the Bible is considered inspired in the views of the LDS and the BoM. Since there are Bible verses in the footnotes of the BoM concerning truths in terms of God, doctrines and history, this legitimizes the Bible enough as authoritative.
grego: “Is the Bible actually considered inspired in the views of the LDS and the BoM?” I’d say so. This is hardly a point. But it has nothing to do with “Bible verses in the footnotes”.
Thus a Biblical refutation of 1Nephi is indeed, very powerful in critiquing the BoM.
grego: Absolutely–if only it were true that the Bible refuted 1 Nephi.
Engraved in Brass or Stone?
1Nephi 4:16 states, “And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.” The BoM gives the impression that the law mentioned in this verse is the law of the Bible since the footnote linked the law to Joshua 1:8, which referred to the Book of the Law (the Torah). Other verses from 1Nephi also mentioned the Law as engraved in brass (1Nephi 4:24, 5:10-11,etc). But here’s another problem in 1Nephi with the Bible; turning to the Bible in 2Cor. 3:7, it states concerning the Law, or “the ministry that brought death”, as being “engraved in letters on stone”!(italics are the author) Hence, another difficulty with the BoM.
grego: Once more, another faulty assumption about footnotes on the author’s part renders this argument unsubstantive. (These are two different records/ engravings, not the same one.)
1Nephi 5:18 prophesied (cf. 1Nephi 5:17) “that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.” However, this prophecy would never be fulfilled since these plates no longer exist! The Bible mentions that presumptuous predictions that failed to be fulfilled come from man, not God! Thus, 1Nephi is a product of man’s imagination. Of course, some would say that 1Nephi 5:17 refers to the BoM going out to all the nations today. But there’s still one more prophetic problem in 1Nephi.
A False Prophet
If we look at 1Nephi 5:19, Lehi (cf. 5:16-17) prophesied and “said that these plates of brass should never perish” and “neither should they be dimmed any more by time.” The brass plates no longer exist though! We find Lehi prophecy unfulfilled. The Bible says that “if what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:22) Since Lehi was a false prophet, we must reject him, and since he was the prophet that begins everything in 1Nephi, we must also reject 1Nephi and consequently, the BoM too.
grego: Actually, they do still exist. Patience, please. Nothing ungodly here.
This is a case of yet-unfulfilled prophecy, such as the prophecy that Jesus will come again. (I assume Mr. Li believes Jesus will come again, but hasn’t–yet. Or are we just to say, since He hasn’t, Jesus and many of the Biblical prophets are false prophets?)
Hell Yes, Hell No
Not only does the LDS teachings have a problem with the Bible, but it’s own BoM as well! LDS missionaries sometimes teach that there is no hell. Strangely, in 1Nephi 12:16 an angel interpreted a vision of the depths of a river as “the depths of hell”. Hell here, isn’t a symbolism since it was an interpretation of a symbolic vision. In addition, 1Nephi described hell as “hath no end” (1Nephi 14:3) and awful (15:35).
grego: Interesting. Is there a reference for “LDS missionaries sometimes teach that there is no hell”? Perhaps anything in the Book of Mormon about that?
1Nephi 20:1 mentions “the water of baptism”. It’s interesting to note that baptism didn’t exist between 588 through 570 BC, when this verse was written in! Supposedly, 1Nephi 20 is the BoM version of Isaiah 48. There is not mention of water baptism in it whatsoever.
grego: The author seems so sure that baptism didn’t exist…
1Nephi 16:10 describes “a round ball of curious workmanship” which is footnoted as being the same object referred to in 1Nephi16:16 and another part of the BoM, Alma 37:38.
grego: At least the author is correct about it being the same object!
Alma 37:38 mentions that this ball is called Liahona, or interpreted as compass. In addition, 1Nephi 18:12 and 18:21 mentioned about this compass. But compass weren’t in existence yet! Compass was invented in the 1000 AD. Yet, these events in 1Nephi took place over 1, 500 years before!
grego: Please see here: http://www.farms.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=2&num=1&id=48
I quote from it:
“For Vogel, the Liahona is best explained as an anachronistic response to local debate.
Although the mariner’s compass had not yet been invented, the Lord provided Lehi with a compass-like instrument, described as a “round [brass] ball of curious workmanship.” Inside the ball were “two spindles,” one of which “pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.” (p. 51)
Where Vogel sees a magnetic mariner’s compass, Hugh Nibley approaches the text against the purported context and provides an alternate picture.
The Liahona was a hollow bronze sphere in which were mounted two pointers, headless arrows that bore mysterious inscriptions and pointed the way that Lehi’s party should travel in the desert. Besides pointing the direction, the arrows and the inscriptions also provided special instructions for the journey. They only worked during the expedition to the New World, after which they ceased to function.15
Nibley then compares the Liahona to belomancy in the ancient Near East:
A recent study by an Arabic scholar has called attention to the long-forgotten custom of the ancient Arabs and Hebrews of consulting two headless arrows whenever they were about the undertake a journey; the usual thing was to consult the things at a special shrine, though it was common also to take such divination arrows along on the trip in a special container. The message of the arrows, which were mere sticks without heads or feathers, was conveyed by their pointing and especially by the inscriptions that were on them, giving detailed directions as to the journey.16
Vogel mentions aspects of the Liahona that he can relate to the pre-1830 discussion, the round shape, and the pointing spindles, but ignores the odd name, the writing on the pointers, the writing that occasionally appeared on the ball, the fact that the Liahona only worked when Lehi’s people were obedient and stopped working after the voyage, and so on. By Kuhn’s standard, Nibley’s description of the Liahona is more accurate than Vogel’s, more coherent and comprehensive. It introduces novel phenomena, and is, in my view, more aesthetically pleasing and promising. Vogel’s description of the Liahona highlights superficial similarities to a mariner’s compass and ignores profound differences.”
For some reason unknown to the author, the BoM footnoted a verse in the Bible to support this Liahona object at Exodus 13:21. Exodus 13:21 states, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar offer to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” Nowhere is there a description of anything similar to a “two spindles” inside a ball, or namely, a compass! Another thing that usually raises up with LDS defenders is the fact that the King James Version has the word “compass”. In context, this doesn’t present us any problems since the word “compass” is used to describe a turning around direction. Note: In Acts 28:13, the “fetched a compass” translated from the greek means to turn around, not to fetch a round metal ball object. This author had the opportunity to look up this verse in a Greek interlinear translation to confirm this.
grego: Um, once more, a problem with misunderstanding the footnotes. (One begins to wonder if the author ever considered that with so many easily-seen discrepancies in the footnotes, they might have perhaps been something other than what he thought they were…)
The Steel Connection
If we turn to 1Nephi16:18, we find Nephi in a situation in which he has to kill a man named Laban, who had stolen his family’s property. 1Nephi 4:9 records Nephi stating, “And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.” Steel is also mentioned in 1Nephi 16:18. These passages all took place between 600-592 B.C, as the BoM state. But steel as we know it (“exceedingly fine” workmanship), wasn’t invented until the mid-1800s! Is the BoM then, a product of modern myth?
grego: If the Book of Mormon came out before the “mid-1800’s”, how could it have the word “steel” in it?? Might there be more to this? Look here:
and the section “Old World Steel in the Book of Mormon” from http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2001_Boomerang_Hits_and_the_Book_of_Mormon.html.
Where Was Jesus Born?
Another reason why we should reject the BoM is because of another contradicting problem with the first revelation (the Bible). In Alma 7:10 it states, “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel…” Whereas the BoM teaches that Jesus was born at Jerusalem, the Bible teaches that Jesus is born at Bethlehem. Matthew 2:4-5 states,”When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written’.
grego: This is from a man whose ancestors’ last contact with the old world was almost 500 years earlier. The land of Jerusalem would include Bethlehem, a tiny village. For more reading:
After a critique of the first book appearing in the Book of Mormon, the book of 1Nephi, we have to reject it upon these grounds:
1. It contradicts the Bible, and since the Bible is the first revelation, 1Nephi is the one in trouble due to principle of progressive revelation.
2. Two prophecy unfulfilled made by a major prophet in 1Nephi.
3. It does not represent the true teachings and doctrines of the Bible nor the LDS itself!
4. The mentioning of things that didn’t exist until far beyond it’s time.
What then, shall we do now? We must reject the Book of 1st Nephi. And since 1st Nephi lay the foundation for the rest of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon must be rejected also. Thus, the LDS system must be abandoned altogether. Repent, and come to the true Jesus Christ as revealed in His Holy Word, the Holy Bible. Hold onto His Word as the standard of truth. Confess your sins to Him, and you shall be saved…He is waiting for you.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls.”-Matthew 11:29
After a critique of the critique of the first book appearing in the Book of Mormon, the book of 1Nephi, we have to reject it upon these grounds:
1. Mr. Li clearly misunderstands the purpose and use of footnotes in the LDS scriptures;
2. Mr. Li’s arguments are mostly based on that misunderstanding;
3. other arguments Mr. Li makes have been refuted in great and clear detail.
Therefore, I encourage Mr. Li to really should refrain from encouraging others to pass out this pamphlet, or ask Mormons/ LDS about this; it would be pretty embarrassing, I imagine. (Of course, if you don’t believe me, you may make an attempt.) There are other con-Mormon materials out there that are harder to respond to–this is something that many, if not most, Mormons would be able to reject outright.
Last Edited August 29, 2008 22:49
grego: Jimmy, I love you, brother.