Friday, October 31, 2014

Joseph Smith - Prophet? Part 2

The following are prophecies made by Joseph Smith.  Each prophecy is followed by a question or questions regarding whether the prophecy came to pass.  D&C is Doctrine and Covenants and "Hist." is History of the Church.  

Stipulation:  The meaning of the word "generation" is defined by Webster as "all persons born about the same time; the average in which children are ready to replace their parents... about 30 years."  The Bible defines a generation as 35 to 40 years (e.g. Job 42:16), The Book of Mormon says that a generation is 110 years (4 Nephi 18).  Remember this stipulation for future posts.

The prophecies will be shown in chronological order, and will be numbered consecutive from post to post.  Today I will give eight.

1.  D&C Section 57 (July 1831):  This section says that Independence is the place for the city of Zion, and is "appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints."  Verse 5 says it is to be an "everlasting inheritance".

Is Independence the gathering place today?  Is it the city of "Zion"?  Has it been an "everlasting inheritance?  The answer to all three questions is, “no.”  The prophecy failed to come to pass.

2.  D&C Section 84:1-5, 31 (Sep. 1832):  "A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun.... Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.  Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.  Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city of New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.  For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house...which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed....

Was New Jerusalem built during that generation?  Was the temple built at the temple lot during that generation?  The answer to both questions is, “no.”  The prophecy failed to come to pass.

3.  D&C Section 87 (25 Dec 1832):  This is the famous "Civil War Prophecy."  At the time of this writing the newspapers were writing about the impending outbreak of civil war and the Army was on alert.  So to make such a “prophecy” was just to repeat what many of the papers were saying.
1. Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;  2. And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.  3. For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.  4. And is shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.  5. And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.  6. And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;  7. That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of the Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.

Did the Civil War "shortly come to pass?"  Did all nations get involved in the U.S. Civil War?  Was war "poured out upon all nations?"  Did the slaves rise up against their masters?  Were there earthquake and plague and famine during the Civil War and until the "full end of all nations?"   The answer to all these questions is, “no.”  The prophecy failed to come to pass.

4.  D&C Section 88: 87-88 (27 Dec 1832):  For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.

More than 65,000 days have passed since that prophecy was given.  By any standard this is more than "not many days."  Did this prophecy come to pass?  No, it failed.

5.  Hist. Vol. 1, pp. 315-316.  On January 4, 1833 Joseph Smith said, "And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. ...therefore, 'Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgement is come.'   ...there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, which I have spoken, fulfilled."  (This is also recorded in Teachings, pp. 17-18)

Did these things come to pass in that generation?  Have they come to pass at all?  The answer to both questions is, “no.”  The prophecy failed to come to pass.

6. Hist. Vol. 1, p. 455.  In a letter to "the Exiled Saints in Missouri," Joseph Smith wrote:  Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the utmost, and employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies; and pray to God day and night to return you in peace and safety to the lands of your inheritance; and when the judge fail you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fail you; appeal to the president; and when the president fail you, and all things also fail you but God alone, and you continue to weary Him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge.  He will not fail you to execute judgement upon your enemies, and to avenge His own elect that cry unto Him day and night.  Behold, He will not fail you.  He will come with ten thousand of his saints, and all His adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of His lips. 

Did any of this come to pass?  Did the Mormons retain their lands in Missouri?  Did their god ever destroy their enemies?  The answer to all three questions is, “no.”  The prophecy failed.

7.  D&C Section 97:19 (Aug. 2, 1833): "And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say, Surely Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there...

On July 20, 1833, the LDS newspaper presses were destroyed and leading LDS officials tarred and feathered, then run out of town.  When Joseph received this revelation he was in Kirtland, OH.  Did God not know that Zion was already "moved out of her place?"  Did not Zion fall? Yes, Zion fell, and a god who didn’t know that Zion had fallen is obviously a false god, making Joseph Smith a prophet of a false god.

8.  D&C Section 100:13 (Oct 12, 1833):  And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion.  Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season.

Since 181 years have come to pass after this prophecy, would this not be much more than "a little season?"  Zion was never redeemed; how is this accounted for?  It can only be accounted for by a failed prophecy.

How many failed/false prophecies does it take to make a false prophet?  One.  Here we have eight failed prophecies by Joseph Smith.  Would not eight false prophecies then make Smith a false prophet?

Joseph Smith - Prophet? Part 1

Joseph Fielding Smith stated, "Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.  He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen.  There is no middle ground.  If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth....  The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures...."

The purpose of this series will be to determine whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God according to the test of Scripture and, if not, to expose him.

The claim for Joseph Smith's position as prophet is made in D&C 21 (April 6, 1830): 1. Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, 2. Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith.  3. Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April.  4. Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; 5. For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.  ... 9. For, behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard with a mighty blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me by the Comforter... 

Notice that this says Joseph is titled by God as a seer and prophet.  God says the church is to "give heed unto all his words and commandments", that these are to be received as if from God's own mouth, and that the words are given to him through the Comforter.  By Biblical standards Joseph could make no mistake of prophecy or as a seer because he is supposedly provided with what to say directly from God.

Brigham Young stated, "Every intelligent person under the heavens that does not, when informed, acknowledge that Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet of God, is in darkness, and is opposed to us and to Jesus and his kingdom on the earth.Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, p. 223

These statements are very straight-forward: They claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  So does he pass the test of Scripture?  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 makes it plain that the prophet of God can make no false prophecy.  Even the LDS newspaper Evening and Morning Star, Vol.2, p.105, July 1833, stated, "When therefore, any man, no matter who, or how high his standing may be, utters or publishes anything that afterwards proves to be untrue, he is a false prophet."

Statements about prophecies:

Even though D&C 21 says God is directing all his words, Joseph made the statement that, "A prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as such."  (History of the Church, vol. 5, p.265)  Where is the Biblical support for this?  And how would one know when he was not “acting as such”?

In regards to a failed revelation sending Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page to go to Canada for a man to pay to print the Book of Mormon, Smith said, "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.... When a man enquires of the Lord concerning a matter, if he is deceived by his own carnal desires, and is in error, he will receive an answer according to his erring heart, but it will not be a revelation from the Lord."  David Whitmer recorded this on p. 31 of his Address to All Believers in Christ.  Where is the Biblical support for this?  How does this correlate with D&C 21?

Joseph made the following statement on April 7, 1844, as recorded by Willard Richards: "Every man has a right to be a false prophet as well as a true prophet." There is no Biblical support for this claim.

So before we examine Smith’s prophecies, we already see some biblical problems with his claim to be a prophet.  D&C 21 says that God directed ALL Smith’s words, and yet contradicting this prophecy are statements that gave Smith an “out” if the prophecies failed.  This in and of itself should be grounds for dismissing him as a prophet of God.

In my next post I will begin examining various prophecies made by Joseph Smith to see if they did indeed come from God.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Questions Regarding the Book of Mormon - Part 4

This is my last post for now on the Book of Mormon.  I will finish with questions from 3 Nephi, Mormon, Ether and Moroni.   This series hasn’t included all my questions, but are those that immediately came to mind when I last read through the Book of Mormon.  I have started a collection of other questions, but those are for another time.  So now lets look at my questions.  Some of the last ones are statements about being plagiarisms from the KJV.

1.  3 Nephi 9:18 uses the Greek words "alpha" and "omega".  Wouldn’t the “reformed Egyptian” alphabet have different letters at the beginning and the end?  Why didn’t Smith translate to the English alphabet?  

2.  3 Nephi 11:17 uses the Hebrew "Hosanna" ("save us").  Again, why translate into Hebrew instead of English?

3.  3 Nephi 11:33-34 is almost a direct quotation from Mark 16:16.  Modern Greek scholars have determined that Mark 16:16 of the King James version was a translational error and wasn't in the original manuscript.  So how did it end up in the Book of Mormon?

4.  3 Nephi 12:3-48 is KJV Matthew 5, with problems as previously noted when copying from KJV.  Verse 22 leaves in the word "Raca", which is Aramaic for "empty-head".  Why is Aramaic in an English translation of “reformed Egyptian?”

5.  3 Nephi 13 is Matthew 6 KJV with the normal problems, including the use of the Greek word hypocrite (meaning "actor").  In verse 23 Smith uses the Jewish evil eye idea, which Nephites would not know!  And why are they using the cubit for measure (vs27)?

6.  3 Nephi 14 is KJV Matthew 7, with the usual problems.  Along with chapters 12 and 13, these were supposedly words spoken by Jesus during his visit to America in A.D. 34, whereas the words in Matthew are part of the Sermon on the Mount.  Would Jesus have repeated himself word for word like that, speaking in a different language  to a different audience at a different time and place?  And if he did, would a translation from Reformed Egyptian come out to be identical with a translation from Greek manuscripts, which in turn were a translation of the Aramaic words Jesus used with his Jewish audience?

7.  3 Nephi 15:17 and 21 are both KJV John 10:16.

8.  3 Nephi 16:18-20 is Isaiah 52:8-10, but is not identical with Mosiah 15:29-31.

9.  3 Nephi 18:29 is copied from I Corinthians 11:27.  Why was Jesus not so specific with the Jews in Israel?

10.  3 Nephi 19:4 has the Greek name Timothy.

11.  In the 3rd chapter of Acts, Peter's sermon at Pentecost paraphrases Deuteronomy 18:15-19.  While in the process of writing 3 Nephi 20 (which is KJV Acts 3:23-26), Joseph Smith puts Peter's paraphrase in the mouth of Jesus when he was allegedly preaching to the Nephites.  Joseph overlooked the fact that at the time that Christ was allegedly preaching His sermon, the sermon itself had not yet been preached by Peter!

12.  3 Nephi 20:31-45 are KJV Isaiah 52:1-15 with the verses somewhat out of order.  Chapter 21:8 is Isaiah 52:15 KJV.

13.  3 Nephi 22 is KJV Isaiah 54 with the usual problems.

14.  3 Nephi 24 is KJV Malachi 3, while chapter 25 is Malachi 4, with the usual problems.

15.  3 Nephi 27:29 is KJV Matthew 7:7.

16.  Mormon 9:22 ends with KJV Mark 16:15, while 9:23-24 is Mark 16:16-18.

17.  Ether 2:3 has bees in the New World, yet they were not brought over until the Spanish explorers came in the 16th century.  How is this accounted for?

18.  Ether 2:20.  Doesn't God know which end is up?

19.  Ether 5:18 is again KJV Mark 16:16-17

20.  Ether 6:5,11  Tells us that a "furious" wind propelled the "vessels or barges" (which were they?) to the Promised Land.  It took the furious wind 344 days to blow the barges to the New World.  Even if the furious wind could only push the barges at 10 mph, the distance traveled would have been 82,560 miles - three times around the globe.  Is this reasonable?

21.  Ether 10:5 again tells us polygamy is not right in God's sight.  Again, how does this relate to D&C 132?

22.  Ether 15:31 tells of a fight to the death between Coriantumr and Shiz.  Shiz gets his head cut off, after he had already fainted from loss of blood, and then raises up on his hands before falling back, while struggling for breath!  This defies all medical knowledge.  (no, it is not analogous with the reflexes of a chicken’s body with the head chopped off)

23.  Moroni 7:4546 is KJV 1 Corin. 13:4 on.

24.  Moroni 10:9-16 is basically KJV I Cor. 12:8-11.

24.  The last great battle at Hill Cumorah in A.D. 385 killed about 500,000 people with all manner of weapons of war, yet no archaeological evidence can be found for this battle.  Why?

Explain how an inspired translation from Reformed Egyptian directly to the English language of 1830 becomes virtually word-for-word identical with the 1611 English translation from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; how do the words become the same?  (Especially explain how the italicized words in the KJV - those not in the original but put there by the translators to help make sense - are included in the Book of Mormon.)  

The text shown to Smith on his seer stone in his hat over his face would not move until the scribe copied everything accurately - so why have there been over 4000 changes to the text since 1830?

Last, but not least, the Lamanites are supposed to be descendants of Jewish people — Semites — and the American Indian is descended from the Lamanites.  Anthropologists state that the American Indian is Mongoloid — descended from Asian peoples who crossed the Bering Strait.  This has been demonstrated conclusively by recent DNA studies.

"The nature of the message in the Book Of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it."  Orson Pratt.

Questions Regarding the Book of Mormon - Part 3

This time I’ll address problems with Jacob, Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman.  I want to note that in these postings, I have read many — if not most — of the typical LDS responses.  I just want to challenge any Mormon to give me a response and see if it can hold water.  So let’s look at today’s list of problems in the Book of Mormon.

1.  Jacob 1:15 calls polygamy a wicked practice, yet God later gave Joseph Smith the revelation approving it.  Is God inconsistent? 

2.  Jacob 2:24, 27 also vilify polygamy.  Jacob 3:5 again reiterates the command.  How does this square with D&C 132?

3.  Jacob 4:1 tells us that only a little of the words can be written because of the difficulty of engraving the plates.  Why then are the Nephite prophets so wordy?  There are numerous examples; many sentences are 200 to 300 words long, there are 2000 "and it came to pass" phrases, and in 4 Nephi 1:6 there are 57 words just to say 59 years passed by.  Alma 13:7 even has the phrase, "or in other words," a phrase that should have been left out of difficult writing.

4.  Jacob 7: 27 ends with the French word "adieu"!  Why would God have Smith translate suddenly into French?

5.  Mosiah 2:3 says, "And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses."  According to the law of Moses the firstlings of their flocks were never offered as burnt offerings or sacrifices.  All firstlings belonged to the Lord and could not be counted as a man's personal property - whereas all burnt offerings, or sacrifices for sin of every kind, must be selected from the man's own personal property, or be purchased with his own money for that purpose, while all firstlings of the flock, as the Lord's property, came into the hands of the high priest, and by him could be offered up as a peace offering, not as a burnt offering or a sin offering, himself and family eating the flesh.  This error in Mosiah proves that the Book Of Mormon could not have come from God.

6.  Mosiah 13:12-24 is Exodus 20:5-17 KJV, including the error of "kill" for "murder".  Why wouldn’t God have had Smith translate the word to “murder” rather than follow KJV?

7.  Mosiah 14 is Isaiah 53 KJV with the usual problems.  Mosiah 15:14-17 is Isaiah 52:7-10 and Mosiah 15:29-31 is Isaiah 52:8-10.

8.  Mosiah 21:28, in the original 1830 version, stated that King Benjamin had a gift from God, corrected to King Mosiah in later versions.  If Joseph dictated from what he was seeing translated by a gift of God, how did he make this error?

9.  Mosiah 27:13.  The use of the word "Church" throughout this book is anachronistic, but this verse in particular contradicts Matthew 16:18.

10.  Why does Alma 7:10 says that Jesus will be born in Jerusalem when the Bible says Bethlehem? 

11.  Alma 10:3 says that Nephi and Lehi were descendants of Manasseh, yet in Mosiah 2:3 we found them offering sacrifices according to the law of Moses.  The Bible says only the descendants of Aaron can offer these sacrifices (Ex. 28:40-43; Num. 3:3-10; 1 Chron. 23:13; 2 Chron. 26:18; Heb. 7:12-14).  How is this contradiction explained?

12.  Alma 13:15.  "...tithes of one-tenth part..."  Tithe means one tenth; did God not know that?

13.  In the book of Alma 28:14-29:1-11, more than 30 changes have been made from the 1830 edition, and page 303 of the original edition had the statement, "Yea, decree unto them that decrees which are unalterable" (Alma 29:4), which has been deleted.  Why has this been removed?

14.  Alma 46:15 tells us there were people called Christians in 73 BC.  The Bible tells us the first use of the word "Christian" was in Antioch.  Which is correct?

15.  Alma 54:4 uses the Greek word "epistle", which means "letter".  This word continues to be used throughout the text.  Why would God have Smith translate Egyptian into a Greek word when he could have just used “letter”?

16.  Helaman 8:20 talks of Ezias and Isaiah.  Ezias is Greek for Isaiah - they are the same person.

17.  Helaman 9:6 says, "Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered - he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy."  "Garb" is a piece of clothing; how do you stab with clothing?

18.  Helaman 12:25-26:  What was Helaman reading when he quotes John 5:29?  John wasn't written for at least another 90 years.

19.  Helaman 14:20,27 says the earth would be darkened for three days at Jesus' death.  The Bible says the darkness lasted three hours.  Which is correct?

 These are not insignificant problems!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Questions Regarding the Book of Mormon - Part 2

In this post I will be questioning things in 2 Nephi.

1.  2 Nephi 2:6, 8 uses the word “Messiah.”  Why not use “Christ” as with chapter 10?

2.  2 Nephi 5:  How could Nephi and just a small handful of men, in less than 20 years, build a temple like Solomon's, when it took Solomon 7 1/2 years using 180,000 workers to complete his temple?

3.  2 Nephi 5:15, 16:  What is the difference between precious "ores" and "things"?  vs 15 says that precious "ores" were in great abundance, but in the next verse he says that "precious things" were not to found upon the land!  Isn’t this contradictory?

4.  2 Nephi 6:16-18 is a repeat of Isaiah 49:24-26 KJV.  This problem is the same as addressed in 1 Nephi in Part 1 of this series.

5.  2 Nephi 7 is Isaiah 50 KJV with minor changes.

6.  2 Nephi 8 is Isaiah 51 KJV with minor changes.

(The problem with these two is the same as noted about 1 Nephi.)

7.  2 Nephi 9:18.  Enduring crosses is an idiom based on the crucifixion.  It is anachronistic here.

8.  2 Nephi 10:3 uses the term "Christ".  This is a Greek word for the Hebrew "Messiah".  Both mean "The Anointed".  Why would this be translated as “Christ” rather than “The Anointed?”  The name "Christ" is then used throughout the text of the Book of Mormon.  If these people are Jews, why aren’t they using Hebrew instead of Greek?

9.  2 Nephi 12 through 2 Nephi 24 are Isaiah 2 through 14 KJV with aforementioned problems associated with being identical to KJV.

10.  2 Nephi 14:5 copies the King James error in Isaiah 4:5 by saying, "For upon all the glory shall be a defense."  The Hebrew word mistranslated by King James translators was "chuppah", which means a protective curtain or canopy, not "defense".  The only way this error could be present is if the author was copying KJV instead of translating “Reformed Egyptian.”

11.  2 Nephi 17:14 uses the word "virgin" as does KJV, but the original Hebrew was merely, "young girl", who may or may not be virgin.  "Virgin" comes from the Greek Septuagint.  How is it that ‘Reformed Egyptian” translates like Greek?

12.  2 Nephi 22:2 would not use the word JEHOVAH.  This is a Latinized transliteration of YHWH in Hebrew, which combines the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai.

13.  2 Nephi 24:12 uses the word "Lucifer".  This is a Latin word from the Vulgate.  The Hebrew word meant "morning star" or "star of the morning".  KJV just kept the Latin, and Joseph Smith copied KJV!  (See my article about “Lucifer).  I think this error, along with all the copying of KJV, is one of the proofs that Smith wrote the Book of Mormon rather than translated it from an unknown language.

14.  2 Nephi 25:19  We have now added "Jesus" to Christ, another Greek name for the Hebrew "Y'shua" or "Joshua".  Why do Jews in the Americas use Greek before Greek was used in the empire in Asia?

15.  2 Nephi 26 begins the use of the word "Gentile", another Greek word.  Hebrew calls them "Goyim".

16.  2 Nephi 29 talks of a "Bible".  The word is from Greek, not Egyptian.  It merely means "book".  The Bible was not named as such until it was canonized.  Otherwise, the material is known as the Scripture.  It also discusses the lost tribes of Israel.  At this time they were not "lost", but to God they are never lost anyway!  Another problem is that it states the Bible came from the Jew, but only the O.T. came from them.

17.  2 Nephi 30:6, until 1981, said that the Lamanites would turn “white and delightsome” when they embraced the Mormon doctrine.  In 1981 this was changed to read, not “white,” but “pure.”  Could it be because no one was turning white as Smith claimed?

18.  2 Nephi 30:9, 11-15 is copied from Isaiah 11:4-9 KJV.   The same KJV problem.

19.  2 Nephi 31 has baptism following Jesus' example, yet Jesus has not come yet?!?  How does anyone follow an example which hasn’t been demonstrated?

20.  2 Nephi 31:21 is a clear statement of the doctrine of the Trinity that LDS now claim is an error. Why were the Nephites given all the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whereas the Jews in Israel were not?

Again, how are these oddities explained?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Questions Regarding the Book of Mormon - Part 1

Three thoughts to start with:

1.  The translation of the Book Of Mormon was purportedly done by revelation, and therefore no error of man should have been involved; no wrong names, no wrong words or grammatical errors, nothing to delete or add to the original translation.  If any additions or corrections are made, there is no way that the new editor can know what the original manuscript [the plates] actually said, and therefore no change to the original translation should be made.  Another problem throughout is the use of New Testament doctrine, which would be anachronistic before Christ died.

2.  Hebrews and Egyptians of the same period of time as the people in the Book of Mormon used prepared animal skins or papyrus for writing; why would the people of this Mormon record engrave on brass and gold plates?  Engraving is a slow process, even slower if the engraver casts his own plates, so one would expect the engravers to be very concise!  Yet the Book of Mormon is very wordy.

3.  Orson Pratt stated, about the Book of Mormon, "This book must be either true or false.  If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God...If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who would sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair.  The nature of the message in the Book Of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it."

So the question I will be asking in this series of posts I’m beginning today is, “Can the Book of Mormon be true?”  Lets’ begin looking at my questions, addressing the book of 1 Nephi.

1.  1 Nephi 1:  Why is the record made in Egyptian by a Jew?  Especially since he lived his whole life in Jerusalem?  Hebrews hated Egyptians, and considered the Hebrew language to be sacred.  Besides this, why has no one ever found evidence of a “Reformed Egyptian” language from which the Book of Mormon was purportedly translated?

2.  1 Nephi 1:4, 13-14; 2:2:  The LDS claim that there can only be one prophet of God on earth at a time.  Lehi is said to have dwelt in Jerusalem during the first year of the reign of King Zedekiah, but according to Jer. 1:1-3; 37:1-2, Jeremiah was the prophet of God in Jerusalem at that time.  So according to LDS, Lehi could not have been a true prophet of God.

Another problem with Lehi being a prophet of God is that he prophesied that many inhabitants of Jerusalem would perish and that he and his family should depart from the Babylonian captivity.  But Jer. 27:6-17; 29:4-9 says this was the message of the false prophets.  God said that none of the captives were to be free, and they were to live and serve the king of Babylon in peace.  False prophets claiming otherwise would perish!  How do you solve this contradiction between the Bible and the BOM?

3.  1 Nephi 2:  Lehi, in 600 BC, takes his family out of Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar's siege, traveled on foot for three days in the wilderness, and came to a valley through which flowed a river that ran into the Red Sea.  According to 1 Nephi 16:12-13, they were traveling in a south-southeast direction.  Historical details of the siege tell us that anyone breaking out of Jerusalem was chased down and killed.  Even if Lehi's family did escape, travel under good conditions would be about three miles per hour, and the three days travel would take them about 75 miles, to the southern tip of the Dead Sea.  It would have taken them 7 days of favorable travel to reach the closest tip of the Red Sea.  There are no rivers in that part of the world.  After reaching "Bountiful" on the Persian Gulf, Nephi was commanded to go to the mountains for instruction on building the ship. There are no mountains for several hundred miles from the Persian Gulf.  How is this geographic problem solved?

4.  1 Nephi 2:5 has Lehi naming his son "Sam".  Isn't this an American nickname for "Samuel"?

5.  1 Nephi 4:9 has Laban with a steel sword.  Nephi himself claims to have had a steel bow (the word translated as steel in KJV Psalms 18:34 is more properly rendered as bronze).  How is this explained since steel did not exist until well over 1000 years after the Book of Mormon was completed?

6.  1 Nephi 8 Lehi has a dream wherein a river of water (8:13) and a fountain (8:20) are major symbolic factors.  In Chapter 11, the dream is interpreted for Nephi by an angel, and  he is told that the waters represent the love of God (11:25).  However, when the angel gives further counsel (12:16), we find the "love of God" has become "filthy water", and in chapter 15:26-29, the water is called "filthiness", because it represents the "awful hell" prepared for the wicked.  Isn’t there inconsistency in God's message?

7.  1 Nephi 10:  Uses the word "baptize".  This is a Greek word, the meaning of which is to wash or immerse in water.  Why is the Greek word here

8.  1 Nephi 11:18 originally stated in the 1830 Book of Mormon, "Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God."  This verse now reads, "Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the son of God."  How is this change explained since there were no plates to refer to?

9.  1 Nephi 11:21.  Page 25 of the 1830 edition says, "And the angel said unto me, Behold the Lamb of God, yea even the eternal father".  In later editions, and reads, "And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the son of the eternal Father!"  How is this change explained?

10.  1 Nephi 11:32 in the 1830 version said, "And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God...yea, the everlasting God was judged of the world."  The passage now reads, "...yea, the Son of the everlasting God…"  Why the change?

11.  1 Nephi 18:25:  How did domestic animals, such as horses, pigs, sheep, cattle and donkeys, come to be found in about 590 BC when evidence confirms these animals did not exist in the New World until after the time of Columbus?  In addition to this error, the Nephites produce wheat and barley (Mosiah 9:9) rather than the indigenous maize and potatoes.  Ether 9:19 even has elephants in the New World!  How are these things explained?

12.  1 Nephi 19:10 mentions crucifixion.  This method of punishment was unknown at this period of time. (This word shows up again in many other places.)  Also, the prophecy is that there would be three days of darkness at Jesus' death, yet there is nothing about this in the Bible.

13.  1 Nephi 20 is virtually word-for-word KJV Isaiah 48, even down to the same verse numbers; chapter divisions first appeared in the Latin Vulgate in the 11th century and verse numbers first appeared in the 1500s!  Verse two contradicts Isaiah by saying they "do not stay", while Isaiah says they do “stay".  Another problem is the use of italicized words from KJV - they were inserted by the KJV translators!  This is the same problem in all the following KJV quotes throughout the Book of Mormon.  So aside from explaining how chapter and verse divisions could show up in a book written almost 2000 years before these divisions were first made, how can you explain “Reformed Egyptian” being translated into English and ending up word-for-word identical to 1611 English translation of Hebrew?  Why would Joseph Smith translate into obsolete English to begin with?  This problem runs throughout the Book of Mormon.

14.  1 Nephi 21 has the same problem as above; it is Isaiah 49 with a longer introduction and a few deletions and changes.  Verse 1 uses the word "pastors", which is anachronistic.  The word pastor simply means shepherd.

How are these oddities explained?

Monday, October 27, 2014

What About the Book of Mormon Witnesses?

Having done some reading about the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, here are some thoughts about how trustworthy these witnesses were.

David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris were finally chosen to be witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates' existence.  The four went to the woods to pray, but time passed with no action.  Harris felt ill and stated he was the reason for no word and then he left.  Immediately an angel appeared with the plates in his hands.  He demonstrated turning gold leaves and stated that God permitted the translation.  Joseph ran for Martin, who was kneeling elsewhere in prayer and he also saw the vision. Joseph then wrote up a "testimony" for them to sign and had it published at the end of the Book of Mormon.

The local press claimed that three original witnesses all told different versions of their experience with seeing the plates.  

Martin Harris told a lawyer that he saw the plates "with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me - though at the time they were covered with a cloth".

Whitmer said that Joseph led them to an open field where the plates were lying on the ground.

The testimony of the eight witnesses is even more suspect, since four of them were Whitmers, three were from Joseph's family and the eighth was Hiram Page, who married a Whitmer daughter. 

Witnesses were:
Christian Whitmer   
Jacob Whitmer 
Peter Whitmer, Jr.
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sr
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

Illinois Governor Thomas Ford knew several of Joseph’s key men after they left the church.  They told Ford that the witnesses were "set to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises," then Smith "assembled them in a room, and produced a box, which he said contained the precious treasure.  The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, 'Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates.'  The prophet answered them, 'O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation?  Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgive-ness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven.'  The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates."

Martin Harris:  Had been a Quaker, then a Universalist, then a Restorationist.  Fawn Brodie says the following on p.81 of her book, No Man Knows My History (about events leading up to the publishing of the Book of Mormon): Martin Harris had been an embarrassingly zealous proselyter who advertised his own visionary experiences as freely as those of Joseph.  He had seen Jesus in the shape of a deer, he said, and had walked with Him two or three miles, talking with Him as familiarly as one man talks with another.  The devil, he said, resembled a jackass, with very short, smooth hair similar to that of a mouse.  He prophesied that Palmyra would be destroyed by 1836, and that by 1838 Joseph's church would be so large that there would be no need for a president of the United States.  Publicly Harris met with amused tolerance and only occasional bitter scorn.  Privately Palmyra gossiped about his scandalous conduct with his neighbor Haggard's wife.  Harris later left his wife.  In 1837 he followed a young girl seer when the church split, and later followed James Strange to Wisconsin.  He returned to Utah in his old age.

Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated in October 1834, but was restored to the church later.  In 1837 he followed the girl seer in the church split and then returned again the following year in Missouri.  In June 1838 he dissented and Danites forced his family from their home.  Oliver left the church.  In 1843 he joined the Methodist church, but returned in 1848 to the Mormons.

David Whitmer also followed the girl seer in 1837 and later returned to the fold.

If these witnesses truly saw what they did, would any of them doubt the faith to the point they departed the LDS church?  Does the character of any of these witnesses lead one to trust what they said about the Book of Mormon?

I doubt if any of the testimony of these witnesses would stand up in a court of law, and yet hundreds of thousands of people have been led to believe that the Book of Mormon is true based initially on the basis of the testimony of these  witnesses who, in my mind, have no credibility.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

“Community of Christ” — Reorganized Latter-Day Saints

In the April 2001 the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially changed their name to Community of Christ. The purpose of the new name was to eliminate confusion with the Utah church, but it also makes them appear as more orthodox in their teachings. Their cars will have the Christian fish logo, their churches will have crosses and their services will use mainline Christian songs and choruses. And they tend to refer to the Bible more than the Book of Mormon. But are they Christian?

I’m going to give a short (somewhat) history of the Community of Christ so you can see where they come from. Quotations in this article will be from Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church: Is It Christian? by Carol Hansen. Much of this history is also available on the church’s web site.

Joseph III was only 11 1/2 when his father, Joseph Smith, Jr., was killed, but he had already been appointed by his father as his successor. Brigham Young told Smith’s wife, Emma, that if it were known that Joseph III was to succeed, then his life would be in danger, so Young eventually took over control of the church through his presidency of the apostles.

During the split of 1844-45 numerous factions spread across the U.S., many of which rejected the polygamy doctrine. When the main body left for Utah in 1846, Emma stayed behind and remarried a “gentile.” She claimed that polygamy was brought in by Brigham Young and that Joseph had nothing to do with it, hence she taught her son Joseph III this lie.

“Beginning in late 1851 some leaders in these independent congregations began receiving spiritual messages indicating that…Joseph III would eventually become leader of the church.” The many groups held a conference in Beloit, WI to organize into a single body, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS). Over the next few years they kept asking Joseph III to lead them, but he always refused. During this time he also received requests from the Utah church to join them, but he refused them because of polygamy.

In 1859 Joseph III began receiving spiritual manifestations telling him to take over the new body, so he went to their conference in April 1860 in Amboy, IL and accepted the presidency. Emma then joined the new organization.

Significantly, Emma and her new husband had the manuscript of Joseph, Jr’s translation of the Bible, which is still published as the Inspired Version. This version is not a translation, rather it is Joseph’s additions and “corrections” as he saw fit.

In 1866 the church headquartered in Plano, IL and then moved in 1881 to Lamoni, IA. Under Joseph III the RLDS established Graceland College in Lamoni.

The RLDS maintained for years that Joseph, Jr. had nothing to do with the polygamy revelation, blaming it instead on Brigham Young and John C. Bennet, but the evidence for Smith’s authorship is overwhelming. Joseph III spent much of his time trying to clear his father’s name of the polygamy revelation. (Only recently has the RLDS come to admit Joseph may have had some input.) The RLDS also disowned much of what happened in the Nauvoo period, including baptism for the dead, eternal progression, celestial marriage and other secret temple ceremonies. They claim that Joseph became a fallen prophet during this period.

As one of their tenets, the RLDS required prophet succession from Joseph III; Joseph III’s son, Frederick Madison Smith, took over the reigns of the presidency in 1915 when his father died. Frederick experimented with peyote, believing that “chemical ecstasy might play a role in reaching… heights of power and insight.” “He believed that the peyote experience first released, then enhanced the human mind toward creative expansion, and he encouraged others to use the drug.” Frederick urged the church to endorse its use and then wrote a book called The Higher Powers of Man, advocating peyote use even in the educational system. His book also expounded the use of hypnotism and occultic practices such as deep meditation and trances. His lead eventually brought the RLDS into many New Age practices that are currently in the church. In fact, in 1995 New Age author M. Scott Peck received the peace award in the RLDS temple in Independence.

Frederick was very dictatorial and not well liked. Tithing decreased and more than a third of the membership left active participation until he was dead. Under his leadership the headquarters was moved to Independence, MO, because that’s where Joseph, Jr said Zion would be.

In 1946 Joseph III’s son Israel became president of the RLDS at the age of 70. He brought the church back together and sent missionaries around the world, but he also laid groundwork to bring liberal teaching into the RLDS. Israel was killed in a car crash in 1958 and his brother W. Wallace Smith became president for 20 years until his retirement in 1978.

Under Wallace’s leadership a “reformation” took place. “Many in the RLDS hierarchy began attending St. Paul’s School of Theology, a Methodist seminary that opened in Kansas City, Missouri in 1959. This accelerated the church’s shift away from Joseph Smith’s restoration theology to a more liberal Protestant one.

Wallace had some revelations to support his changes, of course. The first revelation “gave him the right to reinterpret previous revelations in order to make them relevant today.” “The second revelation was given in order to promote a ‘social gospel’ more in line with liberal Protestant churches. It reads, ‘You who are my disciples must be found continuing in the forefront of those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons.’… This revelation has been interpreted by the leadership to promote the social acceptance of questionable behaviors such as homosexuality.

Wallace’s ambition was to expand RLDS into a global church, and he worked toward that end with missions and changes in the church teachings.

Wallace B. Smith took over his father’s position in 1978. Under him the building of the temple in Independence was started. He continued his father’s lead in removing some of the original restoration beliefs and became more liberal, which caused many factions. In 1984 the continued departure from original teachings led to Smith’s revelation of the acceptance of women into the priesthood. This caused a split in the church, with about 25,000 “Restorationists” breaking off, calling themselves RLDS in name but no longer attached to the mother church. The Restorationists are looking forward to a new prophet to lead them.

Meanwhile, the RLDS in 1996 made their first departure from a direct descendant of Joseph Smith leading the church when they ordained Grant McMurray as president when Wallace retired. McMurray calls himself a Restorationist and claims they have the one true church, however he also continues to promote the liberal drift. Under his leadership women have become apostles, religious pluralism is promoted, and they now have an official organization for homosexuals called “Gays and Lesbian Acceptance” (GALA).

In November of 2004 McMurray stepped down, citing personal and family issues as affecting his ability to function. In 2005 his successor, Stephen M. Veazey, was ordained as their 8th president-prophet.

The RLDS owns the Kirtland Temple in Ohio and much property in Nauvoo, all to the consternation of the LDS. Membership is about 250,000 compared to over 10 million LDS members. They have their own publisher for their books: Herald Publishing House in Independence, MO.

Now that you’ve had a wee bit of history, let’s look at their doctrine. All RLDS/Community of Christ doctrine is based on the assumption that God’s revelation to Joseph Smith, saying that all other churches were wrong, made the original LDS the only true church before the falling away of Joseph Smith. “The only valid church on earth in 1860 was the ‘New Organization,’ a collection of remnant groups from the original church established in 1830.” This is the claim of the current church. They also claim an “open canon” where their latest prophet may add scripture to the Doctrine & Covenants.

The following doctrines of the LDS are also claimed by the RLDS:

a. New Testament church went into apostasy shortly after the apostles died and then disappeared from the earth until 1830 when it was re-established by Joseph Smith.

b. Many “plain and precious parts” were removed from the Bible by the apostate church and were restored by Joseph Smith.

c. The Doctrine & Covenants are God’s continuing revelations (although RLDS has a slightly different version).

d. The authority of the priesthood began with Adam, was lost in the apostasy and was restored by Joseph Smith.

e. Zion, the Kingdom of God, must be established in Independence, MO before Jesus can return.

f. All mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of Joseph Smith’s restored gospel.

g. That heaven consists of three kingdoms, and only worthy LDS go to the highest but all people are saved from Hell.

h. Those who don’t hear Smith’s gospel in this life have a chance after death.

i. All churches existing in 1820 were wrong, with creeds abominable to God, and all their adherents are corrupt.

Other doctrinal issues:

a. They equivocate on the deity of Christ. Although they claim to accept a Trinitarian view, their teachings often become modalistic.

b. The Holy Spirit is “the living presence of both the Father and the Son.” He is their shared “mind” and the power emanating from them.

c. Children have no sin nature and only sin as they mature.

d. Salvation is a progression, beginning with baptism into the church and confirmation by the priesthood.

e. Those who refuse to believe Joseph Smith’s gospel are damned.

f. Complex priesthood system. Only RLDS priests have the authority to preach gospel and administer ordinances.

g. Eight ordinances: Blessing of babies, baptism, laying on of hands, Lord’s supper, marriage, administration for the sick, ordination, and evangelist's blessing.

h. Baptism is necessary for salvation.

So now we are back to the original question: is the Community of Christ a Christian Church? The answer has to be a resounding “NO.” Christians know that Christ and the Holy Spirit are both God, while the CofC does not. The Christian gospel is by faith alone in Christ alone, while the CofC includes works for salvation, and that salvation is progressive. They claim to be the only true church, which puts them securely in the “cult” class of churches.

Interestingly, the often subtle error of this church ends up steering people to the true Christ and true Gospel of salvation to the point they can become true Christians in spite of the church’s teachings. I have a friend at church who is a prime example of this anomaly: once he learned the truth he left the RLDS church but much of his family are still members and non-Christians.

Although the RLDS/Community of Christ is not a Christian church, they appear to be similar in many ways to other liberal churches today. Don’t let that fool you - they are still a cult by definition.