Monday, March 20, 2017

Translation of a Translation!

Not even the LDS Church leaders can claim that their non-English Book of Mormon translations are taken from a first-generation source since the original gold plates are no longer available.  All of the dozens of foreign translations of the Book of Mormon have been derived from the admittedly second-generation English rendition (see Ensign [May 1995]:10), making these translations third-generation texts.  It would therefore appear that those who mistakenly claim that the Bible is nothing more than a translation of a translation or a translation would better apply their criticism to the Book of Mormon.

Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101, pg. 118, note 7.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mormon “Unpaid” Paid Clergy

Mormons have a history or pridefully telling Christians that the LDS doesn’t have paid clergy and condemning Christian pastors who are paid.  

In regards to this claim, Bill McKeever had an editorial in the March-April 2017 edition of Mormonism Researched, the newsletter of Mormonism Research Ministry, exposing this lie.  The editorial, titled Paycheck stubs expose “unpaid ministry,” is as follows:

For much of its history, Mormon leaders have been very critical of Christian pastors ho receive compensation for their service to their congregations.  But when photographs of pay stubs from the year 2000 documenting payments to Henry B. Eyring (at the time a Mormon apostle) appeared on social media, along with a January 2, 2014 letter notifying Seventy Bruce D. Porter that he would be getting a raise from $116,400 to $120,000, Mormon apologists immediately went into damage control mode.  Ignoring the numerous denials made by LDS leaders who insisted that the LDS Church paid no ministry, they chose instead to defend what they felt was a rather modest amount, given what executives in the corporate world make.

Though the six-digit figure mentioned above does not include all of the other benefits LDS general authorities receive, haggling over the amount is really a red herring meant to deflect a person from the blatant deception that Mormon leaders have been practicing every time they proudly announce that the LDS Church had no “paid ministry.”  While that may be true for local leaders, full-time general authorities are most certainly compensated for their time and service.  And while it may be a modest amount compared to the corporate world, it is quite a bit when the public has been led to believe these leaders receive nothing.

With complete disregard to the fact that the “sons of Aaron” who served in the spiritual affairs of ancient Israel received compensation for their full-time service, and despite the fact that the apostle Paul cited Deuteronomy 25:4 in his robust defense of a paid clergy in 1 Corinthians 9, the Mormon Church likened this practice to being in the employ of Satan.  Members who experienced the temple ceremony prior to 1990 heard this dialogue between a character representing Lucifer, and another character representing a “trained” preacher:

LUCIFER: Good Morning sir!
PREACHER: Good Morning!
(The minister then turns and looks into the camera as if he is facing the Mormons participating in the ceremony.)
PREACHER: A fine congregation!
LUCIFER: Yes, they are a very good people.  They are concerned about religion.  Are you a preacher?
LUCIFER: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?
PREACHER: Certainly!  A man cannot preach unless he has been trained for the ministry.
LUCIFER: Do you preach orthodox religion?
PREACHER: Yes, that is what I preach.
LUCIFER: If you will preach you orthodox religion to these people, and convert them, I will pay you well.
PREACHER: I will do my best.

Certainly this dialogue was meant to paint Christian pastors in a negative light.  While I see nothing unbiblical about compensating ministers for their full, or part-time service to their congregations, it is both hypocritical and misleading when any member of the LDS Church knowingly insists that their church has no such thing as a paid ministry.

[For more on this topic, see Sharon Lindbloom’s excellent article at

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How Do We Know Anything Is True?

Before Latter-day Saints unduly criticize the accuracy of the Bible, perhaps they should first consider the following:

1.  How do we know if James 1:5, the verse that Joseph Smith used to draw him to the “Sacred Grove,” was indeed correct?  For that matter, how can anyone trust other biblical proof texts used to support Mormonism?  It would deem reasonable that whatever test for accuracy that could be applied to James 1:5 could also be applied to every other Bible verse as well.

2.  If the LDS Church has a prophet who has direct communication with God, then it would seem plausible for him to fix these alleged errors.  After all, D&C 107:92 states that one of the “gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church” is the role of translator.  If the God of Mormonism was able to help Smith translate the Book of Mormon from the golden plates, he could also be able to help the prophet with these alleged errors.  Although the LDS Church does not officially publish the Joseph Translation as a bound volume, Smith’s alterations are included as footnotes and endnotes in the LDS-published version of the King James Bible.  Many Mormons are unaware that Joseph Smith failed to “correct” many of the so-called problematic verses.

3.  If Mormons want to scrutinize the small percentage of questionable material in the Bible—none of which affects essential doctrine—shouldn’t they also have a problem with the many changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years?

Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, "Mormonism 101," pg.115-116

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Test of Antiquity

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims that the Book of Mormon is an ancient holy book.  But is it really ancient as the claim?

J.Warner Wallace wrote an excellent article about examining the claims for the antiquity of books.  Read the article, copied below, and you will learn that the BOM fails all tests of antiquity, proving it was just written by Joseph Smith (with a lot of plagiarism from the KJV Bible) in the early 19th century.

The First Question to Ask of an Ancient, Holy Book: Is It Ancient?
January 25, 2017/3, by J. Warner Wallace

Many of the world’s best-known religious texts are silent when it comes to claims about history. Many Eastern religious scriptures, for example, describe spiritual principles devoid of historical location or setting. Texts such as these are proverbial in nature, proclaiming ancient wisdom without any connection to historical context. The Abrahamic religions are very different, however. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism make claims about ancient history. For this reason, these religious worldviews are both verifiable and falsifiable. We ought to be able to corroborate the historical claims of ancient religious texts just as we could other historical documents. Such verification would certify their antiquity, if nothing else. On the other hand, if the claims of an ancient holy book are consistently incorrect related to the ancient world it allegedly describes, we ought to consider the text with suspicion.

It’s also important to remember that not every ancient text makes a claim about “divinity”; there are many texts from antiquity that are ancient, but not “holy”. If a text claims to be both ancient and holy, it needs to pass the first test related to antiquity before it can hope to qualify in the second category as holy. After all, a book cannot be holy or divine if it is lying about ancient history.

The test of antiquity was incredibly important to me as a skeptic examining the claims of scripture for the first time. As I became interested in Christianity, my Mormon family encouraged me to examine Mormonism as well. I read the entire Book of Mormon before I completed the Old and New Testament. I wanted to determine the “antiquity” of the Gospels and the Book of Mormon before I could examine the question of “divinity”. I needed to know if the New Testament gospels were written early enough to have been written by eyewitnesses who were actually present to observe what was recorded in these accounts. Similarly, I needed to know if the Book of Mormon was an accurate account of the history of the American continent from 600BC to 400AD (as it claims). My first investigation was centered on the foundational question: Are these ancient holy books truly ancient?

What kinds of questions can an investigator ask when trying to answer this important question related to antiquity? I considered the following:

Are historical events cited in (or omitted from) the text in a manner that is reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to language, proper names and titles reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to culture, government or civilizations reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to geography, native animals and plants reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the other corroborative documents that are reliably and accurately ancient?

Are there additional, successive historical references that are reliably and accurately ancient?

I asked these questions of the gospel accounts and the Book of Mormon and came away with two very different sets of answers. There are many good reasons to accept the early dating of the gospels and their reliability as eyewitness accounts. In each of the above listed criteria, the gospels pass the test. I’ve written an entire chapter in my book examining the evidence for early dating and the historical reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts. After examining the accounts using the tools that are employed by historians and detectives, I concluded that the gospels are reliable. Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon doesn’t withstand evidential scrutiny nearly as well. Written in the first half of the 19th century, it fails to record anything about the ancient past that can be verified in any of the ways I’ve described. In fact, in each of the categories of inquiry I’ve offered to answer the issue of antiquity, the book of Mormon fails miserably.

I once asked a Mormon Scholar to tell me how she knew the book of Mormon was a true, reliable account of the ancient past. She told me that she had asked God about it and she believed that God had given her a “spiritual confirmation”. It struck me that this method for determining antiquity was misguided. While prayer might be one way to determine if and ancient holy book is holy, there are other, better established investigative approaches that ought to be employed to determine if an ancient holy book is ancient. We shouldn’t attempt to answer questions about divinity before we answer questions about antiquity. If a text is lying to us about events in the ancient past, it cannot be from God. For this reason, the first question we ought to ask any text that claims to be an ancient, holy book is simply this: Is the text truly a work from the ancient past?

So, Mormons — How do you explain the Book of Mormon failing the antiquity test?

Monday, January 2, 2017

If Not “Living” Prophets, Are They Valid?

Good questions from Mormonism Research Ministry when you use dead Mormon prophets for explaining LDS teachings and they dismiss the teachings because they are not “living.”

Were the prophets living when they said these words?

Were they supposed to be believed at the time they said them?

If the quotes of deceased presidents are no longer authoritative, why has so much energy been invested in producing the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series that features deceased prophets?

Excellent questions!