Clouds Without Water, Zeal Without Knowledge

John K. Wise

Clouds Without Water, Zeal Without Knowledge. A review of The Kingdom of the Cults, by Walter Martin

Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, 703 pp. with Bibliography, Indexes, and CD Rom.

Revised and Expanded 30th Anniversary Edition, 1997.

Reviewed by John K. Wise

“They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” (Isaiah 29:24)

Truth in labeling

After reading a few anti-Mormon books, one eventually comes to the conclusion that the writers of such works must follow a strange, crooked set of rules during the writing process. Almost uniformly, all anti-Mormon writers seem to adhere to something like the following set of rules:

  • Try to sound concerned and caring.
  • Try to sound impartial, but cast everything about Mormonism in its most negative light.
  • At all costs, say nothing positive about Mormonism!
  • If something positive must be said, make it sound sinister and deceptive.
  • Portray Mormonism so that everything sounds either ridiculous or outrageous, or both.
  • Even though you may be stretching the truth, it’s okay, because the end (i.e., converting Mormons) justifies the means; plus, you’ll be doing God a favor.

The Kingdom of the Cults, by the late Walter Martin, is no exception, and it has been around a long time. In fact, many younger anti-Mormon writers were probably in training pants when it first appeared in 1965. Divided into 19 separate chapters, or sections, the book deals with twelve religious bodies which, the author(s) say, do not truly worship Jesus Christ. The book calls these religious groups “cults”, and says they claim to be Christian, but in reality are nothing more than “counterfeit” Christian bodies. And here, the reader is urged to impute only the darkest and most foreboding of meanings to the word “cult”, then to subjectively apply the label to every religious group Martin disagrees with the most.

Why did Walter Martin write this book? Perhaps the following story, popular nearly 200 years ago, will shed some light on the reason:

This puts me in mind of the good, peaceable Quaker who said to a poor dog which he wanted killed, “I will not kill thee, but I will give thee a bad name.” So he cried, “Mad dog! Mad dog!” And on hearing this cry the people soon dispatched the poor animal.”(1)
The pious old Quaker gentleman was able to eliminate his pesky nemesis–the dog–just by changing the animal’s label from “dog” to “mad dog”. Prejudiced public perception did the rest. Can Martin get the general population to shun the Mormon elders by hanging a negative label on the Church?

Newest Edition

In 1997, the most recent edition of the book appeared, completely revised and updated by various individuals, but most notably by General Editor Hank Hanegraaff, whose name is featured on the book almost as prominently as Martin’s.(2) Other individuals assisted in researching and writing the updated portions of the book. To assist with the book’s polemic on Mormonism, Hanegraaff employed the services of Gretchen Passantino, and two noted anti-Mormons, Kurt Van Gorden and Bill McKeever.

There are some major differences between previous editions and the new “30th Anniversary Edition”. New religious groups have been added, some enhanced, and others deleted. Entirely new chapters have been added that dwell on areas Hanegraaff wishes to emphasize, such as “cult mind control”. The book also comes with a CD that contains the full text of the book “for browsing or rapid cross referencing”. [Because the entire book has been significantly reworked for the latest edition, this writer will refer either to the late Walter Martin by name, or simply to "the author(s)", which includes Walter Martin, Hanegraaff, and other fellow contributors.]

The newly-revised book spends more time on Mormonism than in previous editions. According to a newly-added introduction by Hanegraaff, cults are making huge inroads into mainstream Christianity as evidenced by the recent release of a book by an evangelical publisher titled How Wide the Divide? by Robinson and Blomberg, prominent Mormon and Evangelical scholars. According to Hanegraaff, however, any agreement between Mormons and mainstream Christians is evidence that Christianity is starting to accept cultic beliefs into the mainstream. The tone of the introduction gives one the feeling that the very fact any evangelical teacher would stoop to agreeing with anything Mormon is cause for deepest concern.

Over 30 years of anti-Mormon hindsight have been added to Walter Martin’s original text, making the new edition more focused and hopefully, for the author(s), less weak. Some of the blunders have been removed, such as Martin telling his readers that Mormon wards are presided over by a Bishop with “two teachers as assistants”, or that Oliver Cowdery acted as scribe while Joseph translated the plates, but “never actually saw them.” In other places, obviously weak arguments are also quietly removed, such as Martin’s statement that Brigham Young gave the order “to massacre 150 non Mormon immigrants in what has now become known as the infamous Mountain Meadows massacre”. Some of the outright blunders, however, are still there. One of my favorites is found on page 205, where Martin says: “The Jaredites apparently enjoyed glass windows in the miraculous barges in which they crossed the ocean . . . “. There were no glass windows in the barges. (See Ether 2:23.)

Such “corrections” abound in the newest volume, such as in entirely removing a section dealing with Joseph Smith’s “mystic” father being involved with counterfeiting, or that he “spent most of his time digging for imaginary buried treasure”. (One must ask at this point how Joseph’s father was able to build several homes, clear heavily timbered land, plant and maintain crops, while spending “most of his time” looking for buried treasure?) Instead of repeating this dubious legend, however, the author(s) of the new volume have quietly inserted an entirely new paragraph dealing with three “outlandish” statements they feel might be more damaging to Joseph Smith’s claim as a true prophet of God.(3)

The author(s) want their readers to see the LDS Church, not as it is, but as they see it. The picture they want their audience to see as the curtain raises on Mormonism is that of a young, aggressive cult that had its beginnings in the mind of an opportunistic charlatan (“Joe” Smith), who “played fast and loose with the truth” in order to deceive as many as he could. Mormons, he says, are educated people who appeal to other educated people: “Mormonism, then, is not one of the cults tending to appeal merely to the uneducated, as for the most part Jehovah’s Witnesses do, but instead it exalts education . . . “. As to their missionary activities, Martin paints Mormons with a zeal that is almost scary:

“Missionaries are well trained in their dogmas and quote the Bible profusely. Thus it is that many true Christians have often unfortunately been literally quoted into silence by the clever disciples of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who flourish a pseudo-mastery of Scripture before the uninformed Christian’s dazzled eyes and confuse him, sometimes beyond description.” (p. 182.)
In Martin’s view, these “clever disciples of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young” are the Mormon’s Church’s “most promising young people” who are groomed for their ministries from childhood. As a result, “one of the more virulent strains of American cults” is “moving ahead in their battle to out-evangelize evangelical Christianity.” (This last statement will, no doubt, come as a surprise to the millions of active, practicing Mormons throughout the world, many of whom have served full-time or stake missions, who pay no attention whatsoever to what the rest of “evangelical Christianity” is doing.)(4)

The “cult” also has an aggressive building program, building new chapels and temples constantly. These activities are fueled by a mandatory tithing program, Martin says, and another program called “fast offerings”. “This unusual practice,” Martin informs his reader, “involves the giving up of two meals on the first Sunday of each month, the price of which is turned over to the church as a voluntary contribution to support and feed the poor”. It would no doubt come as a surprise to the late Walter Martin that the Saints of primitive Christianity also engaged in this “unusual practice”.(5)

Mormonism Misconstrued

The late Walter Martin begins the main part of his examination of the Mormon Church by telling his readers that Mormons are often “openly shocked” when confronted with early Mormon historical facts that are either “glossed over” or outright “suppressed” by the Mormon hierarchy. On the contrary, however, Mormons are not shocked by early Mormon historical facts–they are only shocked at the way anti-Mormons present them. When it comes to knowing and understanding their own church’s history, Latter-day Saints are arguably the most well versed of any church-affiliated people in the world. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been published that deal with numerous aspects of Church history, and it is not hard to walk into any LDS ward and find people who not only have read many books on historical subjects, but who possess CD Roms that contain hundreds of books on history, doctrine, and LDS culture.

Martin then portrays the young Joseph Smith as a person who used a “peep stone” or a “seer stone” to find the location of treasure or other lost items. This is hardly news to any student of LDS history, nor does it denigrate the prophet’s divine calling, since it has long been maintained that Joseph Smith was not only a prophet, but a seer. In the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel, who was also a seer, was once visited by Saul, looking for lost animals, who paid Samuel a small fee for using his seeing abilities (See 1 Samuel 9:2-8, 20). Does Walter Martin consider Samuel to be a false prophet for using his “seeing” ability to find lost animals for profit?(6)

Not too surprisingly, Martin mentions what Mormon apologist B.H. Roberts terms the very first anti-Mormon book “of any pretensions” written, Eber D. Howe’s work, Mormonism Unvailed (sic). Martin incorrectly says Howe’s work “has never been successfully impugned by any Mormon historians.” Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painsville Telegraph, wrote the book several years after Mormonism had become unpopular. What Martin never tells the reader is that Howe hired a disreputable man, “Doctor” Philasus Hurlburt (Doctor was his given name, not a professional title), a man who had been excommunicated not once, but twice, from the Mormon community at Kirtland, Ohio, in June, 1833, for immoral behavior toward women, to travel and collect damaging “evidence” against the young Church, it’s prophet-leader, and the Book of Mormon.

Hurlburt, before traveling back to Palmyra, New York, either acquired or prepared sixty-two similarly-worded affidavits for people to sign when he arrived at the place where many scenes of the restoration took place. Among other things, the affidavits accused the Smiths of being, “lazy”, “money diggers”, “addicted to various habits”, and “entirely destitute of moral character.” The affidavits are vague and undocumented, and it is doubtful that any of the signers of the affidavits were intimately acquainted with the Smiths since they lived in a sparsely populated portion of Genesee County, and travelled infrequently to Palmyra or Manchester.(7) Joseph Smith, by his own admission, did engage from time to time in digging silver or other items, but the stories invented in the Hurlbut affidavits are often extreme and do not measure up to the facts. Those who affixed their signatures to the affidavits represent but a small percentage of the people of Palmyra, and it is not likely that any of them could be classified as authorities on the characters of Joseph Smith or his family. For example, one story was given by an individual named William Stafford, who lived about a mile from the Smith residence. According to Stafford, Joseph Smith said there was a large treasure buried nearby, but in order to obtain it, a black sheep had to be taken to the location and have it’s blood spilt upon the ground in a circle around the treasure. Stafford says he gave Joseph the sheep but because of some technical problem, the sacrifice did not release the treasure as planned. Years later, William Stafford’s son was asked about the story, and related that he didn’t think it was true, “for I would have heard more about it.”(8)

When interviewed shortly before his death, Joseph Smith’s brother, Samuel Smith, indicated those false stories did not begin to surface until:

“After Joseph told his vision, and not then, by our friends. Whenever the neighbors wanted a good day’s work done they knew where they could get a good hand and they were not particular to take any of the other boys before Joseph either. We cleared sixty acres of the heaviest timber I ever saw. We had a good place. We also had on it from twelve to fifteen hundred sugar trees, and to gather the sap and make sugar molasses from that number of trees was no lazy job. We worked hard to clear our place and the neighbors were a little jealous. If you will figure up how much work it would take to clear sixty acres of heavy timber land, heavier than any here, trees you could not conveniently cut down, you can tell whether we were lazy or not, and Joseph did his share of the work with the rest of the boys. We never knew we were bad folks until Joseph told his vision. We were considered respectable till then, but at once people began to circulate falsehoods and stories in a wonderful way.”(9)a
A classic example of how falsehoods began to be circulated in a wonderful way is revealed in the story of one William Bryant, who was quoted in a Michigan newspaper as saying Joseph Smith was “a lazy drinking fellow” and “loose in his habits every way”. Shortly after the account was published however, Mr. Bryant was interviewed, and said he had only seen Joseph Smith once or twice, and denied ever making the statement attributed to him in the newspaper. Besides, he said, “Everybody drank whisky in them times.”(10)

Before Mormonism Unveiled could be printed, E.D. Howe’s researcher Hurlbut threatened to murder Joseph Smith, stating that he would “wash his hands” in Joseph Smith’s blood, which resulted in his being arrested and subsequently tried on March 31, 1834 in Chardon, Ohio. Losing this case did much to bring Hurlbut into even more disrepute, and severely damaged the reception of the book by the public, even though the book was printed with E.D. Howe’s name as author instead of Hurlbut. As time went by, and a new generation came on the scene, however, Hurlbut’s questionable character was forgotten and the book found widespread acceptance in many anti-Mormon circles.

In support of the questionable affidavits of Hurlbut and Howe, the late Walter Martin blunders by stating, “There exists no contemporary pro Mormon statements from reliable and informed sources who knew the Smith family and Joseph intimately”. Not surprisingly, the “objective” author didn’t look too hard to find evidence that was contrary to his position. One of the Smith’s neighbors, Orlando Saunders, told an interviewer in 1881:

“They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died.” He further said that the Smiths “…were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then), has worked for me, and he was a good worker; they all were . . . . He was always a gentleman when about my place.”(11)
A non-Mormon, “Mrs. Palmer”, was interviewed, who lived near the Smiths when she was a little girl. She indicated her parents were friends with the Smith family until after the Book of Mormon was published and many of the best people began to be converted. The Smith family was one of the best in that locality–honest, religious and industrious, but poor. The father of the family was above the average in intelligence. I have heard my parents say that he bore the appearance of having descended from royalty. . . . My Father loved young Joseph Smith and often hired him to work with his boys. I remember going into the field on an afternoon to play in the corn rows while my brothers worked. When evening came, I was too tired to walk home and cried because my brothers refused to carry me. Joseph lifted me to his shoulder, and with his arm thrown across my feet to steady me, and my arm about his neck, he carried me to our home.(12)

The Kingdom of the Cults makes the outdated and untenable charge that the Book of Mormon was a fictituous work based upon the writings of one Solomon Spaulding, a Congregationalist Minister who died while Joseph Smith was still a young boy. But Martin has learned the hard way that it is no longer profitable to espouse the Spaulding Manuscript Theory, so he endorses a kind of “hybrid” story that proposes the idea that the Book of Mormon was taken from an earlier, “first draft” of Spaulding’s, which has never been found, nor can anyone suggest who might have provided the manuscript to Joseph Smith. Either way, the once popular theory, like so many other anti-Mormon theories, is without merit.(13)

Walter Martin caused a short-lived sensation, however, when three men, sponsored by Walter Martin’s Christian Research Institute, came out with a book proposing that some of the handwriting of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon matched Spaulding’s. Handwriting experts were called forth, including the much celebrated Henry Silver. Silver dropped quickly out of the project, saying that Walter Martin, whose Christian Research Institute was financing the study, “has a vendetta against the church.” Interviewed later in his home, Silver added, ‘I don’t like their methods and their attack on the Church. I want no further part in the whole matter’”.(14)

The accusations made against Joseph Smith and his family are not unlike those that were fabricated against Jesus and his family by the Jews at the time of Christ. Hugh Nibley describes the stories fabricated against Jesus and his family by Jews who wished to discredit Christian claims:

All sources, early and late, Christian and anti-Christian, agree that Jesus’ family was often in trouble and moved about a good deal. The early anti-Christian writers made much of this: a family of improvident ne’er-do-wells, tramping about the country looking for odd jobs; Mary, a woman of the lowest classes and the loosest morals, working as a ladies hairdresser, kicked out by her husband when she had an affair with a Roman soldier (they furnished the name, rank and serial number), giving birth in disgrace to Jesus, the ambitious boy who picked up a bag of tricks in Egypt along with exalted ideas about His own divinity, and who gathered about him a band of vagabonds and desperadoes with whom He ranged the countryside picking up a living by questionable means.(15)

It appears, then, that villifying the founder of a religious movement is not a new practice, but is as old as time itself.

Obscuring the Book of Mormon

Walter Martin next moves against the Book of Mormon, stating that, “The purpose of the Book of Mormon and its mission eludes Christian theologians . . . “. This is incredible since the title page of the Book of Mormon tells the purpose of the book: “. . . And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations . . . “.
Martin next cites “scientific evidence” against the Book of Mormon, recounting the story of Martin harris’ trip to New York City to confer with the best minds of his day regarding some of the characters that were copied from the gold plates. Martin Harris’ purpose in taking a sample copy of the characters to the learned professors of that city was to receive reassurance that the Book of Mormon was real, and not a hoax. Harris had to receive this assurance before he would commit a significant portion of his finances for the printing of the Book of Mormon.

While in New York City, Harris called upon a Professor Charles Anthon, a man “celebrated for his literary attainments.” Harris recounts that Anthon looked at the characters, and said they were “Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic” and that they were correct. Harris also said Anthon made a certificate certifying the characters were valid, but immediately changed his mind and tore up the certificate when he learned the characters were given to Joseph Smith by an angel.

Walter Martin then reprints a rather lengthy letter from Charles Anthon to–you guessed it–E.D. Howe, the editor of the Painsville Telegraph who produced the book Mormonism Unvailed. In the letter, written in 1834, Anthon disputes Martin Harris’ claims, stating that he felt the whole thing was a hoax that was being perpetrated upon Harris, in order to swindle him. Anthon indicates in the letter that rather than give encouragement to Martin Harris about the possibile validity of the characters, he warned Harris, stating that he was being swindled! Anthon says in his letter he told Harris to “beware of rogues.”

There are several reasons why Harris’ account is the more accurate of the two accounts. First, Harris went to New York to receive assurance that Joseph Smith was truly dealing with an ancient record. If he instead learned that he was being victimized by “rogues”, it is highly unlikely he would have returned to Palmyra and mortgaged his farm! Second, when Harris returned to Palmyra, he excitedly bragged about this event, and it was reported widely in local newspapers. In early 1831, the indefatiguable anti-Mormon Howe wrote a fellow printer, W.W. Phelps, who was investigating Mormonism at the time, and asked him for some answers about the origins of the young Church. On January 15 of that year, Phelps answered Howe, indicating, “When the plates were said to have been found, a copy of one or two lines of the characters were taken by Mr.Harris to Utica, Albany, and New York; at New York they were shown to Dr. Mitchell, and he referred to Professor Anthon who translated and declared them to be the ancient short-hand Egyptian.” (Emphasis added.)(16)

It is very significant that Harris would return with an appraisal from Charles Anthon that the characters were “ancient short-hand Egyptian”, for this is not a phrase that Martin Harris would have known. In fact, there were probably only a handful of people in the United States at the time who would be familiar with “short-hand” or what is known as “demotic” characters. This fact alone makes Harris’ story much more believable. Why Anthon would have told the world in 1834 that he warned Martin Harris that he was dealing with “rogues”, and that he was likely being duped for his money is not clear, except that Anthon was probably trying to distance himself as much as possible from the Mormons so that his professional credentials would be undisturbed. It should also not be forgotten that, according to Martin Harris, Anthon requested that the gold plates be brought to him so he could translate them. When Harris replied that an angel was the primary custodian of the plates, Anthon reacted as one might expect, and made a hasty retreat.(17)

Third, in Anthon’s letter to Howe, he states that when Martin Harris brought him the characters, he requested that the learned professor provide him with an “opinion in writing” about the characters: “He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving . . . “. In a later letter, however, written to T.W. Coit on April 3, 1841, Anthon changed his story, stating that: “he requested me to give him my opinion in writing about the paper which he had shown to me. I did so without any hesitation . . . “. This kind of contradiction does not help Anthon’s version of events.(18)

When all the information is known about Martin Harris’ dealings with Charles Anthon, the picture that Martin is trying to paint melts away like butter in a blast furnace.


Martin next turns to the archaeological battleground to defeat the Book of Mormon. His information here is at best, outdated and unreliable, as knowledgeable Mormon apologists have shown over and over again in the last two decades.

Most Latter-day Saint scholars are in agreement that the events of the Book of Mormon occurred in what is today known as Central America, somewhere between and including the southern part of Mexico and Guatamala. This restricts the area of most Book of Mormon events to an area roughly 600 miles in length and 200 miles in width and includes the area of land called the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. However, unlike archaelogical research in Israel and the Middle East (which had a much earlier head start, and is being vigorously pursued by people who are intimately acquainted with the Bible), archaeology in Central America is in its rawest infancy. Less than two percent of the known archaeological sites of Central America have been excavated, and of the archaeologists working in Central America, probably very few have read the Book of Mormon. Even so, as the results of Mesoamerican research are studied and analyzed by students of the Book of Mormon, many of the criticisms leveled at the Book of Mormon in times past have been either weakened or entirely dismissed.

Walter Martin includes in his book a form letter that the Smithsonian Institution used to send to inquirers regarding items mentioned by the Book of Mormon, but which were supposedly unknown in the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. The letter has been a standard weapon in the anti-Mormon arsenal since the 1960s, or perhaps even earlier, since it makes it look as though science contradicts the Book of Mormon.(19)

The Smithsonian indicates in their form letter that before the arrival of Columbus in the New World, there was no known evidence of Hebrew or Egyptian writing, iron and steel, glass, silk, wheat, oats, millet, barley, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, donkeys, or camels–all things mentioned by the Book of Mormon. Nor was there any evidence that would indicate people from the east reached the Americas until the Norsemen did in 1000 AD. Since the early 1980s, scholars in the LDS Church have been adding greatly to the research on these subjects.(20) What follows, is a list that addresses the points raised by the Smithsonian letter. Mongoloid Inhabitants

The old letter from the Smithsonian indicates the inhabitants of the Americas before Columbus is “basically Mongoloid”–related to the peoples of Asia–who probably came over the land bridge that once spanned the continents between Asia and present day Alaska. Martin says, “. . . if evidence could be adduced to show that the Native Americans could not possibly be of Semitic extraction, the entire story of Nephi and his trip to America in 600 B.C. would be proven false.” (p. 202.) As will be seen however, Martin’s contentions against the Book of Mormon fail, as do his other arguments.

Mormon scholar John Sorenson indicates:

What about the “Mongoloid” racial characteristics that physical anthropologists see in the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the western hemisphere? . . . Significant variation is found in the distribution of various bodily traits; that is, some groups are much less Mongoloid than others. That raises the question whether at some time in the past, certain peoples in America might have been totally non-Mongoloid. Some art representations clearly show persons of several non-Indian racial groups –”Semitic,” Chinese, black–although certain Mesoamerican people anciently indeed looked like recent natives inhabiting the same areas. Beyond art, scientific data also point to the presence of Mediterranean and Near Eastern groups within Mesoamerica.(21)
Sorenson continues by citing anthropologists who indicate that Native Americans are not a biologically homogeneous group. G. A. Matson, a leading researcher on blood grouping, holds that “the American Indians are not completely Mongoloid”. Earnest Hooton, a professor at Harvard, saw bodily features in the New World that could easily have originated in Palestine. Sorenson also cites Polish anthropologist Andrzej Wiercinski, who analyzed a large number of skulls at dated sites in Mesoamerica and found distinctly Caucasoid features, indicating “the ancient Mexican series are shifted more towards the white variety of pattern of facial traits than to the classic Mongoloids.” Wiercinski then observes, “ancient Mexico was inhabited by a chain of interrelated populations which cannot be regarded as typical Mongoloids”. He believed that mixed into the three primary American Indian stocks were features “introduced by foreign bands of sporadic migrants from the western Mediterranean area.” (Emphasis added.)(22)

Virgil Haws, of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, reported in his “The American Indian and the Blood Groups”, that the blood type most common among Native Americans is extremely rare among Mongoloids.(23) This has led to the belief that their ancestors came by sea, from non-Mongoloid parts of the Old World. Blood types are genetically inherited and passed from father to son, from one generation to the next. Among Asians, blood types A and B are common; among American Indians blood type O predominates. Except for the Eskimos, and some groups such as the Apache and the Navajo, blood group B is virtually nonexistent among American Indians throughout North, Middle and South America.(24)

Concerning the skull forms of the inhabitants of Central America vs. those of Asia, P. Rivet has said:

Physically, it is difficult for us to relate the Maya to an Asiatic group. The cranial deformation is absent from the northeast of Asia, with people who can be classed as Mongoloid, and the prominent nose with convex bridge is compatible with the complete development of the Mongoloid physical characteristics. Neither those flattened [Maya] heads nor those “Proboscoden” noses are at home in Mongoloid Asia. “Proboscoden” noses are at home in Mongoloid Asia. (Rivet, P. “Maya Cities”, London: Elek Books, 1960.)(25)
Instead of hurting the Book of Mormon’s image, Walter Martin’s high-sounding scientific arguments against the Book of Mormon have faded almost into complete obscurity. The more one looks, the more the Book of Mormon has it right.

Iron, Steel, Glass and Silk

When anti-Mormons first began criticizing the Book of Mormon, it was because the book even mentioned metal, since it was once believed that the ancient inhabitants of the Americas used no metal whatsoever. Now, however, it is well known that metals did indeed exist during Book of Mormon times in Mesoamerica. In fact tribes of Central America had words they used for handling and making metals that date back to ancient times. It is interesting to note that the Tarascan tribe of Central America wore steel helmets at the time of the Spanish conquest.(26) The “steel” that was in use in Book of Mormon times may not have been forged as steel is in modern times, but early commentators on the native races are definite in their mention of that metal.

“Glass” is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but only in conjunction with those events that happened in the Old World–not the new. Since glass was known in the Old World from distant antiquity, there is no contradiction in its being mentioned by the Book of Mormon.

“Silk” was thought to be totally unknown in pre-Columbian America, but it is now known that silk, or silk-like thread was used by the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica, contrary to the older Smithsonian statement. In fact, several varieties of silk are mentioned–a silk thread spun from the fine hair on the bellies of rabbits. One early chronicler of the early inhabitants of the Americas, Padre Motolinia, reported the presence of a wild silkworm, and some reports apparently do “indicate that wild silk was spun and woven in certain areas of Mesoamerica. Another type came from the pod of the ceiba tree.”(27) Also, Diego de Landa wrote of the Maya, “The silk gatherers claim to have found a solution . . . and they will now be able to dye silk as well as they do in the places where the best silk is produced”.(28)

Horses, Cows, Camels, Elephants, etc.

Horse bones have now been excavated in various places in the Americas (including the Yucatan Peninsula) that date to Book of Mormon times. In one well-publicized 1957 excavation in Mayapan, Yucatan, horse bones were uncovered in four lots, two of which were collected at a depth of about six feet. The archaeologist concluded that they had to be pre-Columbian. They were “considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization.”(29) Other possibilities suggest themselves where horses are concerned. Natives could have ridden animals like deer, the tapir, or other four-legged creatures, such as the llama. The reason for thinking this might be the case is that when the Spanish arrived with their horses, the inhabitants of the land called the horses “deer”. The horsemen were called deer riders. The Aztec account of the Spanish Conquest used terms like “the deer which carried men upon their backs, called horses.” “Bernardino de Sahagun, The War of Conquest: How it Was Waged Here in Mexico, 1978, 28,35, 55, 60.)

Not all the evidence is in on the question of horses, but certainly, the door is now open wide on the possibility of horses existing in pre-Columbian America.

When Cortez and his conquistadors first marched across the Yucatan, they observed herds of deer that they believed were domesticated. It is also known that bison were present as far south as Nicaragua in Book of Mormon times. In addition to deer and bison, the camel-like llama was present in the area. Did Joseph Smith translate the Nephite word for llama as camel?

Concerning the elephant, John Sorenson wrote:

What about the Book of Ether’s “elephant”? Mastodons and mammoths once lived throughout North America and part of South America. They are unquestionably elephants in the eyes of zoologists. The question is how late they lived. Most experts assume they failed to survive down to the time of the Jaredites. The only place they are mentioned in the Book of Mormon is in the Book of Ether, near the beginning of that record (by my calculations of Jaredite chronology, the date must have been before 2500 B.C.). Experts agree that the mammoth, and mastodon could have survived in favored spots much later than the time normally assigned for their extinction. The mastodon has already been dated as late as 5000 B.C. at Devil’s Den, Florida, and around the Great Lakes to 4000 B.C. Then there is the remarkable discovery of the remains of a butchered mastodon in Ecuador; pottery associated with the find is said to date to after the time of Christ. In its light, the radiocarbon date around 100 B.C. of horse, mammoth and mastodon remains at St. Petersburg, Florida, does not seem impossible.(30)

Until recently, barley was not thought to have been introduced into the Americas until the time of Columbus. The Book of Mormon has proven correct once again, as barley has been found at a Phoenix, Arizona Hohokam Indian site dating from 300 BC. Barley was found in abundance at the site and was found to have been grown locally. There were generous samples of pre-Columbian barley discovered at that site. Other samples discovered at other locations are said to be dated from AD 1 through 900! Also, three different varieties of “wild barley” has been known to be native to the Americas.(31)

Israelites In Pre-Columbian America?

There is abundant proof that white-skinned races existed among the ancestors of Indian tribes of Central America. Paintings and murals dating to ancient times in the temple at Chichen Itza and other places, as well as pottery and sculptures, clearly portray people who appear to be Caucasian. In addition to white people, the same murals and bas reliefs show people who wear beards (Indians do not grow beards). The portrayal of bearded figures suddenly stops at the year 385–which matches the approximate date that the Nephites perished from the pages of the Book of Mormon.(32)

Even more stunning, though, are the traditions told to early Spanish explorers when they first arrived. Below are some quotes from some of those explorers, relating what they were told by their Aztec and Mayan hosts. [NOTE: It was a prophecy in the Book of Mormon that people from the "land of the Gentiles" would come and conquer the Lamanites at a later time].

“He went with all haste, and gave his master a complete account of events, showing him the pictures which had been painted and the present that Cortez had sent him, which is said to have astonished Montezuma, who accepted it with great satisfaction. And when he compared the helmet with that of his gold Huichilobos, he was convinced that we were of that race which, according to the prophecies of his ancestors, would come to rule the land.”(33)
and this . . .

“He ended by saying that we must truly be the men about whom his ancestors had long ago prophesied, saying that they would come from the direction of the sunrise to rule over these lands.”(34)

“Regarding the creation of the world, we have held the same belief for many ages, and for this reason are certain that you are those who our ancestors predicted would come from the direction of the sunrise.”(35)

“I also believe that your own ancestors must have handed down to you the record that we are not natives of this land but came to it from another very distant country, led by a lord . . . and you well know that we have always expected this lord . . . ” Zelia Nuttall, “Some Unsolved Problems in Mexican Archaeology,” American Anthropologist, XIII (1906), 136.(36)

Frey Diego de Landa:

“Some of the old people of the Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors, that this land was occupied by a race of people, who came from the East and whom God had delivered by opening twelve paths through the sea. If this were true, it necessarily follows that all the inhabitants of the Indies are descendants of the Jews.” Tozzer, Landa’s Relacion, XVIII, 16-17.(37)
The following account is so close to the story of Moses and the Exodus that one must conclude it can hardly be anything else:

“The Indians have traditions regarding a great man who . . . gathered the multitude of his followers and persuaded them to flee from that persecution to a land where they could live in peace . . . He went to the seashore and moved the water with a rod that he carried in his hand. Then the sea opened and he and his followers went through. And the enemies, seeing this opening made, went behind him, but the waters returned to their place and the pursuers were never heard of again.” Duran, Aztecs, p. 4.(38)
“The dignitaries of the Quiche court signed their names in 1554 to a document now called Title of the Lords of Totonicapan. It was a brief history probably written in their capital, Utatlan, beginning with their origins and continuing up to 1554 when the Conquest destroyed their rule. They not only stated their ancestry, but where they came from and how:
“Together these tribes came from the other part of the sea, from the East, from Pa-Tulan, Pa-Civan . . .
“These, then, were the three nations of Quiches, and they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel, of the same language and the same customs.
“When they rose from Pa-Tulan, Pa-Civan, the first leader was Balam-Qitze, by unanimous vote, and then the great father Nacxit gave them a present called Giron-Gagal.
“When they arrived at the edge of the sea, Balam-Qitze touched it with his staff and at once a path opened, which then closed up again, for thus the great God wished it.” (Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, trans. by Delia Goetz, p. 170.)(39)
The next ancient tradition figures very prominently in the Book of Mormon, as well.

“The men made a very high and strong Zacualli, which means the very high tower, to protect themselves in it when the second world would be destroyed. At the best time their languages were founded, and not understanding one another, they went away to different parts of the world.” (Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Obras Historicas, I, 15-17)(40)
Suddenly, Cities

Archaeologists are puzzled over how the advanced Central American races “came to be”. It appears, from their digs, that the advanced cities sprang up “overnight”. But how could that be? Could it be that an already civilized people arrived in the area and just started building advanced cities? Here are some scholarly quotes from archaeological journals asking just those questions:

“Present evidence is totally inadequate to explain how these advanced cultures arose.” (W. Krickeberg, “Altmexikanische Kulturen” (Berlin: Safari-Verlag, 1966), p. 566)
“Apparently without roots, without any preparation, the earliest American civilizations appear ready on the scene: in Mesoamerica the Olmec, in the Andean lands the Chavin. These remarkable phenomena can perhaps only be explained satisfactorily by assuming one or more drives influencing ancient America from the outside. Otherwise it is difficult to understand how primitive conditions which varied little during 15,000 to 20,000 years of existence could suddenly experience a full blown civilization. Such a thing is utterly out of the question in the case of the two oldest American civilizations: All of a sudden they are simply there.” (ibid., p 552).(41)

In the Book of Mormon, it tells of two migrations by sea of people from the middle east. The first migration occurred just after the languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel. They were the Jaredites, and in the Book of Mormon (Book of Ether), it describes how they came in barges (or submarine-type ships).

A learned, native prince by the name of Ixtlilxochitl compiled as much about his people as he could in the 1500s, while the Spanish priests were burning their books as fast as they could find them. He says in one place:

“Those who possessed this new world in this third age were the Ulmecas and Xicalancas; and according to what is found in their histories, they came in ships or barques from the east to the land of Pontochan from which they began to settle.” (Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de Alva “Obras Historicas. Editora Nacional, S.A. Mexico, 2 vols. 1950; 19).(42)
and this:

“It is the common and general opinion of all the natives of all this Chichimec land, which now is called New Spain, besides what seems demonstrated in their pictures, that their ancestors came from western parts; … as appears in their histories … and they were those of the division of Babylon, as is declared at greater length in the history which is written …” (Ibid. p 15-16)(43)

When Montezuma, the great Aztec king, first greeted Cortez in the early 1500s (during the first meeting of white men and the natives of Texcoco), Cortez reports Montezuma told him this:

“For a long time and by means of our writings, we have possessed a knowledge, transmitted from our ancestors, that neither I nor any of us who inhabit this land are of native origin. We are foreigners and came here from very remote parts. We possess information that our lineage was led to this land by a lord to whom we all owed allegiance. He afterward left this for this native country . . . but we have ever believed that his descendants would surely come here to subjugate [conquer] this land and us who are, by rights, their servants. Because of what you say concerning the region whence you came, which is where the sun rises . . . we believe and hold as certain that he must be our rightful lord . . . ” (Nuttall, Zelia. “Some Unsolved Problems in Mexican Archaeology,” American Anthropologist, XIII, 1, 133-149. 1906, 135).(44)

The Spanish priest Sahagun, writing in the mid 1500s, was also a historian of the Central American peoples. After extensive study of the records of the Aztecs and Mayans, and after interviewing their tribal historians, tells us:

“It has been innumerable years since the first settlers arrived in these parts of New Spain which is almost another world, and they came in ships by sea, landing at the port which is to the north.”(45)

No Evidence of Hebrew or Egyptian Writing Before Columbus?

In recent years two pieces of scholarship of high quality have concluded that some of the inscriptions are genuine and do show some Old World writing systems in ancient use in America. Other inscriptions remain in the realm of the possible.

Keep in mind, though, that, according to the Book of Mormon, the language which the Book of Mormon was written in is NOT the language the Nephites and Lamanites spoke. I think rather they came to speak the languages of the people who lived here before them, though they probably kept their former native tongue, too. The Book of Mormon script was not Egyptian, but it was considered linked “conceptually” with ancient Egyptian glyphs by its users. One expert (non-LDS) is Linda Miller van Blerkom of the University of Colorado, who says that:

“Maya glyphs were used in the same six ways as those in Egyptian writing.” (A Comparison of Maya and Egyptian Heiroglyphs, Katunob 11, August 1979, pg. 1-8.)(46)

Other informative articles dealing with this subject are: Ancient Egyptians in Middle and South America, by R.A. Jairazbhoy, (London, Ra Publications, 1981), and articles in Pre-Columbian Contact.

Even though the Anniversary Edition of Kingdom of the Cults has just been released, it’s already time for a revised edition! The Smithsonian Institution has again revised the content of its form letter to something that has got to be less than desirable for the typical anti-Mormon. The newest “revised” letter from the Smithsonian simply says:

Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution’s alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Office of Communications. The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and any information you have received to the contrary is incorrect.

Donald J. Umansky

Director of Communications

Being an anti-Mormon must be very frustrating these days!

Mole Hills Into Mountains

The Kingdom of the Cults is loaded with quick, terse accusations against the Church that on delivery are made to seem ponderous and foreboding, but, upon reflection, are not problems at all. For example, the author(s) make a quick “hit and run” accusation on page 204 regarding how one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer, “changed the details of his testimony concerning the angel with the golden plates to say that it was a vision and not an actual visitation by an angelic person.”

Are the authors saying here that seeing something in a vision in not as good as seeing it with one’s “naked eyes”? Would the authors also encourage the readers to discount the revelation John had on the isle of Patmos, simply because it was only a vision? In 1887, shortly before his death, David Whitmer wrote a letter in which he explained the manner in which he beheld the angel:

In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it “being in vision.” We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God, Daniel saw an angel in a vision, also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled at noon day, and there in a vision, or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. I am now passed eighty-two years old, and I have a brother, JJ. Snyder, to do my writing for me, at my dictation. DAVID WHITMER.(47) (Emphasis added.)
In another example of “hit and run theology” the author(s) spend 21 words to accuse another of the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, of actually denying the Book of Mormon. “The Times and Seasons published that Oliver Cowdery denied his Book of Mormon testimony” (p 204). Again, this sounds very serious, but an examination of their source (Times and Seasons, v. 2, 482), reveals something a little less shocking. In a “poetry” section of the paper is a little poem by Joel Johnson. The poem contains the line, ” . . . Or prove that Christ was not the Lord, because that Peter cursed and swore? Or Book of Mormon not his word, Because denied, by Oliver? . . .”. To assume that this constitutes the Church’s admission that Cowdery denied seeing the angel and the plates is ludicrous. For one thing, Johnson was in Kirtland when Cowdery was excommunicated in Missouri, and the two had no known contact. The most it could imply is that it was Johnson’s opinion that Oliver had denied seeing an angel and handling the gold plates, but even this is not likely.

It is not surprising that the author(s) make short, sweeping, denunciations of the Book of Mormon, all the while ignoring the vast resevoir of evidence that completely invalidates their arguments. In the Cowdery example immediately above, the author(s) could have chosen any one of a dozen known letters that Cowdery wrote to various individuals as a non-member living in another state. In a letter to Phineas Young in 1846, for example, the witness wrote:

I have been sensitive on this subject, I admit, but I ought to so be, you would be under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John with our departed Brother Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood, and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and looked down through time, and witness the effects that these two must produce–you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long sought rest.(48)
The turmoil surrounding the excommunications of the Three Witnesses (and the subsequent rebaptisms of two of them) provides an unexpected boost of credibility to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. All three individuals, on their deathbeds, had the testimonies of their experience with the angel and the plates on their lips. The truth tends to be purest on one’s own deathbed.


Matter and Spirit

A common feature of Kingdom of the Cults is that it frequently describes Mormon doctrines incorrectly, then proceeds to tear down the incorrect doctrine. For example, on page 223, Martin condemns the LDS view that spirit is not immaterial. He then quotes several passages of scripture that mention spirits which have no bearing on the subject at all! For example:

Our Lord, upon the cross, spoke the words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Certainly this was immaterial. And Paul, preparing to depart from this world for the celestial realms, indicated that his real spiritual self (certainly immaterial, since his body died) was yearning to depart and to be with Christ . . .
Here Walter Martin is comparing apples with oranges, for Latter-day Saint doctrines do not conflict in the least with the above scriptures. In traditional religion, people had always assumed that a person’s soul (i.e., spirit) must not be made of matter, since it was not visible to human eyes. According to modern revelation, however, we know that all spirit is composed of matter, except that spirit matter is more refined and pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. If Martin was truly interested in having his reader understand the true LDS position on this matter, he would have quoted this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” (D&C 131:7-6.)
Martin does not quote the above passage to clarify matters perhaps because he would no longer be able to tear it down as an “obvious contradiction” between Mormonism and the Bible. Unfortunately, Walter Martin uses this technique constantly in the book.

The Priesthood

Next, Kingdom of the Cults attacks the Mormon claim that it holds the true Aaronic and Melchizedek. Inexplicably, Martin spends considerable time quoting the 7th chapter of Hebrews, which concerns the excellency of the Melchizedek Priesthood over the Aaronic Priesthood, and then draws the unfounded inference that the Aaronic Priesthood was “done away” with–supplanted by the Melchizedek Priesthood of Christ! Not only does the chapter say nothing of the kind, but it would conflict with other Bible passages, which state on numerous occasions that the Priesthood of Aaron is “everlasting” (Ex. 40:13-16; Numbers 25:10-13). Malachi, looking down to the last days, prophesied that at Messiah’s Second Coming, “the sons of Levi” will “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). Not much is mentioned in the Bible about Melchizedek, or about the Priesthood he held, and for this reason Martin can only muddle through obscure Bible passages to formulate any kind of understanding on the issue.

Martin has somehow missed the fact that other people have held the Melchizedek Priesthood (not just Melchizedek and Christ). For example, Jethro, who was a descendant of Abraham through Keturah, was called the “priest of Midian” (Ex. 18:1), before Aaron and the Levites came on the scene. The Bible shows us that Jethro offered sacrifice with Moses, and praised God for their triumph over the Egyptians. King David, though he was of the tribe of Judah, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. He also blessed the people in the name of the Lord–all functions of the Melchizedek Priesthood (see 2 Sam. 6:12-18). Even Gideon, who was of the tribe of Manasseh, of whom the Lord spoke nothing of the Priesthood under the Law, offered sacrifice (see Judges 6:15). The Law of Moses made many priests and High Priests, but only the High Priests could enter into the Holy of Holies, which they did for the express purpose of petitioning for forgiveness before the Presence of the Lord. The message of Hebrews is that now that Jesus has come, He has become our Great High Priest before the Father, and since He never dies, “but abideth a priest continually”, there is no need for mortal individuals to enter the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood upon the Mercy Seat. Or, as the writer of Hebrews expresses it: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy . . .” (Heb 4:16).

Contrary to Martin’s dogmatic assertions, nowhere does the Bible say the Aaronic Priesthood has been “done away”. Rather, it says that priesthood has been “changed”. No longer must men be literal descendants of Aaron to obtain it, as in times past. Nor does that order of the priesthood concern itself with sacrifices for sins. The entire message of Hebrews is that Christ, the most excellent High Priest, pleads our cause before the Father continually.

Walter Martin maintains, in his book, that the Bible says the Melchizedek Priesthood is possessed by Jesus only, because, according to Hebrews 7:24: “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood”. Martin stresses the footnote to this verse in the King James Version which suggests the alternate meaning “not transferable” (or, “which passeth not from one to another”) in the place of “unchangeable”.

The Greek word that was translated as “unchangeable” is aparabaton, a Greek word that does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament. “Aparabaton” has been studied by numerous scholars, but virtually no scholar has attached the meaning “cannot pass from one to another” to it; rather, they uniformly give the correct rendering as “immutable”, “unchangeable”, or “permanent”. Concerning this verse, one scholarly work dealing with the usage of Greek words in the New Testament says: “It is clear that the technical use, compared with late literary, constitutes a very strong against the rendering ‘not transferrable’.”(49) Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says: “We should keep to the rendering ‘unchangeable’ the more so as the active sense (‘non-transferable’) is not attested elsewhere.”(50) Even Walter Martin quotes Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon at page 54, which says: “Priesthood unchangeable and therefore not liable to pass to a successor”. [Emphasis added.] In other words, LDS theology supports Thayer’s Lexicon in that Christ’s priesthood and role as mediator between God and man is eternally His, and will not go to another. Martin’s use of the quote from Thayer’s Lexicon does not help his case. He also cites the Goodspeed translation of the Bible, which renders the verse, “But he continues forever, so his priesthood is untransferable”. This doesn’t help his case either, since the verse simply reaffirms that Jesus does not die, so, unlike the mortal High Priests, whose job had to be transferred to another High Priest upon their death, Jesus “abideth a priest continually”. (Heb. 7:23-28).

The message of Hebrews 7 is that (a) perfection comes through the Melchizedek Priesthood; (b) the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek is not limited to one tribe (as was the Levitical Priesthood); (c) the Priesthood was before Moses, and will be for eternity; (d) the Melchizedek Priesthood is made with an oath; and that (e) whereas mortal men who made sacrifices for sin had to be replaced when they died, Christ now fills that role eternally, and is therefore a more perfect High Priest. Further, the whole context of the chapter is that the Priesthood of Melchizedek is an “order”, which means that more people than Jesus alone held the Priesthood. If this were not the case, the word “order” would never have been used.

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (an associate of the Apostle John), who was martyred in 117 CE, wrote an epistle in which he declared:

“For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the[Church's] unity, and throwing its order into confusion?
“For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonours not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.(51) (Emphasis added.)

Or, in other words, though men (Ignatius specifies the Bishop, the deacons, presbyters (elders), etc.) have the Priesthood, Christ is the “only High Priest, by nature”. Men may obtain the Priesthood (Heb. 5:4), but only Christ has it by nature.

The New Testament attests also to this truth. In Acts 8:5-17, we read that Philip went to Samaria, baptizing converts. The passage tells us that even though he preached and baptized, he could not confer the Holy Ghost on those who were baptized. Peter and John, upon hearing of the conversions taking place, went to Samaria to perform that ordinance. The Apostles “laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” (v. 17). When a man named Simon saw the Apostles do this, he offered them money if they would give him the power to confer the Holy Ghost. Peter rebuked Simon for his request, saying, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought the gift of God may be purchased with money.” (v. 20). Peter thereby identifies this “power” as a “gift of God”, which is the Melchizedek Priesthood. Paul also referred to this same “gift” when he told Timothy: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (i.e. “elders”). (I Tim 4:14).

This “gift”, spoken of by Peter and by Paul, is conferred by the laying on of hands by others who have this same gift. Such a gift is given by prophecy. An examination of Hebrews 5:4 confirms this: “And no man taketh this honour unto himself (i.e., the Priesthood), but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”

Finally, after Walter Martin has convinced himself and the hapless reader that the Aaronic Priesthood has been done away, and the Melchizedek Priesthood is only held by Christ, he launches another unconvincing argument that leads into a thicket of dead ends: that all believers have the priesthood after all! This stunning reversal no doubt will shock the unwary reader, especially after he has spent so much energy telling the world that no one but Christ has the priesthood! He quotes Rev. 1:4-6 and 1 Peter 2:9-10, then makes a mighty leap across the Grand Canyon of all suppositions, and says:

“In this context, the words of the apostle establish that long before there were any mythological Mormon priesthoods, there was a priesthood embracing all the redeemed, a “royal priesthood”, neither of Aaron nor of Melchizedek. This priesthood is composed of all consecrated “ambassadors for Christ,” to quote the apostle Paul, whose task it is to exhort men to “be reconciled to GOD . . . knowing the terror of the Lord.” (p. 217).

It would be great to credit Walter Martin with this piece of fantastic logic, but rather, as with just about everything else in his chapter on Mormonism, he got it from someone else. Walter Martin confirms for us that this “priesthood of all believers” was emphasized by the great reformer, Martin Luther. However, Martin Luther didn’t just “emphasize” it, he also “invented” it–or, in other words, the concept of the “priesthood of all believers” is a relatively late development in the changing and evolving world of traditional Christianity. What Martin doesn’t tell the reader (perhaps because he didn’t know it himself) is that, according to Martin Luther, this “priesthood of all believers” was only conferred upon people by way of baptism!(52) Almost certainly, however, although he is no longer alive to speak for himself, it is doubtful Walter Martin would agree that this “priesthood of all believers” is conferred only by water baptism!

Martin, however, unwittingly strengthens the Latter-day Saint position on this matter. It was Martin Luther, who, having been a Catholic priest before his excommunication, had to come up with some tough answers to nagging questions. Luther observed in his famous “Address to the German Nobility” that it was the practice of the earliest Christian Church, to require a person to be rebaptized if they had strayed from the true church and subsequently joined a heretical sect, then desired to return to the true fold of God. He points to the writings of St. Cyprian, and to the practice of the Apostles of Christ themselves, who required rebaptism of such individuals. How could he reconcile this important matter in his own mind? He reasoned:

Now if St. Cyprian and the Council of Nicea and others had this rule of the apostles before them, how shall we harmonize the fathers? The apostles and Cyprian want rebaptism. St. Augustine and the whole church afterwards want to have it considered wrong . . . . Are we to be doubtful and uncertain until it is settled, and a council decides it! No, it must go otherwise than we pretend to prove from councils and Fathers; or else there must have been no church since the time of the apostles? (Emphasis added.)(53)
Luther knew that there was a priesthood that existed at the time of the Apostles. He also knew that only the Catholic Church could claim to have this priesthood, but he knew the Catholic Church was corrupt. Therefore, where was this priesthood that was so important to the Apostles and to the early Church Fathers? The answer, he reasoned, must be that there is another priesthood out there–a “priesthood of all believers”, otherwise there was no true church then existing on the earth–an idea that Martin Luther found unthinkable.

Therefore, the idea of a “priesthood of all believers” did not come from divine revelation or from overwhelming evidence given by the Bible! Rather, it came from necessity in the mind of Martin Luther in his looking for answers as he parted company with the Pope at Rome. This is the priesthood that Walter Martin claims for himself.

The Deification of Man

The most common label attached to Mormonism by its critics is the word “polytheistic”, and Walter Martin does not miss the opportunity to affix this label to the LDS Church (ad nauseum), even absurdly saying that the Mormon Doctrine of God “rivals anything pagan mythology ever produced” (p. 226). LDS writers, however, have shown that it was a well-known doctrine of the early Orthodox Christian Church, that man’s ultimate destiny was not to merely “go to heaven”, but to actually be exalted by the Father to the lofty status of godhood.(54) In fact, the deification of man remains a major doctrine among many of today’s Greek Orthodox Churches.

That the early Christians understood and believed that God would elevate the faithful to the status of gods is well attested to by non-Mormon Bible scholars. J.N.D. Kelly, says of early Christian leaders:

According to Gregory Nazianzen, heaven is a perpetual festival . . . for we shall become sons of God and shall in fact be deified. In Gregory of Nyssa the stress on deification is even greater; in addition to immortality, our human anture will find itself adorned with divine qualities of glory, honour, power and perfection. . . . According to Cyril of Alexandria, the process of deification which is our redemption will attain its climax after the Parousia and the resurrection . . . Our resuscitated bodies, having discarded their corruptibility and other infirmities, will participate in the life and glory of Christ.(55)
Another scholar, G. L. Prestige, indicates that ancient Christian leaders and writers “taught that the destiny of man was to become like God, and even to become deified.” Even in recognized mainstream Christian reference books, the doctrine of deification is clearly upheld both Biblically and historically as a valid Christian doctrine.

Deification (Greek theosis) is for Orthodoxy the goal of every Christian. Man, according to the Bible, is ‘made in the image and likeness of God’ . . . . It is possible for man to become like God, to become deified, to become god by grace. This doctrine is based on many passages of both OT and NT . . . (57)
This information must have proven embarassing to Walter Martin, who says in his book that, “. . . [A]ll church theologians from the earliest days of church history have affirmed that Christianity is monotheistic in the strictest sense of the term” (p. 218). How could the early Christians say on one hand that there is only “one God”, and then turn around and say at the same time that their goal is to become a god? Yet this is precisely what they did do–and Walter Martin obviously does not understand how this can be so. If he excludes any Church from Christianity because they teach men can become gods, then he has excluded the entire early Christian Church!

As the prophets and apostles of old affirmed, there is indeed only one God, but this “oneness” is intended to be unity of will and concord of mind (see John 17:11, 21-23). This fact separated the God of Israel from the non-existent, idolatrous gods of Israel’s neighbors, where gods were known to fight among themselves, and pursue different goals toward men. Israel’s God, however, was “one”, in the same way that Jesus said He and His disciples were to be “one” with each other and with the Father. It wasn’t until later years that the Christian Church looked for another way that the Godhead might be “one”, so that there could still be “three” divine persons and only “one” God.(58)

The early Christians, just like Mormons today, understand that being elevated to godhood is a heavenly gift that they cannot obtain for themselves: it will only be bestowed upon worthy men and women by the grace and goodness of the Father and the Son. Often, an anti-Mormon will turn to Isaiah 14:12-15, which describes how Lucifer wanted godhood for himself, and how he was cast out of heaven for it, but it should be kept in mind that Lucifer desired to attain godhood on his own terms, and by his own methods, reserving all the glory for himself. It was because of his extreme pride and rebellion that he was cast out, and for no other reason.

Additionally, the LDS doctrine of deification does not mean that people will become “equals” with the Father. As the Bible affirms, we believe that when we are made gods through the grace of God, it will be because we, being the children of God, are “heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), inheriting “all things” (Revelation 21:7), even sitting with the Savior in His throne: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21.)

In about 180 C.E., the orthodox Christian Bishop of Alexandria, Clement, wrote:

To him who has shall be added; knowledge to faith, love to knowledge, and to love the inheritance. And this happens when a man depends on the Lord through faith, through knowledge, and through love, and ascends with him to the place where God is, the God and guardian of our faith and love, from whom knowledge is delivered to those who are fit for this privilege and who are selected because of their desire for fuller preparation and training; who are prepared to listen to what is told them, to discipline their lives, to make progress by careful observance of the law of righteousness. This knowledge leads them to the end, the endless final end; teaching of the life that is to be ours, a life in conformity to God, with gods, when we have been freed from all punishment and correction, which we undergo as a result of our wrong-doings for our saving discipline. After thus being set free, those who have been perfected are given their reward and their honours. They have done with their purification, they have done with the rest of their servece, though it be a holy service, with the holy; now they have become pure in heart, and because of their close intimacy with the Lord there awaits them a restoration to eternal contemplation; and they have received the title of ‘gods’, since they are destined to be enthroned with the other ‘gods’ who are ranked next below the Saviour.(59)

Neither Walter Martin nor his associate contributors have portrayed Mormonism accurately or fairly. The evidence presented is neither sufficient nor balanced. Each “fact” is presented in as negative a light as possible, and only those things that can possibly be construed negatively are employed in the book. In short, without checking out the facts for himself, the unknowing reader is likely to walk away from The Kingdom of the Cults with a completely distorted view of the Latter-day Saint faith. Can any book that distorts its subject in such a manner be of any value?

The fact that the author(s) have resorted to such tactics against the Latter-day Saints makes it difficult to believe they are fair or accurate when discussing the other faiths listed in the book. The book manifests an extreme dislike of each of the faiths discussed in its pages and as such, it ranks as a work of religious bigotry that tends to do nothing more than villify and thereby victimize the members of the churches that are examined.

Walter Martin is already passed from the scene, but during his lifetime, his destiny was to see his nemesis, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints increase from about one million people to about eight million. The destiny of his associates is to witness the ever-expanding Church as it continues to fill the earth. As Joseph Smith prophesied:

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldy, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.(60)


1.Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book (1972) p. 416.

2. Hank Hanegraaff, as he quickly and frequently reminds his readers and listeners, is President of the Christian Research Institute, located in Southern California.

3. Also removed is a rather sophomoric comment that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery “had a real time blessing one another and prophesying future events . . . ” (p. 152, 11th Edition, 1972).

4. Some of Martin’s accusations sound not only strange, but ridiculous to Mormon ears. In Chapter 16, “The Cults on the World Mission Field”, Martin and the newest edition revisers tell readers that it is a practice of cults to “follow up major evangelistic campaigns, such as Billy Graham . . . Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses specialize in this, and have even been found in counseling rooms after altar calls, attempting to proselytize the young converts.” (p. 432)

5. See, Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude V:28-30. “[t]hat day on which thou fastest thou shalt taste nothing at all but bread and water; and computing the quantity of food which thou art wont to eat upon other days, thou shalt lay aside the expense which thou shouldest have made that day, and give it unto the widow, the fatherless, and the poor.”

6. For an excellent discussion of Joseph Smith’s use of a seer stone, see Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson, “Joseph Smith and ‘Magic’: Methodological Reflections on the Use of a Term,” in Robert L. Millet, ed., To Be Learned Is Good If . . . (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 129-47).

7. Previous editions of Kingdom of the Cults” neglect to mention at all the role of Philastus Hurlbut in the making of “Mormonism Unvailed”. The revisers of the 1997 edition, however, have corrected this oversight and Hurlbut’s name has now been briefly inserted.

8. William H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon . . . from late interviews,” as quoted in The Saints Herald (Plano, Illinois), June 1, 1881, p. 162.

9. Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, Ch. IV, pp. 39-40.

10. 8 William H. Kelley, “The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon … From Late Interviews,” Saints’ Herald (Plano, Illinois), June 1, 1881, p. 162.

11. Quoted from Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reappraised,” Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Spring 1970); p. 309.

12. Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1974, pp. 1-2

13. Jerald and Sandra Tanner find the “Spaulding Theory” untenable in Did Spaulding Write the Book of Mormon? (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1977); Early anti-Mormon writer Davis Bays addressed the Spaulding/Book of Mormon theory as “erroneous, and it will lead to almost certain defeat. . . . The facts are all opposed to this view, and the defenders of the Mormon dogma have the facts well in hand. . . . The Spaulding story is a failure. Do not attempt to rely upon it–it will let you down.” Davis H. Bays, The Doctrines and Dogmas of Mormonism Examined and Refuted (St. Louis: Christian Publishing, 1897), 22, 25. For an excellent examination of the flaws behind the Spaulding theory, see Lester Bush, “The Spaulding Theory: Then and Now,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 10 (Autumn 1977): 40-69.

14. Lester E. Bush, Jr., “The Spaulding Theory Then and Now”, Mormon Miscellaneous Reprint Series #1, Sandy, Utah, 1984, p. 21. See also, Robert and Rosemary Brown, They Lie In Wait To Deceive, An Anti-Mormon Deception, Vol 2., Mesa, Arizona: Brownsworth Publ. Co. 1985-86.

15. Hugh Nibley, “Early Accounts of Jesus’ Childhood”, Instructor, 1965, p. 35. See also John 8:41.

16. Mormonism Unvailed, p. 273.

17. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon says by way of prophecy that when the Book of Mormon comes forth, “. . . the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them. And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God.” (2 Nephi 27:15-16).

18. The Charles Anthon letter to E.D. Howe was published in Mormonism Unvailed (1834), pp. 270-272 and in B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1930), I:102-104. The letter to Coit was published in J.A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way (1842), pp. 233-238; and in B.H.Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I:104-107, and F.W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ, pp. 368-371.

19. Walter Martin eagerly accepts the verdict of the Smithsonian, as long as it tends to cast doubt on the Book of Mormon. Would he have been equally anxious to accept the Smithsonian’s verdict on Biblical events, such as the flood of Noah? “. . . [a]fter literally hundreds of archaeological excavations at different places in the Near East, no all-encompassing flood stratum has ever been found.” “The Bible As History”, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. (undated).

20. There is no lack of excellent books by LDS scholars on criticisms leveled against the Book of Mormon. Essential books are: An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Foundation for Ancient Research and Book of Mormon Studies (FARMS), 1985; “An Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institute ‘Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon’” (Reprint), Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Book of Mormon Studies (FARMS), 1982; Wirth, Diane E., A Challenge to the Critics, Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1985; Welch, John W. (ed.), Reexploring the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 1992.

21. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, and Foundation for Ancient Research and Book of Mormon Studies (FARMS), 1985, p. 89.

22. See generally, Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, op. cit. pp. 87-89.

23. Michael T. Griffith, Refuting the Critics, Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Pub., 1993, pp. 48-49.

24. Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Pub., 1986. p. 25.

25. Ibid., p. 49.

26. Bancroft, The Native Races, Vol. 2, p. 407. A number of books and articles actually deal with metals in pre-Columbian America, including: “Metal Artifacts in Prehispanic Mesoamerica,” American Antiquity, 27:520-544. Other finds have been made and reported, including a piece of smelted iron. See, “Zapotecan Antiquities,” Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Stockholm, Publications 4 1938: 75; and “Mexican Highland Cultures,” Ibid, 1942: 132.

27. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, op. cit., p. 232.

28. Alfred M. Tozzer, ed. Landa’s Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, Harvard Univ. Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Papers No. 18 (1941), 201

29. See, Clayton E. Ray, “Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan,” Journal of Mammalogy 38 [1957]:278. See also, Pollock and Ray, “Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan,” Current Reports 41 (August 1957) 638 (Carnegie Inst. Washington, DC, Dept of Archaeology).

30. See, Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Ibid., pp. 297-8. (Citations omitted.)

31. For a number of excellent short articles dealing with recent discoveries related to the Book of Mormon, including the discovery of barley in the New World, see, John W. Welch (ed), Re-Exploring the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992, p. 130-32.

32. Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1985, p. 24-36.

33. Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1974, p. 92.

34. Ibid. p. 223.

35. Ibid. p. 223.

36. Quoted from Frank S. Harris III, Tenability of Old World-New World Contacts, “Native Origins, An Evaluation of Spanish Historians”, Master’s Thesis at Univ. of Texas at Arlington, 1973, p.35.

37. Ibid. p. 44

38. Ibid. p. 45.

39. Ibid. p. 47.

40. Ibid. p. 49.

41. Hugh W. Nibley, “The Book of Mormon and the Ruins: The Main Issues”, Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies Reprint Series, 1980. pp. 1-2.

42. Harris, op.cit. p. 49.

43. Harris, Ibid., p. 48.

44. Harris, Ibid., p. 34-35.

45. Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, S.A. Mexico. 3 vols, 1946, II, 306

46. John L. Sorenson, “Some Mesoamerican Traditions of Immigration by Sea,” F.A.R.M.S. Reprint Series; reprinted from El Mexico Antique, 8, Dec. 1955, p. 430.

47. A. Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, (n. pub., n.d.) p. 73-74.

48. Stanley R. Gunn, Oliver Cowdery: Second Elder and Scribe, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962), pp. 250-51. A letter from Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young dated March 23, 1946.

49. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982. p. 53.

50. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1967, p. 743.

51. See Roberts and Donaldson, (eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, (10 vols), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1:90–the Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyraeans, IX:7-10.

52. “We are all consecrated as priests by baptism. As St. Peter says: Ye are a royal priesthood . . . and in the Book of Revelation: And hast made us unto our God (by Thy blood) kings and priests . . . ”

53. Luther, “On the Councils and the Churches”, Part I (1539) in Works of Martin Luther, H.J. Holman Co. , Vol. V, 165; quoting from James L. Barker, Apostasy from the Divine Church, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, pp. 720-721.

54. See, for example: Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christian?, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, pp. 65-70; Peterson and Ricks, Offenders for a Word, Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1992, pp. 75-92; Blomberg & Robinson, How Wide the Divide?, Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997, pp. 80-88.

55. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper, 1978, pp. 486-7.

56. G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, London, 1956, p. 73.

57. Symeon Lash, “Deification,” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, ed. Alan Richardson and John Bowden (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), pp. 147-48.

58. Walter Martin would like to associate the Triune God of traditional Christianity with the “strict” monotheistic God of Judaism, but the Jews, who worship one God in one Person, have always been suspicious of the “one God in three Persons” of later Christianity.

59. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromateis, VII. X (55-56). Quoted from Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers, London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976, p. 177.

60. Letter to John Wentworth dated March 1, 1842; See, Dean C. Jessee, ed., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, p. 218-19.

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