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Response to "50 Questions to Ask Mormons: Questions About LDS Scripture (excluding the Bible)"

A FairMormon Analysis of: 50 Questions to Ask Mormons, a work by author: Tower to Truth Ministries
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50 Questions to Ask Mormons
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Response to claim: 9. "Can you show me archeological and historical proof from non-Mormon sources that prove that the peoples and places named in the Book of Mormon are true?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

9. Can you show me archeological and historical proof from non-Mormon sources that prove that the peoples and places named in the Book of Mormon are true?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This question is based on the mistaken assumption that the Bible message that Jesus is Christ and Lord is somehow "proved" by archeology, which is not true. It also ignores differences between Old and New World archeology. For example, since we don't know how to pronounce the names of ANY Nephite-era city in the American archeological record, how would we know if we had found a Nephite city or not?


Question: What criticisms are raised with regard to Book of Mormon archaeology compared to that of the Bible?

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible claim that the Bible has been "proven" by archaeology

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible, but not the Book of Mormon, sometimes claim that the Bible has been "proven" or "confirmed" by archaeology, and insist that the same cannot be said for the Book of Mormon.

The claim that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is incorrect

The claim that, unlike the Bible, there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is based on naive and erroneous assumptions. Without epigraphic New World evidence (which is currently extremely limited from Book of Mormon times), we are unable to know the contemporary names of ancient Mesoamerican cities and kingdoms. To dismiss the Book of Mormon on archaeological grounds is short-sighted. Newer archaeological finds are generally consistent with the Book of Mormon record even if we are unable (as yet) to know the exact location of Book of Mormon cities.

  • What would a "Nephite pot" look like? What would "Nephite" or "Lamanite" weapons look like?
  • Think about the Old World--how do you tell the difference between Canaanite pots and houses and garbage dumps, and Israelite pots and houses and garbage dumps? You can't. If we didn't have the Bible and other written texts, we'd have no idea from archaelogy that Israelites were monotheists or that their religion differed from the Canaanites who lived along side them.
  • We also know very little about the names of cities in the New World from before the Spanish Conquest. So, even if we found a Nephite city, how would we know? We don't know what the pre-Columbian name for a city was (or how to pronounce them)--so, even if we had found, say, "Zarahemla," how would we know?

Note: Many of the topics sometimes addressed in archaeological critiques of the Book of Mormon are treated in detail on the Book of Mormon "anachronism" page.


Response to claim: "10. If the words 'familiar spirit' in Isaiah 29:4 refer to the Book of Mormon, why does 'familiar spirit' always refer to occult practices such as channeling and necromancy everywhere else in the Old Testament?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

10. If the words "familiar spirit" in Isaiah 29:4 refer to the Book of Mormon, why does "familiar spirit" always refer to occult practices such as channeling and necromancy everywhere else in the Old Testament?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The claim is based upon a passage in the Book of Mormon where the appearance of the book is foretold by a prophet writing centuries before the birth of Christ. The use of the term "familiar spirit" is used as a poetic simile. 2Ne 26:15 Its use is not meant to be taken literally. All it is meant to say is that the voices of prophets and people who were long dead and forgotten will be heard again through the words they wrote in the Book of Mormon being miraculously revealed through a new prophet, thousands of years later. The same simile is used in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah. Isa 29:4 It is also a prophecy of lost scripture being restored. The notion that term "familiar spirit" can only be used to refer to occult practices is overly literal and simplistic.

The reason Latter-day Saints won't tell you that "familiar spirits" are "good" is because the subject of "familiar spirits" is rarely, if ever, discussed. Most Latter-day Saints would scratch their head upon hearing this claim.


Question: Does the term "familiar spirit" in the Book of Mormon refer to occult practices?

This doesn't mean that Isaiah was only referring to the Book of Mormon, or that he was particularly thinking about it at all: Nephi simply used the imagery and language of Isaiah

Why are the words "familiar spirit" in Isaiah 29:4 said to refer to the Book of Mormon (as used in 2 Nephi 26:16, when "familiar spirit" usually refers to occult practices such as channeling and necromancy everywhere else in the Old Testament? This doesn't mean that Isaiah was only referring to the Book of Mormon, or that he was particularly thinking about it at all. Nephi simply used the imagery and language of Isaiah, and adapted it to make his point. This was common practice in the ancient world. One wonders how young Joseph Smith knew that?

The comparison does not say that the Book of Mormon is a familiar spirit, but that the message from the Book of Mormon would be comparable, or like such a spirit.

What is "a familiar spirit"?

The answer to this criticism depends on understanding Isaiah—and Nephi's use of him. Critics count on the Latter-day Saints being unfamiliar with these materials, and so a review is helpful.[1]

It is natural that some have misunderstood the term "familiar spirit." The contemporary use of familiar is as an adjective, derived from the Latin familiaris, meaning “domestic” (an adjectival formation from familia, “family”). The word means something like “intimate, very friendly.” But in about 1590 the word also began to be used as a noun meaning “demon, evil spirit.”

So in the KJV, the “one that hath a familiar spirit” does not, mean that people will be familiar with it (e.g., as might be expressed by saying it "rings a bell," or is something they've been acquainted with before they heard it.)

Rather, the term "familiar spirit" in Isaiah has something to do with divination by communicating with the spirits of the dead (necromancy). KJV use of “familiar” in this sense is an unfortunate translation, both because it confuses modern English readers and because it brings up images of medieval witchcraft that don't match the ancient biblical world.

Hebrew text

The key word in Hebrew is ‘ob, which appears about 15 times in the OT. Unfortunately, we don’t really know for sure what the word means or whence it is derived. It is used in a variety of different ways. The possible meanings include a spirit, an ancestral spirit, the person controlled by a spirit, a bottle (made of skin), the ritual pit from which spirits are called up, a ghost, a demon. Most scholars simply admit the ambiguity and admit that the word can be used in different ways: a ritual pit used by a necromancer, a spirit called up by a necromancer, and/or the necromancer himself or herself.

The word ‘ob is closely associated with the word yidde’oni. Although ‘ob appears independently (in four passages), yidde’oni always appears in connection with ‘ob (in 11 passages). Many believe the two words are always used together as a hendiadys (a rhetorical device where two nouns joined by and are meant to convey a single sense); others, including most translations, see the terms as referencing two different people, often rendered something like “medium and wizard.” In the case of yidde’oni we can recognize the root *YD’, but it is unclear whether the “one who knows” is the one consulted or the one doing the consulting.

Use of "familiar spirit" in Isaiah

We can now consider what Isaiah meant.

Isaiah is referring to events at Jerusalem (called "Ariel"), and says:

4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. (Isaiah 29:4)

The New English Translation (NET) Bible translation renders this verse as

"Your voice will sound like a spirit speaking from the underworld."

Thus, Jerusalem and its inhabitants will be destroyed, and (in a striking image) Isaiah says that the only thing that will linger on is their voices or witness "from beyond the grave," so to speak. Their destruction will leave them to bear witness, but that is all they can do.

Most translations of Isaiah use some variant of “ghost” in this passage, meaning a shade from Sheol (the Hebrew realm of the dead, or land of spirits).

Book of Mormon usage of Isaiah: Nephi uses the Isaiah passage to explain or illustrate his own prophecy

Nephi (a lover of Isaiah) uses the Isaiah passage to explain or illustrate his own prophecy:

14 But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men.

15 After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.

16 For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.

17 For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God. (2 Nephi 26:14-17)

This passage is a pesher, applying the Isaianic imagery to the appearance of the BoM in the last days, with speech low out of the dust. If you read this BoM passage with a proper understanding of the familiar spirit reference, it actually makes excellent sense. The words of the Book will speak low out of the dust as a ghost called up from the netherworld.

(All writing from another time does this—it allows the dead to speak to us. Matthew and Paul speak to us "as if" from the dead in the Bible, Shakespeare speaks to us through his plays, etc.)

Thus, the Book of Mormon, being a record from a fallen Christian civilization, would be "as if" the dead spoke, since those who are now dead can speak to us. The comparison to Isaiah's Jerusalem probably seems appropriate to Nephi, since:

  • Isaiah prophesied of Jerusalem's destruction, and the Nephites were witnesses of that destruction (e.g. 2 Nephi 1:3-4).
  • The Nephites had fled Jerusalem to avoid destruction.
  • Jerusalem was destroyed for wickedness, as Nephi knew his own people would eventually be destroyed (see 1 Nephi 15:5).
  • Like the wicked at Jerusalem, only the tale (the witness or record) of the wicked Nephite civilization would persist

The symbol used by Isaiah is thus both appropriate for Nephi's situation, and ironic, since the Nephites have ended up also "speaking from the dust" just like the people at Jerusalem from whom the Nephites fled to avoid destruction!

Remember also that the Book of Mormon was "To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof" as the title page to the book states. The interpreters, or Urim and Thummim, as well as the seer stone, are what are being referred to here. These are sacred implements. Implements are also used in the context of divination. So it is not surprising that the gift and power of God manifest through use of sacred implements would be described in this manner in Isaiah. The tools such as seer stones and so forth are abused by those who misuse them in occult contexts. But in the context of their correct use under priesthood authority and revelation from God, they are still spiritual implements that manifest things from the unseen world, but in that case, being acted upon by the power of God, not by false spirits.

The Book of Mormon disapproves of necromancy

The critics try to tie the Book of Mormon's use of this passage to ideas of witchcraft or devil-worship. But, Isaiah uses the same imagery (a ghost speaking from beyond the grave) to describe Jerusalem events. Surely the critics don't expect us to believe that Isaiah's use of this metaphor means he approves of witchcraft?

The Book of Mormon verse also emphasizes that the power to translate the Book of Mormon comes from God, not from channeling or necromancy: "the Lord God will give unto him [the translator] power." But, the critics do not mention this inconvenient fact.

Those who advance this criticism also ignore that the Book of Mormon also speaks negatively about appealing to actual "familiar spirits," in another citation from Isaiah in 2 Nephi 18:19.


Response to claim: "11. Why did Joseph Smith condone polygamy as an ordinance from God (D. & C. 132) when the Book of Mormon had already condemned the practice?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

11. Why did Joseph Smith condone polygamy as an ordinance from God (D. & C. 132) when the Book of Mormon had already condemned the practice (Jacob 1:15, 2:24)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The critics need to read the next verses. The Book of Mormon says that God may command polygamy, just a few verses later. (Jacob 2:30).

Many Biblical prophets had more than one wife, and there is no indication that God condemned them. And, the Law of Moses had laws about plural wives—why not just forbid them if it was evil, instead of telling people how they were to conduct it?

And, many early Christians didn't think polygamy was inherently evil:


Question: Does the Book of Mormon condemn polygamy?

"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things"

Jacob 2:24-29 states:

24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

Those who cite this as a condemnation of plural marriage generally refrain from citing the very next verse:

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30).

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord may, under some circumstances, command the practice of plural marriage.


Response to claim: "12. Why were the words 'white and delightsome' in 2 Nephi 30:6 changed to 'pure and delightsome' right on the heels of the Civil Rights campaign for blacks?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

12. Why were the words "white and delightsome" in 2 Nephi 30:6 changed to "pure and delightsome" right on the heels of the Civil Rights campaign for blacks?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

  • The critics have their history wrong. The change dates to 1837. The change was made by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, though it was not carried through in some other editions, which mistakenly followed the 1830 instead of Joseph’s change. It was restored in the 1981 edition, but that was nearly 150 years after the change was made by Joseph.
  • This issue has been discussed extensively in the Church's magazines (e.g. the Ensign), and the scholarly publication BYU Studies.
  • To learn more: Douglas Campbell, "'White' or 'Pure': Five Vignettes," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29 no. 4 (Winter 1996), ?. off-site


Question: Why was the phrase "white and delightsome" changed to "pure and delightsome" in the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon?

This change was originally made in the 1840 edition, lost, and then restored again in the 1981 edition

This change was originally made in the 1840 edition but because subsequent editions were based off the European editions (which followed the 1837 edition), the change did not get perpetuated until the preparation of the 1981 edition. The change is not (as the critics want to portray it) a "recent" change designed to remove a "racist" original.

The idea that the Church has somehow "hidden" the original text or manuscripts of the Book of Mormon in order to hide this is simply unbelievable. Replicas of the 1830 Book of Mormon are easily obtained on Amazon.com, and the text is freely available online. In addition, Royal Skousen has extensively studied the original Book of Mormon manuscripts and published a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon. The claim by the critics that the Church has somehow hidden these items is seriously outdated.

The change in the 1840 edition was probably made by Joseph Smith

This change actually first appeared in the 1840 edition, and was probably made by Joseph Smith:

  • 2 Nephi 30:6 (1830 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a white and a delightsome people."
  • 2 Nephi 30:6 (1840 edition, italics added): "...they shall be a pure and a delightsome people."

The 1837 edition was used for the European editions, which were in turn used as the basis for the 1879 and 1920 editions, so the change was lost until the 1981 edition

This particular correction is part of the changes referred to in the note "About this Edition" printed in the introductory pages:

"Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith."

It’s doubtful that Joseph Smith had racism in mind when the change was done in 1840 or other similar verses would have been changed as well.

The "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator

Furthermore, "white" was a synonym for "pure" at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon:

3. Having the color of purity; pure; clean; free from spot; as white robed innocence....5. Pure; unblemished....6. In a scriptural sense, purified from sin; sanctified. Psalm 51.[2]

Thus, the "pure" meaning likely reflected the original intent of the passage and translator.


Response to claim: "13. If God is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bones, why does Alma 18:26-28 and John 4:24 say that God is a spirit?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

13. If God is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bones, why does Alma 18:26-28 and John 4:24 say that God is a spirit?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

LDS accept these scriptures, but (like many conservative Christian commentators) do not believe that they are statements about God's nature.


Question: Does the Mormon doctrine that God has a physical body contradict the Bible's statement in John 4:24 that "God is a Spirit"?

Deuteronomy 4:28 says that our God can see, eat and smell

Some Christians object to the LDS position that God has a physical body by quoting John 4:24:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (Italics in KJV original).

Adopting a critical reading of this verse leads to some strange conclusions if we are consistent. Deuteronomy 4:28 says that our God can see, eat and smell. Can an unembodied spirit do that? Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29 say that God is a consuming fire, 1 Jn 1:5 says God is light, and 1 Jn 4:4,16 says that God is love. Is He just those things? Clearly not, and the LDS conclude that neither is He just a spirit.

Note that in the KJV cited above, the word “is” is italicized. This is because the King James translators have inserted it on their own—it is not present in the Greek text from which the translation was made.

Secondly, the reader should be aware that the indefinite article (“a”, as in "a dog" or "a spirit") does not exist in Greek. Thus, the addition of the word "a" in English occurs at the discretion of the translators.[3]

This leaves two Greek words: theos pneuma [θεος πνεμα]—“God spirit”. The JST resolves this translational issue by saying “for unto such hath God promised his spirit”. The word pneuma, which is translated spirit, also means ‘life’ or ‘breath’. The King James Version of Revelation 13:15 renders ‘pneuma’ as life. Thus "God is life," or "God is the breath of life" are potential alternative translations of this verse.

Also, if God is a spirit and we have to worship him in spirit, do mortals have to leave our bodies to worship him?

Latter-day Saints believe that man is also spirit and is, like God, housed in a physical body

Thus, the Latter-day Saints believe that man is also spirit (DC 93:33-34; Numbers 16:22; Romans 8:16) and is, like God, housed in a physical body. We were, after all, created in the "image" of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

It is interesting that in 1 Corinthians 2:11, Paul wrote about "the spirit of man and the Spirit of God." Elsewhere he spoke of the resurrection of the body and then noted that it is a "spiritual" body (1 Corinthians 15:44-46), though, rising from the grave, it is obviously composed of flesh and bones, as Jesus made clear when he appeared to the apostles after his resurrection (Luke 24:37-39).

Paul also told the saints in Rome, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:9).

One Commentary insists:

That God is spirit is not meant as a definition of God's being—though this is how the Stoics [a branch of Greek philosophy] would have understood it. It is a metaphor of his mode of operation, as life-giving power, and it is no more to be taken literally than 1 Jn 1:5, "God is light," or Deuteronomy 4:24, "Your God is a devouring fire." It is only those who have received this power through Christ who can offer God a real worship.[4]


Mormons have "picked up" discarded beliefs of early Christians

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[5]

Perhaps the most complicating factor for creedal dialogue with Latterday Saints is that Mormons, unlike other restorationists, were not content to flunder in suspicion of the way the early Church absorbed Greek metaphysics. Instead, Mormons put the Platonization of Christianity at the heart of their critique of the ossifiation and corruption of Christianity. Something went terribly wrong after the age of the Apostles, they argue, and that something has to do with the theological turn toward a metaphysics of immaterialism. Far from ignoring early church history, then, Mormons are committed to an interrogation of the relationship of theology to philosophy that objects to nearly every development that led to the ecumenical creeds. They do not just raise objections, however. It is as if, as they follow the road orthodox theologians took to the creeds, Mormons pause to pick up the detritus that was jettisoned along the way. Thy recycle these discarded beliefs into a shining, novel creation of their own. [6]:86


Response to claim: "14. Why did God encourage Abraham & Sarah to lie in Abraham 2:24?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

14. Why did God encourage Abraham & Sarah to lie in Abraham 2:24? Isn't lying a sin according to the 10 commandments? Why did God tell Abraham and Sarah to lie when 2 Nephi condemns liars to hell?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is not the only scriptural reference where God instructs someone to lie. These examples seem to involve the protection of the innocent from the wicked, which fits the case of Abraham and his wife nicely.

Other examples of God instructing others to hide the truth include:

1 And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. 2 And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord.


Question: Why would God tell Abraham to lie about his wife Sarah?

The Bible record tells us that God blessed Abraham despite his action

Some ask, "Why God would encourage Abraham & Sarah to lie in Abraham 2:24? Isn't lying a sin according to the 10 commandments? Why did God tell Abraham and Sarah to lie when 2 Nephi condemns liars to hell?"

The Bible tells us that Moses did what God told him to do. Is it so surprising that Abraham might have been told something similar to prevent death to the righteous? The Pharaoh would sometimes kill a husband then take their wives for themselves. The Bible record tells us that God blessed Abraham despite his action. The Book of Abraham simply makes it clear that Abraham did not choose this path on his own, but like Moses was obeying a direct command from God, who may grant exceptions to His Laws if He pleases.

The Bible records Abraham's lie to Pharaoh, and then God rewards the lie

The Bible records Abraham's lie to Pharaoh, and then God rewards the lie (see Genesis 12:17). This seems a strange action if God disapproved their action.

There are times in the Bible and other extra-biblical accounts when God has commanded His prophets to protect the innocent by giving the wicked less than the whole story

In the ancient Genesis Apocryphon text, Abraham has the same motives described in the Pearl of Great Price as delivered by Joseph Smith. He tells Sarah that God has given him a dream in which she saves him from being killed. He then tells her:

[Say to them] of me, 'He is my brother,' and because of you I shall live, and because of your my life shall be saved...'

And Sarai wept that night on account of my words..." [7]

How did Joseph produce this authentic ancient detail, with this text not available until 1948?

The first Bible example of divinely approved deception

The first example involves Pharaoh's murderous instructions to the Egyptian midwives:

16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.

17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?

19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Exodus 1:16-19

The midwives are confronted with a command from the head of state which offends their personal/professional morality. They decline to participate, and actively deceive the Pharaoh--they even lie to him or his officers so that the deception may continue, as well as to (one assumes) spare themselves his punishment. The subsequent verses indicate God's approval of their action. (See Exodus 1:20).

Honesty to the wicked is not the primary moral value: obedience to the will of God is.

A second Bible example of divinely approved deception

The second example comes from the prophetic call of Moses. The Lord speaks to Moses and says:

17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.(Exodus 3:17)

The Lord announces His intention to liberate the Israelites from slavery. But, in the very next breath, He tells Moses what to tell Pharaoh—what the "public story" should be, if you will:

18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.(Exodus 3:18)

The "public stance" of Moses and the Israelite leaders is to be that they only want to go three days' journey to sacrifice. So, here the Lord is advocating some degree of deception. This extends to even deceiving their Egyptian neighbors:

21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:

22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.(Exodus 3:21-22)

Because they are just going to make sacrifices, in the public version, the Israelites are to "borrow" valuable goods from the Egyptians. But, the true intent is clearly spelled out: they are to "spoil" (i.e. "loot") the Egyptians.

Pharaoh is, of course, nobody's fool. He seems to strongly suspect that there is more to the story than Moses is publicly admitting. He offers all sorts of compromise positions, seemingly designed to assure that the slaves will return after fulfilling their duties.

Things proceed to the point that Pharaoh threatens Moses' life despite the plagues and signs. The people are finally freed, but once they have left Pharaoh and his councilors decide to resort to violence and slaughter:

5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

6 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:

7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.

8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.(Exodus 14:5-8)

We are not told why the Lord instructed Moses to deal with the Egyptians in the way that he did. It is significant that Moses did not take such an approach on his own; only a direct command motivates his less-than-forthright behavior.

One can speculate, however—it is certainly reasonable to think that the Egyptians would have murderous intent toward their slaves who presumed to leave. They are willing to act on such inclinations, despite the plagues, when it becomes indisputable that Israel has left for good. If Moses had announced that Israel was leaving, what would the reaction of Pharaoh's court have been? Moses' failure to tell the whole story may well have saved Egyptian life, as well as Israelite. To be sure, God could have used another way. But, in this instance, deception was the specific tactic which He commanded.

Anti-Moses authors could doubtless exploit this situation to great rhetorical effect--they could mock Moses' "ethical lapse" here, and insist that he did it all for monetary gain. They could contrast his behavior here with the "thou shalt not covet," "thou shalt not bear false witness," and "thou shalt not steal" commands given later at Sinai, and point out that "borrowing" when you don't ever intend to come back looks a lot like "stealing."


Response to claim: "15. Why does the Book of Mormon state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10) when history and the Bible state that he was born outside of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

15. Why does the Book of Mormon state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10) when history and the Bible state that he was born outside of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon does not say that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem; it says that Jesus would be born in the "Land of Jerusalem." Bethlehem is seven miles from Jerusalem. El Amarna letter #287 reports that "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah." Thus, The Book of Mormon gets the ancient usage exactly right. There was an ancient "Land of Jerusalem" and Bethlehem, Jesus' birthplace, was in it.

Note also 2 Kings 14:20 and Luke 2:4:

And they brought [Amaziah] on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David" (2 Kings 14:20)

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (Luke 2:4)

Therefore Amaziah was buried AT Jerusalem, in the city of David (which is called Bethlehem). The Savior was born AT Jerusalem (in the city of David, which is called Bethlehem).


Question: Why does the Book of Mormon say that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" when the Bible states that he was born in Bethlehem?

The town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem" since it is only five miles away

Some have noted that Alma 7:10 says that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Yet, every schoolchild knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They claim that this is a mistake, and evidence that Joseph Smith forged the Book of Mormon.

The town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem." In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely "in the land," especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the "land of Jerusalem." This is, in reality, another literary evidence for the Book of Mormon. While a forger would likely overlook this detail and include Bethlehem as the commonly-understood birthplace of Jesus, the ancient authors of the Book of Mormon use an authentic term to describe the Savior's birthplace—thereby providing another point of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.

A picture of Bethlehem taken from Jerusalem in 2006. The photo was taken from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Bethlehem is located in Palestinian territory about five miles away from Jerusalem.

This is an old criticism that has been dealt with at least as far back as 1842

This is an old criticism that has been dealt with at least as far back as 1842.[8] but continues to pop up now and again.

BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson pointed out the absurdity of this argument:

To suggest that Joseph Smith knew the precise location of Jesus' baptism by John ("in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" (1 Ne. 10:9) but hadn't a clue about the famous town of Christ's birth is so improbable as to be ludicrous. Do the skeptics seriously mean to suggest that the Book of Mormon's Bible-drenched author (or authors) missed one of the most obvious facts about the most popular story in the Bible — something known to every child and Christmas caroler? Do they intend to say that a clever fraud who could write a book displaying so wide an array of subtly authentic Near Eastern and biblical cultural and literary traits as the Book of Mormon does was nonetheless so stupid as to claim, before a Bible-reading public, that Jesus was born in the city of Jerusalem? As one anti-Mormon author has pointed out, "Every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows Christ was born in Bethlehem." [Langfield, 53.] Exactly! It is virtually certain, therefore, that Alma 7:10 was foreign to Joseph Smith's preconceptions. "The land of Jerusalem" is not the sort of thing the Prophet would likely have invented, precisely for the same reason it bothers uninformed critics of the Book of Mormon.[9]

This is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East

It is important to note what Alma's words were. He did not claim Jesus would be born in the city of Jerusalem, but "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers."

Thus, the Book of Mormon makes a distinction here between a city and the land associated with a city. It does this elsewhere as well:

This is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East. El Amarna letter #290 reports that "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah."[10] (One over-confident 19th century critic blithely assured his readers that "There is no such land. No part of Palestine bears the name of Jerusalem, except the city itself."[11] While this was perhaps true in the 19th century, it was not true anciently. A supposed "howler" turns into evidence for the text's antiquity.

Thus, the Book of Mormon gets it exactly right — the town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem." In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely "in the land," especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the "land of Jerusalem."

The use of the term "land of Jerusalem" is authentic ancient usage

Hugh Nibley noted in 1957:

while the Book of Mormon refers to the city of Jerusalem plainly and unmistakably over sixty times, it refers over forty times to another and entirely different geographical entity which is always designated as "the land of Jerusalem." In the New World also every major Book of Mormon city is surrounded by a land of the same name.

The land of Jerusalem is not the city of Jerusalem. Lehi "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days" (1 Nephi 1:4), yet his sons had to "go down to the land of our father's inheritance" to pick up their property (1 Nephi 3:16,22). The apparent anomaly is readily explained by the Amarna Letters, in which we read that "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib, has been captured."17 It was the rule in Palestine and Syria from ancient times, as the same letters show, for a large area around a city and all the inhabitants of that area to bear the name of the city.18 It is taken for granted that if Nephi lived at Jerusalem he would know about the surrounding country: "I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about" (2 Nephi 25:6; italics added). But this was quite unknown at the time the Book of Mormon was written—the Amarna Letters were discovered in 1887. One of the favorite points of attack on the Book of Mormon has been the statement in Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" (italics added). Here Jerusalem is not the city "in the land of our forefathers"; it is the land. Christ was born in a village some six miles from the city of Jerusalem; it was not in the city, but it was in what we now know the ancients themselves designated as "the land of Jerusalem." Such a neat test of authenticity is not often found in ancient documents.[12]


Response to claim: "16. If the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth, as Joseph Smith said, why does it contain over 4000 changes from the original 1830 edition?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

16. If the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth, as Joseph Smith said, why does it contain over 4000 changes from the original 1830 edition?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Christians should be careful with such attacks. If they don’t want to have a double standard, they'd have to realize that there are more differences in Biblical manuscripts of the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament! Yet, Latter-day Saints and other Christians still believe the Bible.

Most of the changes to the Book of Mormon were issues of spelling, typos, and the like. A few changes were for clarification, but the original Book of Mormon text would easily serve members and scholars.


Question: Why were textual changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years after it was first published?

The few significant modifications were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith to clarify the meaning of the text, not to change it

The published text of the Book of Mormon has been corrected and edited through its various editions. Many of these changes were made by Joseph Smith himself. Why was this done?

The authenticity of the Book of Mormon is not affected by the modifications that have been made to its text because the vast majority of those modifications are minor corrections in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The few significant modifications were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith to clarify the meaning of the text, not to change it. This was his right as translator of the book.

These changes have not been kept secret. A discussion of them can be found in the individual articles linked below, and in the references listed below, including papers in BYU Studies and the Ensign.

Joseph Smith taught "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."[13] As the end of the preceding quote clarifies, by "most correct" this he meant in principle and teaching. The authors of the Book of Mormon themselves explained several times that their writing was imperfect, but that the teachings in the book were from God (1 Nephi 19:6; 2 Nephi 33:4; Mormon 8:17; Mormon 9:31-33; Ether 12:23-26).

There are over 100,000 insignificant changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon

If one counts every difference in every punctuation mark in every edition of the Book of Mormon, the result is well over 100,000 changes.[14] The critical issue is not the number of changes that have been made to the text, but the nature of the changes.

Most changes are insignificant modifications to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and are mainly due to the human failings of editors and publishers. For example, the word meet — meaning "appropriate" — as it appears in 1 Nephi 7:1, was spelled "mete" in the first edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 1830. (This is a common error made by scribes of dictated texts.) "Mete" means to distribute, but the context here is obvious, and so the spelling was corrected in later editions.

Some of these typographical errors do affect the meaning of a passage or present a new understanding of it, but not in a way that presents a challenge to the divinity of the Book of Mormon. One example is 1 Nephi 12:18, which in all printed editions reads "a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God," while the manuscript reads "the sword of the justice of the Eternal God." In this instance, the typesetter accidentally dropped the s at the beginning of sword.

The current (2013) edition of the Book of Mormon has this notice printed at the bottom of the page opposite 1 Nephi, chapter 1:

Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Some Book of Mormon changes were corrections of transcription or printing errors.

There are a few significant changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon

Changes that would affect the authenticity of the Book of Mormon are limited to:

  • those that are substantive AND
    • could possibly change the doctrine of the book OR
    • could be used as evidence that the book was written by Joseph Smith.

There are surprisingly few meaningful changes to the Book of Mormon text, and all of them were made by Joseph Smith himself in editions published during his lifetime. These changes include:

The historical record shows that these changes were made to clarify the meaning of the text, not to alter it.

Many people in the church experience revelation that is to be dictated (such as a patriarch blessing). They will go back and alter their original dictation. This is done to clarify the initial premonitions received through the Spirit. The translation process for the Prophet Joseph may have occurred in a similar manner.


Response to claim: "17. If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel," why does the LDS Church need additional works?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

17. If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel," why does the LDS Church need additional works?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon's definition of "fulness of the gospel" is not "all truths taught in the Church." The fulness of the gospel is simply defined as the core doctrines of Christ's atonement and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Critics do not trouble to understand what the Book of Mormon says before attacking it.


Question: What does it mean when it is said that the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the gospel?"

The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Gospel, for the purpose of convincing Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ

The Lord declared that he had given Joseph Smith "power from on high...to translate the Book of Mormon; which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also" (D&C 20:8-9; cf. D&C 27:5; D&C 42:12; D&C 135:3).

The Book of Mormon is correct in the doctrines and principles it teaches, but it does not claim to contain all truth. Its own self-described purpose is to "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations" (title page), and that these teachings are "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40; 1 Nephi 19:3). For the most part, the Book of Mormon does not concern itself with the deeper mysteries of God.

The book itself admits that it does not contain all the doctrines the Lord wants us to know. The prophet Mormon explained that he only recorded "the lesser part of the things which [Jesus] taught the people," for the intent that "when [the Book of Mormon reader] shall have received this...if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them" (3 Nephi 26:8-9; compare Alma 26:22).

What is the gospel?

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ gave a specific definition of "the gospel":

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

(3 Nephi 27:13-19, italics added.)

In this passage, Jesus defines "the gospel" as:

  1. Christ came into the world to do the Father's will.
  2. The Father sent Christ to be crucified.
  3. Because of Christ's atonement, all men will be judged by him according to their works (as opposed to not receiving a judgment at all and being cast out of God's presence by default; 2 Nephi 9:8-9).
  4. Those who repent and are baptized shall be filled (with the Holy Ghost, see 3 Nephi 12:6), and
  5. if they continue in faith by enduring to the end they will be justified (declared "not guilty") by Christ before the Father, but
  6. if they don't endure they will be subject to the justice of God and cast out of his presence.
  7. The Father's words will all be fulfilled.
  8. Because no unclean thing can enter the Father's heavenly kingdom, only those who rely in faith on the atonement of Christ, repent, and are faithful to the end can be saved.

This is "the gospel." The Book of Mormon teaches these concepts with a plainness and clarity unequaled by any other book. It has therefore been declared by the Lord to contain "the fulness of the gospel." The primary message of the gospel, the "good news" of Jesus Christ, is that he has atoned for our sins and prepared a way for us to come back into the presence of the Father. This is the message of the Book of Mormon, and it contains it in its fulness.


Response to claim: "18. If the Book of Mormon contains the 'fulness of the everlasting gospel,' why doesn't it say anything about so many important teachings such as eternal progression, celestial marriage, the Word of Wisdom, the plurality of Gods, the pre-existence of man, our mother in heaven, baptism for the dead, etc?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

18. If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel," why doesn't it say anything about so many important teachings such as eternal progression, celestial marriage, the Word of Wisdom, the plurality of Gods, the pre-existence of man, our mother in heaven, baptism for the dead, etc?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon's definition of "fulness of the gospel" is not "all truths taught in the Church." The fulness of the gospel is simply defined as the core doctrines of Christ's atonement and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Critics do not trouble to understand what the Book of Mormon says before attacking it. Making the same attack twice (see #17) makes it no more convincing the second time.


Question: What does it mean when it is said that the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the gospel?"

The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Gospel, for the purpose of convincing Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ

The Lord declared that he had given Joseph Smith "power from on high...to translate the Book of Mormon; which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also" (D&C 20:8-9; cf. D&C 27:5; D&C 42:12; D&C 135:3).

The Book of Mormon is correct in the doctrines and principles it teaches, but it does not claim to contain all truth. Its own self-described purpose is to "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations" (title page), and that these teachings are "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40; 1 Nephi 19:3). For the most part, the Book of Mormon does not concern itself with the deeper mysteries of God.

The book itself admits that it does not contain all the doctrines the Lord wants us to know. The prophet Mormon explained that he only recorded "the lesser part of the things which [Jesus] taught the people," for the intent that "when [the Book of Mormon reader] shall have received this...if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them" (3 Nephi 26:8-9; compare Alma 26:22).

What is the gospel?

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ gave a specific definition of "the gospel":

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

(3 Nephi 27:13-19, italics added.)

In this passage, Jesus defines "the gospel" as:

  1. Christ came into the world to do the Father's will.
  2. The Father sent Christ to be crucified.
  3. Because of Christ's atonement, all men will be judged by him according to their works (as opposed to not receiving a judgment at all and being cast out of God's presence by default; 2 Nephi 9:8-9).
  4. Those who repent and are baptized shall be filled (with the Holy Ghost, see 3 Nephi 12:6), and
  5. if they continue in faith by enduring to the end they will be justified (declared "not guilty") by Christ before the Father, but
  6. if they don't endure they will be subject to the justice of God and cast out of his presence.
  7. The Father's words will all be fulfilled.
  8. Because no unclean thing can enter the Father's heavenly kingdom, only those who rely in faith on the atonement of Christ, repent, and are faithful to the end can be saved.

This is "the gospel." The Book of Mormon teaches these concepts with a plainness and clarity unequaled by any other book. It has therefore been declared by the Lord to contain "the fulness of the gospel." The primary message of the gospel, the "good news" of Jesus Christ, is that he has atoned for our sins and prepared a way for us to come back into the presence of the Father. This is the message of the Book of Mormon, and it contains it in its fulness.


Response to claim: "19. Why do you baptize for the dead when both Mosiah 3:25 and the Bible state that there is no chance of salvation after death?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

19. Why do you baptize for the dead when both Mosiah 3:25 and the Bible state that there is no chance of salvation after death?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The passage in Mosiah 3:25, and any passages in the Bible which also imply there is no chance of salvation after death, are clearly addressed to those who have the opportunity to repent in this life. Those who have not, by no fault of their own, embraced the everlasting gospel in this life will have the opportunity to do so after death.

The critics are on thin ice with this attack—do they wish us to believe in a God so unjust that He would damn someone for all eternity, simply because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus?

Why wouldn't members of the Church baptize for the dead, when the Bible teaches this idea? (See 1 Corinthians 15:29.)


Response to claim: "20. Since the word grace means a free gift that can't be earned, why does the Book of Mormon state "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

20. Since the word grace means a free gift that can't be earned, why does the Book of Mormon state "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon does not state that "all we can do" is a way of earning the grace of Christ. And there is not one member of the LDS church who believes that our obedience can ever be payment in full for the free gift of the atonement. By the same token, we reject the "cheap grace" ideas suggested by many modern Protestant churches that seem to require no effort on the sinner's part. The correct meaning of the Book of Mormon phrase "after all we can do" is clear in light of other Book of Mormon passages which define it as repentance and being forgiven of sin and cleansed of guilt (see Alma 24:10-12).

In fact, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes the same thing about grace that the earliest Christians believed. Modern Protestant ideas are different from earlier teachings. They are entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make Mormon ideas "false" if we agree with how the earliest followers of Jesus saw the matter.

One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:

If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…

Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.

The early Christians [and the Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....

The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62. ISBN 0924722002.

The Latter-day Saints are pleased to be in the company of the earliest Christians. And it is ridiculous to try to exclude LDS from the community of Christians because they have not embraced the modified doctrines that were clearly adopted later.

The LDS doctrine of salvation and grace are thoroughly explained in the 1998 conference talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the present-day apostles. We advise any who want to find out what Mormons truly believe on this subject, instead of some caricature of our doctrine, to read his talk at:

Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55. off-site


Response to claim: "21. Does the LDS Church still regard the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price as Holy Scripture even after several prominent Egyptologists proved it was an ancient funeral scroll?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

21. Does the LDS Church still regard the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price as Holy Scripture even after several prominent Egyptologists proved it was an ancient funeral scroll?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The LDS Church announced that fragments of the papyrus were from the Book of Breathings within two months of their acquisition.

The big print in the Church magazine published as soon as the scrolls were recovered can be seen here.

Critics often don't tell people that we are missing at least 85% of the scrolls that Joseph Smith had. We don't have papyrus with the Book of Abraham on it (except Facsimile #1) and have never claimed to.


Question: Was the Church forthright in identifying the rediscovered papyri prior to their examination by non-LDS Egyptologists?

The January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era demonstrates that the Church was very forthright about this issue

The Church announced that the fragments contained a funerary text in the January 1968 Improvement Era (the predecessor to today's Ensign magazine). Of the 11 fragments, one fragment has Facsimile 1, and the other 10 fragments are funerary texts, which the Church claimed from the moment the papyri were rediscovered. There is no evidence that the Church has ever claimed that any of the 10 remaining fragments contain text which is contained in the Book of Abraham.

The critics are telling us nothing new when they dramatically "announce" that the JSP contain Egyptian funerary documents. The Church disseminated this information as widely as possible from the very beginning.

The timeline of events

A review of the time-line of the papyri demonstrates that the Church quickly publicized the nature of the JSP in the official magazine of the time, The Improvement Era.

There were 11 fragments discovered and given to the church. The Church was very quick in releasing this information to the membership and the world.

November 27, 1967
Church receives papyri.
December 10–11, 1967
Deadline to submit material for the January 1968 Improvement Era.
December 26–31, 1967
January 1968 Improvement Era issue mailed to subscribers.[16]
February 1968
Another fragment was discovered in the Church historian's files, and publicized in the February 1968 Improvement Era.[17]
Cover of the January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era, the Church's official magazine of the time. Note the color photograph of the recovered Facsimile 1.


Response to claim: "22. Why does the Book of Abraham, chapters 4 & 5, contradict Alma 11 in stating that there is more than one God?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

22. Why does the Book of Abraham, chapters 4 & 5, contradict Alma 11 in stating that there is more than one God.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The term "God" may be used in more than one way. Latter-day Saints are not Nicene Trinitarians, but still believe in "one God."


Response to claim: "23. Why does D. & C. 42:18 say there is no forgiveness for a murderer when 3 Nephi 30:2 says there is forgiveness for him?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

23. Why does D. & C. 42:18 say there is no forgiveness for a murderer when 3 Nephi 30:2 says there is forgiveness for him?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Doctrine and Covenants 42 is "the law of the Church" and pertains to those who are baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who by baptism are adopted into the house of Israel. 3 Nephi 30:2 pertains to those who are still "Gentiles" and who are not yet "numbered with [God's] people who are of the house of Israel." For a member of the Church to commit murder there is no escape from some consequences of that act, whereas a person who has not yet made baptismal covenants may, under certain conditions, be forgiven and inherit celestial glory. For example, some Lamanites repented and were forgiven of their murders (see Alma 24:10-12), though their sins were committed, to an extent, in ignorance.


Response to claim: "24. If the Adam-God doctrine isn't true, how come D. & C. 27:11 calls Adam the Ancient of Days which is clearly a title for God in Daniel Chapter 7?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

24. If the Adam-God doctrine isn't true, how come D. & C. 27:11 calls Adam the Ancient of Days which is clearly a title for God in Daniel Chapter 7?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph Smith is one source for this view of Adam:

"‘Ancient of Days’ appears to be his title because he is ‘the first and oldest of all.'[18]


Question: If the Adam-God doctrine isn't true, how come D&C 27:11 calls Adam the Ancient of Days which is clearly a title for God in Daniel 7?

The real question should be how do LDS justify their interpretation of Ancient of Days as Adam

The real question should be how do LDS justify their interpretation of Ancient of Days as Adam. LDS are not dependent upon biblical interpretation for a complete understanding of the meaning of this or any other term. Since LDS have a more expanded idea of Adam's role, it is not surprising that they interpret some verses differently.

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes:

For Latter-day Saints, Adam stands as one of the noblest and greatest of all men. Information found in the scriptures and in declarations of latter-day apostles and prophets reveals details about Adam and his important roles in the pre-earth life, in Eden, in mortality, and in his postmortal life. They identify Adam by such names and titles as Michael (D&C 27:11; D&C 29:26), archangel (D&C 88:112), and Ancient of Days (D&C 138:38). [19]

Joseph Smith is one source for this view of Adam:

"‘Ancient of Days’ appears to be his title because he is ‘the first and oldest of all.' [20]

This section of Daniel is written in Aramaic, while the rest of the Old Testament is in Hebrew. The phrase translated "Ancient of Days" (attiq yômîn) as one non-LDS source notes, "in reference to God...is unprecedented in the Hebrew texts." Thus, reading this phrase as referring to God (and, in the critics' reading, only God) relies on parallels from Canaanite myth and Baal imagery in, for example, the Ugaritic texts. [21] Latter-day Saints are pleased to have a more expanded view through the addition of revelatory insights.

D&C 27:11 associates Adam with a divine title or status when resurrected and exalted

Like many Christians, the LDS see many parallels between Christ (who is God) and Adam. Christ is even called, on occasion, the "second Adam." It is thus not surprising that D&C 27:11 associates Adam with a divine title or status when resurrected and exalted—after all, LDS theology anticipates human deification, so God and Adam are not seen as totally "other" or "different" from each other. LDS would have no problem, then, in seeing Adam granted a type of divine title or epithet—they do not see this as necessarily an either/or situation.

This does not mean, however, that Adam and God are the same being, merely that they can ultimately share the same divine nature. Such a reading would be strange to creedal Christians who see God as completely different from His creation. Once again, the theological preconceptions with which we approach the Biblical text affects how we read it.

As one non-LDS scholar noted of the passage in Daniel:

In the Septuagint version of Daniel 7:13 the translator has interpreted ‘he came to the Ancient of Days’ as ‘he came as the Ancient of Days’. Thus, according to this Septuagint interpretation, the Son of Man is in fact the embodiment of the person of the Ancient of Days. In other words the original scene in Daniel 7, where two figures exist alongside each other in heaven, is changed so that the vice-regent, the Son of Man, takes upon himself the form and character of God himself.[22]

It is thus not surprising that Joseph Smith could see Adam taking upon himself "the form and character of God himself" using a similar type of imagery.


Response to claim: "25. Why does the Book of Mormon contain extensive, word-for-word quotes from the Bible if the LDS Church is correct in teaching that the Bible has been corrupted?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

25. Why does the Book of Mormon contain extensive, word-for-word quotes from the Bible if the LDS Church is correct in teaching that the Bible has been corrupted?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church does not teach that the Bible is "corrupted." It would be more correct to say that the Book of Mormon teaches that plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible 1 Nephi 13:28. The vast majority of that which has remained in the Bible is both true and valuable.

Latter-day Saints take two years of every four in Sunday School studying the Bible. They cherish it. They merely refuse to believe that the Bible is all that God has said, or can say. God can speak whenever He wishes.


Response to claim: "26. Why do the Bible verses quoted in the Book of Mormon contain the italicized words from the King James Version that were added into the KJV text by the translators in the 16th and 17th centuries?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

26. Why do the Bible verses quoted in the Book of Mormon contain the italicized words from the King James Version that were added into the KJV text by the translators in the 16th and 17th centuries?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The italics do indeed identify words added by the translators. They were "added" because they were necessary words for making sense of the translation: in Hebrew and Greek the words are sometimes implied, but necessary for English to make sense. (Italics can mislead us, however, in suggesting that there is such a thing as a word-for-word translation without interpretation, save for the italics.)

Thus, in some cases the italic words are necessary, and Joseph or another translator would have had to put them in. In other cases, Joseph removed the italic words. (It's not clear that Joseph even owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation era, much less that he knew what the italics meant.)

This is really a question about why the Book of Mormon text is often very close (or, in some cases, identical to) the King James Version. If Joseph was trying to forge a book (as the some claim) then why did he quote from the Bible, the one book his readers would be sure to know?


Question: Why does the Book of Mormon match the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible so closely?

Some have presumed that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible

Some passages from the Bible (parts of Isaiah, for example) were included in the Book of Mormon text. Some people have long adopted the position that Joseph Smith simply copied the King James Version (KJV) Bible text for the relevant portions of, for example, Isaiah. Even some Church members have presumed that the close match between the texts indicates that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible.

The purposes of the Book of Mormon and JST translations were not identical. The LDS do not believe in one fixed, inviolate, "perfect" rendering of a scripture or doctrinal concept. The Book of Mormon likely reflects differences between the Nephite textual tradition and the commonly known Biblical manuscripts. The JST is a harmonization, expansion, commentary, and clarification of doctrinally important points. Neither is intended as "the final word" on a given concept or passage—continuing revelation, adapted to the circumstances in which members of the Church find themselves, precludes such an intent.

Joseph did not believe that there was "one and only one" true translation of a given passage or text. The Book of Mormon is "the most correct book" in the sense that it those who read and obey its precepts will draw nearer to God than in reading any other book. This is not a claim about textual perfection or inerrancy (which the book itself insists will still be present--title page, Mormon 9:31). In fact, Brigham Young taught that the Book of Mormon text would have been different if it were redone later:

Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings. [23]


Response to claim: "27. If the Book of Mormon was engraved on gold plates thousands of years ago, why does it read in perfect 1611 King James Version English?"

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

27. If the Book of Mormon was engraved on gold plates thousands of years ago, why does it read in perfect 1611 King James Version English?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Why do modern translations of the Greek and Hebrew Bible sound like modern English, even though the texts are hundreds or thousands of years old? Because that's how the translators translated them. It doesn't say anything about what the language is like on the original. The Book of Mormon sounds the way it does because Joseph translated it as King James English.

French translators make totally different translations than English translators, but the manuscripts remain the same!

Do Christians condemn the Bible as an inauthentic record because their translations sound like 21st century English? This question is a good example of how insincere these "questions" from an anti-Mormon ministry are.


Notes

  1. Portions of this analysis are derived from Kevin L. Barney, "As One that Hath a Familiar Spirit," bycommonconsent.com (18 October 2007); used with permission, last accessed 17 November 2007).
  2. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "white."
  3. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995), 271.
  4. J. N. Sanders, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, edited and completed by B. A. Mastin, (New York, Harper & Row, 1968), 147–148.
  5. "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  6. Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011).
  7. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin Press, 1997), 453–454. See also: ( off-site.)
  8. See John Hardy, Hypocrisy Exposed (Boston: Albert Morgan, 1842), 3-12 off-site Full title. See later responses in John E. Page, "To a Disciple," Morning Chronicle (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (1 July 1842). off-site, John E. Page, “Mormonism Concluded: To ‘A Disciple.’” Morning Chronicle (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (20 July 1842). off-site, and George Reynolds, "Objections to the Book of Mormon," Millennial Star 44/16 (17 April 1882): 244–47.
  9. Daniel C. Peterson, "Is the Book of Mormon True? Notes on the Debate," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 6. ISBN 093489325X ISBN 0934893187 ISBN 0884944697. off-site GL direct link
  10. James B. Pritchard, editor, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3d ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), 489, translation by W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall; cited by D. Kelly Ogden, "Why Does the Book of Mormon Say That Jesus Would Be Born at Jerusalem? (I Have a Question)," Ensign (August 1984), 51–52.
  11. Origen Bachelor, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: Privately Published, 1838), 13. off-site
  12. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 8, references silently removed—consult original for citations, (italics in original).
  13. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:139. ISBN 0941214133. Quoted in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:461. Volume 4 link See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 194. off-site
  14. Royal Skousen, "Changes In the Book of Mormon," 2002 FAIR Conference proceedings.
  15. Daniel K. Judd and Allen W. Stoddard, "Adding and Taking Away 'Without a Cause' in Matthew 5:22," in How the New Testament Came to Be, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2006),159-160.
  16. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–16.
  17. Jay M. Todd, "New Light on Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri: Additional Fragment Disclosed," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40.; Jay M. Todd, "Background of the Church Historian's Fragment," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40A–40I.
  18. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 167. off-site
  19. Arthur A. Bailey, "Adam," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:15–16. direct off-site
  20. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 167. off-site
  21. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, "Ancient of Days," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 62. ISBN 0802824005.
  22. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 2 (Fortress Press, SPCK: London, 1996), kindle location 12747.
  23. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311.