Latter-day Saint scripture/Critical proof text

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Scriptures used by critics of Mormonism as proof-texts

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Question: How is John 4:24 used as a proof-text by critics of Mormon doctrine of the corporeal nature of God?

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof

This is a FAIR Wiki scripture article. It discusses scriptures commonly used by those who attack the Church, as well as references to other FAIR Wiki articles that discuss the issues raised by the critics. For other scriptures, please see the Scripture index.

King James Version

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:24

Other translation(s)

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (NASB)

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is." (TEV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. (CEV)

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof. The Latter-day Saint belief that God is an embodied spirit is perfectly consistent with the passage in question and critics are in error to insist that the passage must be interpreted as "God is a disembodied spirit."

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrine of the corporeal nature of God. Critics argue that this passage proves that God does not have a physical body.

Commentary

The context of this verse is that Jesus is explaining to a Samaritan woman how one must worship. Jesus teaches that the place of worship, whether Samaria or Jerusalem, is not important, but rather the way one worships. By teaching attributes of God, Jesus teaches how His children can and should relate to Him and worship Him. Latter-day Saints emphatically agree that God is indeed spirit, just as He is love 1 Jn 1:5, light 1 Jn 4:8, and a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24, but He is not only spirit, love, light, or fire.

The Greek language has no indefinite article ("a" or "an") and so the translator must decide whether to include that word in the English text. But for Latter-day Saints, the presence or absence of the article makes no difference. Latter-day Saints believe both that God is spirit (as an attribute) and that God is a spirit (as a statement of His nature). Similarly, Latter-day Saints believe that all people are also spirits, but spirits housed within a physical body.

In the chapter immediately preceding this scripture, in John 3:5-6 , Jesus says the following:

John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NASB)

It is clear from the above verse that Jesus considered it entirely possible for a mortal human with a physical body to be spirit. Likewise, it is not inconsistent to believe that God the Father simultaneously has a physical body and "is spirit."


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims


Question: Does the fact that the Bible states that nothing should be "added to" or "taken away" from the book mean that the Book of Mormon is false?

Those who claim this misuse Revelation, misunderstand the process by which the Bible canon was formed, and must ignore other, earlier scriptures to maintain their position

Some Christians claim that the Book of Mormon cannot be true because nothing should be "added to" or "taken away from" the Holy Bible. However, those who claim this misuse Revelation, misunderstand the process by which the Bible canon was formed, and must ignore other, earlier scriptures to maintain their position. Their use of this argument is a form of begging the question whereby they presume at the outset that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures are not the Word of God, which is precisely the point under debate. In its proper context, the passage in Revelation actually supports the teachings of the Book of Mormon that many plain and precious things would be taken away from the Bible. It also shows clearly the need for another book of scripture like the Book of Mormon to restore those lost and sacred teachings. If the Book of Mormon and other modern scriptures are the work of uninspired men or the arm of flesh, then of course one ought not to trust them. If, however, they are indeed the word of the Lord to prophets, then all who desire to be saved ought to carefully heed them.

The verse often cited (as by Martin, above) is Revelation 22:18-19:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books

Some claim that this verse states that the Bible is complete, and no other scripture exists or will be forthcoming.

However, the critics ignore that:

  • The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books, and prior the Bible being assembled into a collection of texts. Therefore, this verse can only apply to the Book of Revelation, and not the Bible as a whole (some of which was unwritten and none of which was yet assembled together into 'the Bible'). While the traditional date of the book of Revelation is A.D. 95 or 96 (primarily based on a statement by Irenaeus), many scholars now date it as early as A.D. 68 or 69. The Gospel of John is generally dated A.D. 95-100. (For more information on the dating of Revelation, see Thomas B. Slater's Biblica article).
  • The New Testament is made up of first the four Gospels and then second the epistles of the apostles. Since the book of Revelation is neither a gospel nor an epistle, it was placed at the end of the canon in its own category. Therefore, John cannot have intended the last few sentences of Revelation to apply to the entire Bible, since he was not writing a 'final chapter' for the New Testament and since the Bible would not be completed and canonized for some centuries later.
  • Other scriptures (such as Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, and Proverbs 30:6) likewise forbid additions; were the critics' arguments to be self-consistent, they would have to then discard everything in the New Testament and much of the Old, since these verses predate "other scripture" added by God through later prophets.
  • Further evidence that Rev. 22:19 is not referring to the entire bible when it reads "words of the book of this prophecy" is found if one reads Revelation 1:3,11:

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand...Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

It is self evident that the book referred to at the very beginning of Revelation is the same book being referred to at the very end of Revelation

Everything that John saw and heard in between these two statements are the contents of that book.

Even if the passage in Revelation meant that no man could add to scripture; it does not forbid that God may, through a prophet, add to the Word of God. If this were not possible, then the Bible could never have come into existence.

Noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman wrote:

The very real danger that [New Testament] texts could be modified at will, by scribes who did not approve of their wording, is evident in other ways as well. We need always to remember that the copyists of the early Christian writings were reproducing their texts in a world in which there were not only no printing presses or publishing houses but also no such thing as copyright law. How could authors guarantee that their texts were not modified once put into circulation? The short answer is that they could not. That explains why authors would sometimes call curses down on any copyists who modified their texts without permission. We find this kind of imprecation already in one early Christian writing that made it into the New Testament, the book of Revelation, whose author, near the end of his text, utters a dire warning [quotes Revelation 22:18–19].

This is not a threat that the reader has to accept or believe everything written in this book of prophecy, as it is sometimes interpreted; rather, it is a typical threat to copyists of the book, that they are not to add to or remove any of its words. Similar imprecations can be found scattered throughout the range of early Christian writings.[1]

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi saw the same things that John the Beloved saw, but was not authorized to write them

This threat was a real threat in John's eyes. Unfortunately, it appears that the threat went unheeded. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi saw the same things that John the Beloved saw, but was not authorized to write them (1 Nephi 14:21-25). He made this interesting prophesy.

Wherefore, thou seest that after the book [the Bible] hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God (1 Nephi 13:28).

Nephi is later promised that the Lord would send forth other books such as the Book of Mormon to restore those precious and plain things that were taken away.

These last records [The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, etc], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [The Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and previous things which have been taken away from them... (1 Nephi 13:40)

The ancient Book of Mormon prophet Nephi understood how critics would respond to the Book of Mormon. His answer for the critics is this:

Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:26-31)


Question: How is Isaiah 43:10 used as a proof-text by critics of the Mormon doctrines of the plurality of gods and the deification of man?

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshiped

This is a FAIR Wiki scripture article. It discusses scriptures commonly used by those who attack the Church, as well as references to other FAIR Wiki articles that discuss the issues raised by the critics. For other scriptures, please see the Scripture index.

King James Version

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43:10

Other translation(s)

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (NIV)

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrines of the plurality of gods and the deification of man. It is claimed that this verse proves that there never has been or ever will be another being who could properly be called a god.

Commentary

This passage and other similar proof texts from the Hebrew scriptures are misused by critics. When read in context, it is clear that the intent of the passage is to differentiate YHWH from the foreign gods and idols in the cultures surrounding the Jews.

Verses 11 - 13 are a continuation of the statement by God:

I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" (NIV)

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshiped.

In addition to misapplying this passage, critics also fail to recognize the growing body of evidence that shows that the Jewish religion was not strictly monotheistic until quite late in its development, certainly after the era in which Isaiah was written. When this evidence is considered, it appears that Judaism originally taught that though there are indeed other divine beings, some of whom are called gods, none of these are to be worshiped except for the God of gods who created all things and who revealed Himself to Moses.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims


Question: How is Genesis 3:5 used by critics to attempt to show that the Mormon doctrine of deification is a teaching of Satan?

The use of Genesis 3 to counter the doctrine of deification/theosis has two problems associated with it. The first is that Satan never claimed that Adam and Eve would be gods, just that they would be "as gods, knowing good and evil."

This is a FAIR Wiki scripture article. It discusses scriptures commonly used by those who attack the Church, as well as references to other FAIR Wiki articles that discuss the issues raised by the critics. For other scriptures, please see the Scripture index.


King James Version (KJV)

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

For God sees that on the day when you take of its fruit, your eyes will be open, and you will be as gods, having knowledge of good and evil.


Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used by critics to attempt to show that the LDS doctrine of deification is a teaching of Satan.

Commentary

The critics seriously misunderstand and misinterpret this passage of scripture.

Note that the serpent makes two claims:

(1) "ye shall not surely die" and

(2) "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

But if one looks forward to Genesis 3:22:

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:"

So the use of Genesis 3 to counter the doctrine of deification/theosis has two problems associated with it. The first is that Satan never claimed that Adam and Eve would be gods, just that they would be "as gods, knowing good and evil."

The second and bigger problem is that Satan was, in fact, telling the truth on this point. We know he was because after the event the Lord God confirms that Adam and Eve did indeed become as gods, knowing good and evil. As usual, Satan mixes lies and truth. In this case he said that Adam and Eve wouldn't die (a lie) but he also said that their eating would make them "as gods, knowing good and evil" (a truth).

So the lie of Satan in the Garden of Eden was that transgressing God's law would not bring death. This chapter isn't even relevant to beliefs about deification, and the text shows that the comment that was made wasn't a lie at all.

Satan didn't promise that Adam and Eve would become gods, and what Satan did say about becoming as gods was true.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

Notes

  1. Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, [2005] 2007), 54–55. ISBN 0060859512. ISBN 0060738170.