Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions

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Alleged Contradictions in Latter-day Saint Scripture

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Question: Why are there discrepancies between translations in the Book of Mormon, King James Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other. Critics ask why Joseph's earlier work (i.e., the Book of Mormon) generally followed the King James Version of the Bible closely while his later work (i.e., the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible) did not. Critics ask which translation did Joseph get right, implying that one is wrong, hence bringing his prophetic calling into question. Critics generally cite any of a number of passages from Matthew 5-7 from the King James Version and Joseph Smith Translation and 3 Nephi 12-14 from the Book of Mormon. A much celebrated example is:

Matthew 6:25-27 (King James Version)

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

3 Nephi 13:25-27) (Book of Mormon)

25 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Matthew 6:25-27 (Joseph Smith Translation)

25 And, again, I say unto you, go ye into the world, and care not for the world; for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues.
26 Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
27 And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations. This is not unique or unusual in scripture -- even the Bible. Hence, neither the Book of Mormon nor the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible can be discounted because of seeming discrepancies with each other or with the King James Version of the Bible.

Joseph Smith had different purposes in mind when bringing forth the Book of Mormon and the Joseph smith Translation. His purpose in bringing forth the Book of Mormon was to witness "the reality that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations". Departing from the King James Version, i.e., the translation familiar to those who would become the Book of Mormon's first readers, would have been a stumbling block in achieving its purpose. On the other hand, Joseph's later purpose in bringing forth the Joseph Smith Translation is largely understood to have been one of redaction, or inspired commentary -- to resolve confusion regarding biblical interpretation[1] Hence the different wording, and in some cases, even content.

Biblical Parallel

Gleason Archer, well known Evangelical Christian and the Author of a highly respected book called "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties", addresses the issue of Paul citing deficient Greek Septuagint translations that appear in our New Testaments today in lieu of better translations of the Old Testament he could have come up with. Archer says:

"Suppose Paul had chosen to work out a new, more accurate translation into Greek directly from Hebrew. Might not the Bereans have said in reply, “that’s not the way we find it in our Bible. How do we know you have not slanted your different rendering here and there in order to favor you new teaching about Christ?” In order to avoid suspicion and misunderstanding, it was imperative for the apostles and evangelists to stick with the Septuagint in their preaching and teaching, both oral and written.

"We, like the first-century apostles, resort to these standard translations to teach our people in terms they can verify by resorting to their own Bibles, yet admittedly, none of these translations is completely free of faults. We use them nevertheless, for the purpose of more effective communication than if we were to translate directly from the Hebrew or Greek."[2]

Archer's point is that it is more important in certain settings that Paul's writings be familiar rather than 100% precise.

Question: Do Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 and 2 Nephi 31:17 or 3 Nephi 12:2 contradict one another regarding the order in which one receives baptism and a remission of sins?

These scriptures are not contradictory, for at least three reasons

It is claimed that LDS scriptures such as DC 20:37 (first case) and 2 Nephi 31:17, 3 Nephi 12:2, and Moroni 8:11 (second case) are contradictory about the order in which one receives baptism and a remission of sins and that that "Mormon theologians" have ignored this issue.

As is typical in such charges of self-contradiction, the critics either:

  • misinterpret LDS scripture;
  • compare verses of scripture which are not speaking about identical issues;
  • read Protestant terminology or theology into LDS scripture.

In this case, the critics have committed all three mistakes. As such, it is not surprising if "Mormon theologians" have spent little on the issues. The critics are looking to find fault, and so strain at gnats. LDS thinkers understand LDS doctrine, and so see clearly that there is no contradiction.

These scriptures are not contradictory, for at least three reasons—any one of which is sufficient to disprove the critics' claim. We will first list the scriptural texts, and then discuss each of the three reasons for which they are not properly seen as contradictory.

Scriptures to be considered

The first case

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church (DC 20:37).

The second case

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:17).

...Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins (3 Nephi 12:2).

And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins (Moroni 8:11).

Reason #1: The scriptures are discussing two slightly different issues

There is a difference between "received of the Spirit of Christ" (which is given to every man—see Moroni 7:16—but may be received or not depending on choices and heed paid to it) and the baptism of "fire and the Holy Ghost" which happens after baptism, as Joseph Smith taught:

There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. [3]

Reason #2: The audience and presumed intent for the audience are slightly different

Note too that those in the first instance have repented and expressed a desire to be baptized, which desire and sincerity can then lead to a remission of their sins, (i.e., the intent is what matters, and a willingness to follow through on that intent).

In the second case, Nephi is encouraging those who may not have accepted the Messiah to do so, and to obey the commandments and example given by the Messiah—including baptism. So, his target audience is those who have perhaps not yet "desire[d] to be baptized." When they have that desire (by hearkening to the Spirit of Christ), they will then repent and hearken to it, and will choose to be baptized. This decision to repent and follow Jesus will ultimately lead to forgiveness, and the baptism of fire and the purging out of sin that comes with the receipt of the Holy Ghost (after baptism).

In short, the audience in the first case is further along in the process than the audience in the second.

Reason #3: The question presupposes that "forgiveness" is a single, unique event, when in fact it is an on-going process

Here, we see that the critics are viewing this question through the lenses of conservative protestantism.

The critics are assuming that the Book of Mormon matches their view of salvation, in which someone is "saved" once and finally by some type of "altar call" or confession. By contrast, LDS theology sees salvation, repentance, forgiveness, and purification and transformation by the Holy Ghost as on-going processes. The experience begins before baptism, leads us to baptism, and is the fulfillment of the promises and covenants of baptism, which must then be persisted in as we "endure to the end."

As the second case scriptures explain, as we learn of Jesus we are humbled and desire to repent. Repentance requires that we appreciate that we have not kept all of God's commandments, and we regret not doing so. We become resolved to keep God's commandments from henceforth, and the first commandment which we can obey is to choose baptism. The baptism is an outward sign of our repentance and determination to keep God's commandments, and this willingness to covenant with Jesus allows us (as the first case notes) to "receive...of the Spirit of Christ," which begins the process of remitting our sins. If we do not persist in our intention to follow Jesus, however, and were to suddenly choose not to be baptized, we would have returned to sin.

When we have been baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which purifies us as if by fire, as sin and evil are burned out of us, and we walk in newness of life, following Jesus. We must then endure to the end, for if we do not, the remission of our sins (which we have only received because we have chosen to enter a covenant with Christ) will be null and void. The subsequent verses of 2 Nephi 31 explain this clearly:

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31:18-20).

Question: Are Mormon scriptures full of contradictions?

The supposed contradictions arise from 1) misinterpretation, 2) comparing two verses when are speaking of different things and 3) reading Protestant meanings into scriptural terminology

Many conservative Protestant critics have reproduced a table which purports to show how LDS scripture contradicts itself.

The table below examines the supposed contradictions, presents the scriptures cited in context, and demonstrates that claims of contradiction rest on:

  1. a misinterpretation of LDS scripture
  2. comparing two verses which are speaking about different things
  3. reading Protestant meanings into scriptural terminology

Supposed Contradictions in LDS scripture

Number Column A: Book of Mormon... Column B: "Contrasting" scripture... Response and Comments


One God Plural Gods
  • The scriptures in Column A all state that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Column B scriptures explain the nature of this oneness. Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17:22-23).

To learn more:


God is a Spirit God Has A Body
  • The scriptures in Column A describe missionary efforts to teach the pagan Lamanites about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries begin their efforts by explaining that what the Lamanites called "The Great Spirit" was God. This is not an attempt to give a theological description of God's nature, but to build on common beliefs.
  • To the Lamanites, being "The Great Spirit" did not preclude being corporeal—Ammon was mistaken for the great spirit, and yet he clearly had a body, could perform physical actions, etc. So, the concept of "spirit" used by the Lamanites is not (as the critics assume) the same as the "spirit" of Nicene trinitarianism.
  • The God to which the Column A scriptures refer is Jesus Christ, or Jehovah. In LDS doctrine, Jesus Christ was a premortal spirit that did not yet have a physical body when the scriptures in Column A were given. Thus, the description of Christ as a Spirit was accurate before His birth even in LDS terms.

To learn more


God dwells in the heart

...35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. 36 And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell....

God does not dwell in the heart

The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse [John 14:23], is a personal appearance; the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
  • Column B explains that when Jesus says that He and the Father will "make our abode" with those who "keep my words," this means that the righteous may physically behold them. It targets the false idea that God does not have any physicality, and cannot be seen.
  • Column A describes the fact that the spirit of Satan or the Spirit of the Lord (i.e., the Holy Ghost) will "possess" or influence mortals depending upon their choices. The Holy Ghost can dwell in the heart of man, since he is a spirit (see 2 Timothy 1:14 and DC 130:22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.


One God creates Multiple Gods create
  • As discussed in point #1, LDS doctrine sees God as one, but not one in substance. In LDS doctrine, God may be properly spoken of as one and as consisting of more than one person or being.
  • This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

To learn more


God Cannot Lie

God Commands Lying

...22 And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon; 23 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say—She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise: 24 Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live. 25 And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me—Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.
  • Abraham misled the Egyptians by not disclosing all the facts. He did not disclose that Sarai was his wife. It was, however, true that she was his sister—more specifically, she was what anthropologists call a "parallel cousin," who under Jewish levirate law was considered his sister.[4]
  • Conservative protestant critics are disingenuous in posing this question, since Abraham twice uses this tactic in the Bible (though God is not said to explicitly command it). God no where condemns Abraham for this supposed "lie." Furthermore, the explanation for Abraham's claim is also included in the Bible—see Genesis 11:25-29 and Genesis 20:11-12).
  • The Bible also contains similar examples of God commanding a prophet to make a "strictly true" statement intended to deceive the wicked and protect the lives of the innocent, and other cases in which God ratified a decision to withhold the truth to save innocents.[5]


God's Word Unchangeable

Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

God's Word Can Change

Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.
  • Column A speaks of "decrees of God"—the commandments which God has given about how to return to him, and the consequences for disobedience. The speaker is the prophet Alma, addressing a sinful son who has left the ministry in pursuit of a harlot.
  • Column B notes that humans may be in changing circumstances. Thus, God may give specific commands in one situation, and different commands in a different situation necessary for carrying out His work. God will not force men to obey—if some disobey, then God may need to alter commands. If he tells John to go on a mission, and John refuses, then God may need to "reassign" someone else to carry out John's former task. As the scripture says, the consequences of this will "be answered upon the heads of the rebellious"—there is still a penalty for disobedience, but God's plans cannot be thwarted by mortal disobedience.
  • Neither scripture mentions "God's word" (which conservative Protestants would associate with scripture), but this terminology allows the critic to give the misleading impression that the verses are discussing the alteration of scripture, instead of on-going revelation adapted to the good and bad choices which mortals make.


No Pre-Existence of Man

For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?
And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?....34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;
  • The scriptures in Column A say nothing about pre-mortal existence. Jacob 4 asserts that God spoke and created man's body "upon the face of the earth." Alma says that man's body was created after the image of God. None of these says anything about a pre-existence.
  • Abraham 4:27 goes on to describe the creation of the body of mankind after the image of God—the same doctrines taught in column A.
  • This criticism assumes creation out of nothing—creatio ex nihilo—another unbiblical doctrine which conservative Protestants criticize Latter-day Saints for not accepting. For the critics, any creation must be ex nihilo creation; Latter-day Saint doctrine does not require this.

To learn more:


Death seals man's fate
And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. 34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
Chance for repentance after death
  • Column A scriptures speak of those who have had the opportunity to accept the gospel in this life, and have rejected it. Such people lose their chance for exaltation in LDS doctrine (see DC 76:73-78). They are those who "have known and...been taught all these things....[coming] out in open rebellion against God." Alma cautions those who "have had so many witnesses" against putting off the repentance and conversion which they know they need to undertake.
  • Column B describes those who have never had this opportunity.
  • If one cannot accept the gospel beyond the grave, then all those who have not heard of Christ in this life must be damned for all eternity—the critics may be comfortable with such an outcome, but the Latter-day Saints do not believe that a merciful God would condemn His children for that which they never had the full chance to receive.


Heathen Saved Without Baptism Baptism for the Dead
  • The scriptures in column B explain how the results in column A are accomplished. The heathen who choose to accept Christ will be saved, without baptism in their mortal life, because of vicarious baptism in their behalf, which they may accept or reject.
  • The scriptures are clear that without baptism, no one may be saved (John 3:5). Yet, the majority who have lived on the earth have not had the opportunity for baptism. Without vicarious baptism and preaching Christ in the post-mortal world, God would be said to eternally damn the majority of mankind for something they never had the chance to receive.
  • Note: 2 Nephi is not necessarily targeted at "the heathen"—it is targeted at those who have not been given the law. The Book of Mormon teaches elsewhere that all normal people have the spirit of Christ given them, and know good from evil (Moroni 7:16). "Heathen" peoples would still be responsible for the degree to which they observed the law which they had been given through the spirit of Christ, and would require forgiveness of sins against that law—through Christ and post-mortal acceptance of vicarious ordinances. Those who have not received any law would probably be restricted to little children, and others with physical or mental handicaps that render them essentially "child-like."
  • Note: Moroni 8 is likewise discussing little children and others who have no law, not necessarily "the heathen."

To learn more:


Only options are heaven or hell Three degrees of glory, with most people "saved"
  • The Book of Mormon teaches that one must accept Christ's sacrifice, or be damned: its focus is on either exaltation, or damnation. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how those who do not accept exaltation through Christ are judged according to their works. All who do not fully accept Christ will be blocked ("damned") from receiving some of the gifts which they could have enjoyed. Yet, it would be unjust for God to impose identical punishment on the vast range of human sins.
  • The Book of Mormon focuses the new or potential Christian on the absolute necessity of accepting Christ and His gospel. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how God remains merciful and just as he judges those who have not fully accepted Christ's gospel by their works.
  • Once again, we see the critics upset because more information which complements—not contradicts—earlier scripture is given.
  • The table is also misleading, since Latter-day Saints use the term "saved" in a variety of ways, and would not regard most of those discussed in the Column B as "saved" in the same sense discussed in Column A.

'To learn more:

  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55. off-site
    Elder Oaks discusses at least six senses in which Latter-day Saints use the term 'saved' in their theology.


Murder can be forgiven
Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
'Murder cannot be forgiven
...And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
  • Column A is addressed to those who have not yet accepted and covenanted with Christ—"ye Gentiles." Column B is addressed "unto the Church." Those who have a certain minimum of spiritual knowledge cannot commit murder and be completely absolved of the consequences. Those with less spiritual knowledge may be forgiven of murder following sincere repentance (Alma 24:9-11).
  • Once again, two different doctrines are being taught, but the critics ignore this.


Polygamy condemned Polygamy commanded
  • The critics are careful to omit the verse of scripture that explains this apparent contradiction, Jacob 2:30. This scripture from column A makes it clear that God may, under some conditions, command 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."
  • Scriptures in column A show the "default" command to practice monogamy, which God may alter according to His plan and circumstance as described in column B.
  • This is a tired, well-worn anti-Mormon attack—its dishonesty should be clear.

To learn more:


Against Paid Ministries
...But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
...Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God."
For Paid Ministries
those working full-time in the Church's temporal affairs are "to have a just remuneration" for their work. [Bishops and councilors, at the time, were full-time jobs. Many bishops today would probably agree that such callings could be full time nowadays as well!]
  • Column A does not reject having someone be paid in a religious capacity. Column A insist that the motivation for those working must always be God's glory and the benefit of the Church. If they are working for money, or to get gain, there are grave spiritual risks for teacher and listener.
  • The second scripture in column A reflects this, since the religious community described had just escaped a wicked society in which a king and his hand-picked priests had used religion for gain and the satisfaction of their lusts, not teaching of the truth.
  • The second scripture also acknowledges, however, that there may be circumstances in which religious leaders may need financial help or support, as described in the Column B scriptures.
  • Again, these scriptures are complimentary and addressing different aspects of an issue.
  • The critics omit the scripture from the Book of Mormon that describe the problem:
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29)
  • The problem is priestcraft—to do religious acts for the purpose of getting gain or glory.
  • Priestcraft is a problem of attitude, and can happen whether one is paid or not.

To learn more:

  • David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning By Faith," (3 February 2006), Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion. off-site
  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign (October 1994), 15. off-site
    Elder Bednar and Elder Oaks discuss the risks of priestcraft for Church teachers, paid or unpaid.


Corrupt Churches Promise Forgiveness For Money
31 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. 32 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Church Members Who Pay Tithing Will Not Burn
23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming. 24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
  • Column B has had the next verse (v. 24) omitted, which is need to properly interpret verse 23. Nothing in column B promises forgiveness of sins. Rather, column B points out that if members of the Church refuse to tithe, this is good evidence that they are proud and wicked—they remain committed to Babylon, a symbol of worldliness.
  • Tithing thus prepares us and helps transform us. It weans us from worldliness, and helps remake us into the type of people who will not be consumed at God's appearance. It does not purchase forgiveness—but, if offered in the proper spirit, it will transform us from the type of people who will not seek Christ's atonement with humility into those who will.
  • Churches described in column A offer forgiveness and absolution with no change in behavior or character. Column B calls for a change in behavior, which can transform character. Those thus transformed may then seek and receive forgiveness. The approaches are mirror opposites.


Adam in the Americas Adam in the Old World
  • Moses is based upon the Bible narrative of Genesis. While the Genesis/Moses account describes the Garden of Eden in relation to four rivers—Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. The first three rivers are related to the lands of Havilah, Ethiopia, and Assyria (see Genesis 2:11). This organization corresponds to no known geographical location, in the old or new worlds.
  • Since Genesis does not match a real world geography, rather than seeing these descriptions as literal, most Bible scholars have seen them as a symbolic tool to place Eden at the "center" of creation. Given that the Bible was written in the Old World, it is unsurprising that the symbols therein use Old World sites. Such symbols, however, are of little use in establishing a literal geographic location in either the Old or New World.

To learn more:

As we have seen, none of these paired scriptures contradict each other. This list misunderstands and misrepresents LDS doctrine.

See also: Question: How can one view contradictions in Scripture in a faithful way? and Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions

Question: Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17:22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

Question: How can one view contradictions in Scripture in a faithful way?

Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of Scriptural Inerrancy where the scriptures have to be completely historically accurate, contain no theological tensions, and have no contradiction. That said, Latter-day Saints tend to hold the scriptures with a high degree of authority. How can such be the case? We don’t believe that Scripture is inerrant, yet we also don’t want others to believe that we seek to create a God after our own image (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16) or that we believe that truth cannot be found in Scripture. It may become the responsibility of Latter-day Saints from time to time to defend the high authority of scripture and thus a hermeneutic for understanding how Latter-day Saints view contradictions/tensions may be in order. This article will suggest a few ways to view contradictions that don’t hold to Scriptural Inerrancy but still wish to use the scriptures to paint an accurate picture of God and the truth that he has revealed through prophets. It will distinguish different types of contradiction/tension and suggest ways to interpret them.

Historical Contradictions and Omissions

The first type of contradiction to deal with is historical contradictions. Historical contradictions are those in which information which is supposed to be historical is told in different chronological order or certain details about historical events differ in what are often claimed to be irreconcilable, non-harmonizable ways. Scripture contains some historical contradictions. A few examples:

  • The Death of Judas. Did he die by hanging (Matthew 27:5)? Or did he fall headlong and have his bowels gush out (Acts 1:18)? Academic attempts to harmonize these two passages ceased at least as early as the late nineteenth century. Scholars today generally see both accounts as irreconcilably contradictory[6].
  • Jesus Calming The Sea. In Gospel accounts differ in the succession of events when Jesus calms the storm at sea. In the Matthean account, the Lord chastises his apostles for not having enough faith and then calms the storm whereas in the Markan and Lucan accounts he calms the storm and then chastises his apostles. The Johannine account doesn’t even mention the story[7].
  • The name of Moses’ Mountain. The Pentateuch differs in its naming of the mountain from which Moses received the Ten Commandments. In some instances it is “Horeb” (Exodus 3:1; 17:6; 33:6; Deuteronomy 1:2; 4:10) and in others it is “Sinai” (Exodus 19:1-2, 11, 18, 20, 23; 34:2,4,29,32; Numbers 3:1,4,14). This is one of the reasons that scholars see the Pentateuch as the composition of multiple authors/redactors.
  • The Gospels differ in their timing of the crucifixion of the Savior. Was it during Passover? Before Passover? Or after Passover? Scholars believe that the difference is ultimately irreconcilable, and one simply must choose which account to believe. Generally, Mark is favored since it is considered the earliest to be authored[8].

So, how can one view such contradictions? A few questions to ask oneself that may provide solutions:

1. Full Reconciliation. There may not be any contradiction after all. Such an example might be the claim that there is a contradiction in the Bible as to what time Jesus was crucified[9].

2. Pluralistic Reconciliation. Could the presence of two differing accounts simply be giving more information to the story? Take for instance the presence of one angel at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:5) vs. two angels (Luke 24:4). Does the omission of the second angel in the Markan account mean there wasn’t a second angel? Not necessarily. We could just be receiving further information about the event or there could be a legitimate contradiction in the story. In the case of a legitimate contradiction, could we be satisfied knowing that at least an angel appeared at the tomb?

3. Nuanced Reconciation. Two writers may have remembered the same core event with some differing details.

4. Essentialist Reconciliation. The presence of contradiction in the way a historical event is related do not necessarily undermine the essential historicity of such an event. One may simply focus on the reality of the essence of the event being described rather than the presence of contradictions in the relation of the event or the ahistoricity of one event described. In the case of Judas' death, does it really matter how he died? Or, if we feel more conservative, does it matter that one account may have misremembered exactly how he died? The Bible can generally be trusted on historical grounds for a lot of it’s text[10] as can the Book of Mormon[11]. However, if a text did not mean to be historical, describe its historical events in literal, exact ways, or if the author simply couldn't remember what why should this matter? This should inform our theology (D&C 88:77-79).

The presence of historical contradictions should not come as a surprise. Such is why scripture such as the Book of Mormon so strongly emphasizes the importance of preserving records to accurately show exactly how God has reached out to his children. Ultimately one should seek the best scholarly perspectives on the matters and proceed with care as one informs herself. We should seek for as much accuracy as possible in our approach to scripture. As Elder John Widtsoe stated, the scriptures must be read intelligently.[12]

Theological Tensions/Contradictions

Theological contradictions would be the presence of differing views about God, Jesus, or other theological issues written within scripture. As an example, it has long been noted by scholars that the Markan account of Jesus portrays Jesus as more human, lowly, and mortal than, say, the Johannine account which portrays Jesus as divine from the antemortal realm to the end of his life. Scholars generally believe that the Markan account holds what they view as a “low Christology” and the Johannine account as a “high Christology”.

Other potential tensions might include:

  • How can we not perform our alms in public (Matthew 6:1) but also let our light shine before the world (Matthew 5:16)?
  • How can we set childish things aside (1 Corinthians 13:11) and become as a child (Matthew 18:3)?

Now let’s look at possible solutions:

1. Full Reconciliation. There may be no contradiction at all. We may have simply misunderstood the two or more scriptures.

2. Nuanced Reconciliation. One potential reconciliation is to see two or more scriptures as forming a general core that one can adhere to with a modified periphery of belief surrounding that core. Using the Aristotelian idea of the whole being greater than the sum of parts (i.e.synergy), perhaps the differing theological views can be combined to see a more holistic view of a concept and how important it is. As an example, a nuanced view would be "All strawberry ice cream is good, but Dreyer's strawberry ice cream is best." In the case of the Christologies, Latter-day Saint New Testament scholar Julie M. Smith has suggested that the Markan Christology is a “full Christology” instead of a “low Christology”, pointing out how Mark still sees Jesus as the God of the Old Testament and other elements of Jesus' divinity while also acknowledging other parts that make him more human.

2a. Updating - "Development". Latter-day Saints believe that revelation comes line upon line (Isaiah 28:10; 2 Nephi 28: 20; Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; 128:21). In this case, could the later theological view simply be a development of the first proposition? For instance, 3 Nephi 11:25 and Doctrine and Covenants 20:73 word the baptismal prayer slightly differently. Could this reflect a slightly different emphasis for a more meaningful and instructive experience? For more information, see under “What can change through revelation?” in our article addressing how Latter-day Saints view the nature of revelation.

3. Pluralistic Reconciliation. Another potential reconciliation would be to hold a pluralistic view. An example would be "Both strawberry and chocolate ice cream are equally good." Sometimes, two different scripture writers will be saying two completely different things but perhaps we can develop a reconciliation where we hold both views in equal plane saying "sometimes X but sometimes, not X". To be sure, one should not attempt to say that the two writers are saying the same thing (such would be an inaccurate and/or disingenuous way of reflecting what appears in Scripture) but that they are stressing two entirely different things that can subsequently be placed into a fuller conceptual picture [13]. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest."[14].

3a. Updating - Addition. Latter-day Saints believe that revelation comes line upon line (Isaiah 28:10; 2 Nephi 28: 20; Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; 128:21). In this case, could the later theological view be simply an addition to the first proposition or set of propositions? For instance, Doctrine and Covenants 46 lists additional gifts of the Spirit not listed in Moroni 10. For more information, see under “What can change through revelation?” in our article addressing how Latter-day Saints view the nature of revelation.

4. Exclusive Reconciliation. Perhaps there really is one view that is supposed to be the correct one and the writer of a second scripture is just wrong. This could happen in two ways:

  • One writer could have misremembered or misinterpreted the view that was already established by revelation. As a potential way to reconcile these situations, consider one case from the Bible. The different sources of the Documentary Hypothesis differ in their view of God. Some insist in a more anthropomorphic God (one that is human and can be seen) and others insist on one that can’t be seen (see linked article for a chart with examples). The Book of Moses depicts God as anthropomorphic, corporeal, and passable. It thus resolves disagreement in the sources by restoring knowledge that perhaps did not have a faithful record kept for it (D&C 128:9). As another potential reconciliation, one might seek for which source was written earlier. Perhaps an earlier dated source would be more likely to remember and/or interpret the first proposition correctly.
  • One writer could have deliberately misrepresented what the view established by revelation actually was— perhaps for rhetorical purpose or perhaps even for sinful purpose.

As an example of this, consider the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf regarding a scripture from Solomon:

The ancient King Solomon was one of the most outwardly successful human beings in history[15] He seemed to have everything—money, power, adoration, honor. But after decades of self-indulgence and luxury, how did King Solomon sum up his life?

“All is vanity,” he said.[16]

This man, who had it all, ended up disillusioned, pessimistic, and unhappy, despite everything he had going for him.[17]

[. . .]

Solomon was wrong, my dear brothers and sisters—life is not “vanity.” To the contrary, it can be full of purpose, meaning, and peace.

The healing hands of Jesus Christ reach out to all who seek Him. I have come to know without a doubt that believing and loving God and striving to follow Christ can change our hearts,[18] soften our pain, and fill our souls with “exceedingly great joy.”[19][20]

One will notice that Elder Uchtdorf 1)declared Solomon wrong, 2) used scriptures to establish what he believed was the correct view and indeed he uses many that contradict Solomon's view. But another important element of this is that he didn't state that Solomon was wrong for expressing the view or that the scripture wasn't inspired. Rather, he used Solomon's downtrodden state to illustrate an important principle of life. Perhaps other exclusivist reconciliations can adopt this same approach where we see that God allows for even "wrong" views to be used for a wise purpose — to provide us an opportunity to learn from negative example.

  • Since line upon line revelation exists for Latter-day Saints, one view, established by revelation, could be superseded by another through revelation. This is especially true for hamartiological matters (D&C 56:4).

In the end we must seek out the best evidence and adjust our assumptions and views accordingly (D&C 88:77-79). It is hoped that examples from the first two bullet points don't exist across the scriptural record as much as the last bullet point or as much as opportunities for nuanced, pluralistic, or full reconciliations as we do want to preserve the integrity of prophets and revelation as much as possible.

Addressing Some of the Contradictions From Above

In the case of alms, Daniel C. Peterson offers some commentary (responding to critics of Latter-day Saint humanitarian efforts):

Some of them love to quote this passage, from the very teachings of Jesus that most of them otherwise reject:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:1-4)

It’s a handy weapon, I suppose.

But they seem to have forgotten this passage, also from Matthew, just a few verses earlier:

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

How to reconcile the two passages?

I think the point is that our goodness, if we can muster it, ought not to be a matter of personal boasting, nor of seeking status in the eyes of mortal humans, but should, rather, serve as a means of drawing attention to God, his Kingdom, and his Gospel. People looking on should be motivated to say, “I want to be a part of that,” not “My, my, that Max Mustermann is a remarkably admirable fellow.”

And that, I think, is how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is trying to act. It’s thoroughly scriptural.[21]

In the case of leaving childish things aside but also becoming as a little child, it seems that Paul meant to chastise those people that wouldn't show Charity to others. Thus, he wishes that we could become more mature in our treatment of others. In the Savior's case, he highlights a child's ability to believe, to be submissive, and to be obedient. In this way, we have to become as Children to be saved[22].

In sum, as we listen to scripture and accept it on its own terms, it seems that we can still emerge with truth that God wants us to know to achieve salvation and exaltation.

Main article: Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions


  1. Kevin Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85-102.
  2. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.
  3. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 199. off-site
  4. Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  5. See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.
  6. Kevin Barney, “The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible,” in Dan Vogel, ed. The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 152-53.
  7. Thomas M. Mumford, Horizontal Harmony of the Four Gospels in Parallel Columns, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 48.
  8. See Julie M. Smith, BYU New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark, (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2019) for commentary on both issues.
  9. See Justin Taylor, "What Hour Was Jesus Crucified?" <> (21 August 2019).
  10. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering Challenges to Evangelical Christian Belief, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016); K.H. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006); Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 2006); Crossway, ESV Archaeology Study Bible, (Carol Stream, IL: Crossway, 2018); Craig S. Keener, Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019).
  11. John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, (Provo and Salt Lake: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2013); Brant Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007).
  12. Elder John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, ed. G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1960), 128.
  13. For an excellent work putting this in practice from a Latter-day Saint perspective, see Julie M. Smith ed., As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).
  14. History of the Church, 6:428.
  15. An poll listed Solomon as the fifth richest person to ever live. “According to the Bible, King Solomon ruled from 970 BC to 931 BC, and during this time he is said to have received 25 tons of gold for each of the 39 years of his reign, which would be worth billions of dollars in 2016. Along with impossible riches amassed from taxation and trade, the biblical ruler’s personal fortune could have surpassed $2 trillion in today’s money” (“The 20 Richest People of All Time,” Apr. 25, 2017,
  16. See Ecclesiastes 1:1–2.
  17. See Ecclesiastes 2:17.
  18. See Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 24:7.
  19. 1 Nephi 8:12.
  20. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," General Conference (October 2018).
  21. Daniel C. Peterson, "A note regarding complaints about LDS humanitarian efforts," <> (18 August 2019).
  22. While these passages aren't contradictory per se, they have been used only to demonstrate the point of the author. It is possible that less mature critics could use this as an example of real tension.