The following article was front page news in the Los Angeles Times while we were living there in 2006.
DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture.
The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs.
Los Angeles Times
Front Page News Article
February 16, 2006 ⏐ William Lobdell ⏐ Times Staff Writer
From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.
”We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people,” said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. “It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God.”
Jose A. Loayza, shown at Temple Square, says
the Church of Latter-day Saints should embrace
the controversy: “They should openly address it.”
(Steve C. Wilson/For The Times)
A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.
“I've gone through stages,” he said. “Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness.”
For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.
For those outside the faith, the depth of the church's dilemma can be explained this way: Imagine if DNA evidence revealed that the Pilgrims didn't sail from Europe to escape religious persecution but rather were part of a migration from Iceland — and that U.S. history books were wrong.
Critics want the church to admit its mistake and apologize to millions of Native Americans it converted. Church leaders have shown no inclination to do so. Indeed, they have dismissed as heresy any suggestion that Native American genetics undermine the Mormon creed.
Yet at the same time, the church has subtly promoted a fresh interpretation of the Book of Mormon intended to reconcile the DNA findings with the scriptures. This analysis is radically at odds with long-standing Mormon teachings.
Some longtime observers believe that ultimately, the vast majority of Mormons will disregard the genetic research as an unworthy distraction from their faith.
“This may look like the crushing blow to Mormonism from the outside,” said Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has studied the church for 40 years. “But religion ultimately does not rest on scientific evidence, but on mystical experiences. There are different ways of looking at truth.”
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an angel named Moroni led Joseph Smith in 1827 to a divine set of golden plates buried in a hillside near his New York home.
God provided the 22-year-old Smith with a pair of glasses and seer stones that allowed him to translate the “Reformed Egyptian” writings on the golden plates into the “Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
Mormons believe these scriptures restored the church to God's original vision and left the rest of Christianity in a state of apostasy.
The book's narrative focuses on a tribe of Jews who sailed from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 BC and split into two main warring factions.
The God-fearing Nephites were “pure” (the word was officially changed from “white” in 1981) and “delightsome.” The idol-worshiping Lamanites received the “curse of blackness,” turning their skin dark.
According to the Book of Mormon, by 385 AD the dark-skinned Lamanites had wiped out other Hebrews. The Mormon church called the victors “the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” If the Lamanites returned to the church, their skin could once again become white.
Over the years, church prophets — believed by Mormons to receive revelations from God — and missionaries have used the supposed ancestral link between the ancient Hebrews and Native Americans and later Polynesians as a prime conversion tool in Central and South America and the South Pacific.
“As I look into your faces, I think of Father Lehi [patriarch of the Lamanites], whose sons and daughters you are,” church president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said in 1997 during a Mormon conference in Lima, Peru. “I think he must be shedding tears today, tears of love and gratitude. “This is but the beginning of the work in Peru.”
In recent decades, Mormonism has flourished in those regions, which now have nearly 4 million members — about a third of Mormon membership worldwide, according to church figures.
“That was the big sell,” said Damon Kali, an attorney who practices law in Sunnyvale, Calif., and is descended from Pacific Islanders. “And quite frankly, that was the big sell for me. I was a Lamanite. I was told the day of the Lamanite will come.”
A few months into his two-year mission in Peru, Kali stopped trying to convert the locals. Scientific articles about ancient migration patterns had made him doubt that he or anyone else was a Lamanite.
“Once you do research and start getting other viewpoints, you're toast,” said Kali, who said he was excommunicated in 1996 over issues unrelated to the Lamanite issue. “I could not do missionary work anymore.”
Critics of the Book of Mormon have long cited anachronisms in its narrative to argue that it is not the work of God. For instance, the Mormon scriptures contain references to a seven-day week, domesticated horses, cows and sheep, silk, chariots and steel. None had been introduced in the Americas at the time of Christ.
In the 1990s, DNA studies gave Mormon detractors further ammunition and new allies such as Simon G. Southerton, a molecular biologist and former bishop in the church.
Simon G. Southerton concluded that his
faith needed to be reevaluated.
Southerton, a senior research scientist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, said genetic research allowed him to test his religious views against his scientific training.
Genetic testing of Jews throughout the world had already shown that they shared common strains of DNA from the Middle East. Southerton examined studies of DNA lineages among Polynesians and indigenous peoples in North, Central and South America. One mapped maternal DNA lines from 7,300 Native Americans from 175 tribes.
Southerton found no trace of Middle Eastern DNA in the genetic strands of today's American Indians and Pacific Islanders.
In “Losing a Lost Tribe,” published in 2004, he concluded that Mormonism — his faith for 30 years — needed to be reevaluated in the face of these facts, even though it would shake the foundations of the faith.
The problem is that Mormon leaders cannot acknowledge any factual errors in the Book of Mormon because the prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed it the “most correct of any book on Earth,” Southerton said in an interview.
“They can't admit that it's not historical,” Southerton said. “They would feel that there would be a loss of members and loss in confidence in Joseph Smith as a prophet.”
Officially, the Mormon Church says that nothing in the Mormon scriptures is incompatible with DNA evidence, and that the genetic studies are being twisted to attack the church.
“We would hope that church members would not simply buy into the latest DNA arguments being promulgated by those who oppose the church for some reason or other,” said Michael Otterson, a Salt Lake City-based spokesman for the Mormon church.
“The truth is, the Book of Mormon will never be proved or disproved by science,” he said.
Unofficially, church leaders have tacitly approved an alternative interpretation of the Book of Mormon by church apologists — a term used for scholars who defend the faith.
The apologists say Southerton and others are relying on a traditional reading of the Book of Mormon — that the Hebrews were the first and sole inhabitants of the New World and eventually populated the North and South American continents.
The latest scholarship, they argue, shows that the text should be interpreted differently. They say the events described in the Book of Mormon were confined to a small section of Central America, and that the Hebrew tribe was small enough that its DNA was swallowed up by the existing Native Americans.
“It would be a virtual certainly that their DNA would be swamped,” said Daniel Peterson, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, part of the worldwide Mormon educational system, and editor of a magazine devoted to Mormon apologetics. “And if that is the case, you couldn't tell who was a Lamanite descendant.”
Southerton said the new interpretation was counter to both a plain reading of the text and the words of Mormon leaders.
“The apologists feel that they are almost above the prophets,” Southerton said. “They have completely reinvented the narrative in a way that would be completely alien to members of the church and most of the prophets.”
The church has not formally endorsed the apologists' views, but the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — http://www.lds.org — cites their work and provides links to it.
“They haven't made any explicit public declarations,” said Armand L. Mauss, a church member and retired Washington State University professor who recently published a book on Mormon race and lineage. “But operationally, that is the current church's position.”
The DNA debate is largely limited to church leaders, academics and a relatively small circle of church critics. Most Mormons, taught that obedience is a key value, take the Book of Mormon as God's unerring word.
“It's not that Mormons are not curious,” Mauss said. “They just don't see the need to reconsider what has already been decided.”
Critics contend that Mormon leaders are quick to stifle dissent. In 2002, church officials began an excommunication proceeding against Thomas W. Murphy, an anthropology professor at Edmonds Community College in Washington state.
He was deemed a heretic for saying the Mormon scriptures should be considered inspired fiction in light of the DNA evidence.
After the controversy attracted national media coverage, with Murphy's supporters calling him the Galileo of Mormonism, church leaders halted the trial.
Loayza, the Salt Lake City attorney, said the church should embrace the controversy.
“They should openly address it,” he said. “Often, the tack they adopt is to just ignore or refrain from any opinion. We should have the courage of our convictions. This [Lamanite issue] is potentially destructive to the faith.”
Otterson, the church spokesman, said Mormon leaders would remain neutral. “Whether Book of Mormon geography is extensive or limited or how much today's Native Americans reflect the genetic makeup of the Book of Mormon peoples has absolutely no bearing on its central message as a testament of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Mauss said the DNA studies haven't shaken his faith. “There's not very much in life — not only in religion or any field of inquiry — where you can feel you have all the answers,” he said.
“I'm willing to live in ambiguity. I don't get that bothered by things I can't resolve in a week.”
For others, living with ambiguity has been more difficult. Phil Ormsby, a Polynesian who lives in Brisbane, Australia, grew up believing he was a Hebrew.
“I visualized myself among the fighting Lamanites and lived out the fantasies of the [Book of Mormon] as I read it,” Ormsby said. “It gave me great mana [prestige] to know that these were my true ancestors.”
The DNA studies have altered his feelings completely.
“Some days I am angry, and some days I feel pity,” he said. “I feel pity for my people who have become obsessed with something that is nothing but a hoax.” ❧
To see the actual LA Times article click here (last accessed July 10, 2014).
The following articles were written by Paul Trask and appeared first in Refiner's Fire Ministries newsletters.
Is it possible to believe in ‘Jesus’ and still be lost? Yes—if you believe in a counterfeit Jesus, and a counterfeit gospel, which is ‘no gospel at all!’
The Galatians of Paul’s day claimed to believe in Jesus. And so did the Corinthians. But the Apostle Paul said different. Consider what he had to say to the church at Corinth.
"But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2 Cor. 11:3–4)
And to the churches of Galatia,
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:6–9)
Paul tells the Corinthians that they have come to believe in another Jesus — not the one he had preached to them. As a result, he says they have come to place their confidence in a gospel which was quite different from the one they had originally accepted. And as he tells the Galatians, this different gospel — is really no gospel at all!
How can this be? Isn’t there really only one Jesus? And one gospel? Yes, there is only one real Jesus. The Jesus portrayed in the Bible. And there is only one real gospel. The one clearly spelled out by Jesus and the authors of the New Testament — in the real Bible.
But the Corinthians had ‘deserted’ the real Jesus — in favour of a counterfeit promoted by outsiders (misguided Jews) who required these Believers become subordinate to the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant, which had been made obsolete by the cross (Heb. 8:13). This distortion gutted the real gospel of its saving power, making it a different gospel, which was no gospel at all! Pretty serious stuff, don’t you think? These are really matters of spiritual life and death. So we need to pay attention.
Paul says ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Rom. 1:16). But when the gospel is distorted through false teaching, it loses its power to save — it becomes no gospel at all. This is why false teaching is so deadly, it guts the gospel of its saving power. Instead, people place false confidence in a false gospel with false assurance of a false salvation. It simply does not get any deadlier than that!
Make no mistake about it — Joseph Smith was far more misguided than the Jews who had corrupted the churches of Galatia and Corinth with their false teaching. His counterfeit scriptures portray a counterfeit Jesus and a counterfeit gospel, which is no gospel at all. And as his followers rely on him, they also place false confidence in a false gospel with false assurance of a false salvation. Even worse, it actually makes them resistant to the real gospel. Bible scholar F.F. Bruce describes it this way.
People are frequently immunized against a disease by being inoculated with a mild form of it, or with a related but milder disease. And in the spiritual realm experience suggests that it is possible to be ‘immunized’ against Christianity by being inoculated with something which, for the time being, looks so like the real thing that it is generally mistaken for it. (The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 144.)
So it is for followers of Joseph Smith. They believe they already have the truth. And along as they feel that way, it is impossible for them to hear — and respond — to the real gospel. They only open themselves to the real gospel once their faith in Joseph Smith is shaken, or destroyed altogether. And so that is a central part of our ministry. To those who are willing to hear, it is quite easy to demonstrate the grave errors of Joseph Smith and his counterfeit scriptures and gospel. We then focus their attention squarely on the real Jesus. We drill into them this central, Biblical truth.
Jesus + Anything Else = Nothing
Jesus + Nothing Else = Everything
This is Paul’s message to the Corinthians and the Galatians. Our ministry to Latter Day Saints is the same as the Apostle Paul’s. We endeavour to destroy false teaching in favor of the real Jesus, and the real gospel of the real Bible. The result is genuine salvation and a living, growing relationship with the real Jesus. ❧
The real Bible would condemn everything Joseph Smith was planning. Knowing this, Smith performed a preemptive strike by first smearing the Bible itself. By convincing his followers that the Bible itself was corrupt and unreliable, Joseph was free to come up with a variety of competing scriptures of his own, which seriously contradict the Bible and establish his own doctrine and theology.
This “low view” of the Bible is aptly expressed in this 1833 excerpt from the church’s official paper.
"As to the errors in the bible, any man possessed of common understanding, knows, that both the old and new testaments are filled with errors, obscurities, italics and contradictions… "(“Errors of the Bible,” Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 14., [Independence, Missouri: July 1833], p. 106)
This unthinkable sentiment was fostered by statements Smith had already made in his 1830 Book of Mormon.
"And the angel of the Lord said unto me, Thou hast beheld that the book [Bible] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God: Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God: And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; And also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away." (1 Nephi 3:165–169)
Joseph Smith taught that the Bible was systematically altered by “a great and abominable church,” and was no longer reliable, being “filled with errors, obscurities, italics and contradictions.”
Smith’s accusations imply that the Biblical text was tightly controlled by an evil, highly centralized church leadership which mandated substantial alterations. This theory, however, amounts to nothing more than naïve superstition, and bears no resemblance at all to real history.
In reality, the Bible is the most widely attested book in the history of the world. There are over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament alone (24,000 if you include fragments). These manuscripts blanketed the entire Mediterranean world, clustered around the several major centers of Christian influence, some of the manuscripts dating to the second century. We would ordinarily expect to find wide-ranging discrepancies and variances among documents as old as the thousands of New Testament manuscripts. But this is not the case at all. According to Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce, “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.”
The shear volume and age of manuscript evidence eliminates any possibility of systematic corruption. It would have been virtually impossible to systematically alter 5,000 manuscripts flung across the entire Mediterranean world. It is logistically ludicrous. On the contrary, the stunning agreement of these ancient manuscripts demonstrates that care was taken to faithfully copy the documents. This strong desire to have faithful and accurate copies kept textual variances to a minimum. The large number of ancient manuscripts and their close agreement is probably the strongest argument in support of the reliability of the Bible. Joseph Smith’s accusation that the Bible was systematically altered flies in the face of real, documented history; it simply doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever.
History also tells us that there were several centers of church influence — which continues to this very day! Students of church history also know that there was a certain level of tension among these centers. Yet despite this tension, their manuscript families retained remarkable agreement. The fact that there were several major centers of church influence absolutely rules out centralized control over the text. Church history is careful to tell about all kinds of controversies which troubled these early centers of Christianity. It’s silly to think that these diverse leaders would — or could — conspire together to systematically alter all of their manuscripts. Once again, Joseph Smith’s assumptions are embarrassingly naïve.
It is clear that Joseph Smith would not allow himself to be judged by the Bible. Quite the contrary, he himself would stand in judgment upon the Bible. And so it is today with the followers of Joseph Smith. Whether knowingly or ignorantly, they disparage the Bible as an inferior document in favor of Joseph Smith’s own “revelations” which they feel are far superior. This rejection of Biblical authority is a major part of their dilemma, and stops them from hearing and understanding the real Jesus and the real gospel. ❧
These ancient texts completely invalidate Smith's claim that the Bible had been corrupted.
The Book of Mormon asserts that a "great and abominable church" corrupted the Bible, rendering it both distorted and incomplete. Joseph Smith was supposed to have corrected this problem by restoring the Bible to its original purity in his "Inspired Version" of the Bible, which is the official version of all RLDS/Community of Christ churches and break-away Restoration/Remnant groups. See this brief excerpt from of the Book of Mormon. (The entire rant against this "great and abominable church" is quite lengthy, 118 verses: 1 Nephi 3:139–256.)
"And the angel of the Lord said unto me, Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God: Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God: And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; And also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (1 Nephi 3:165–169, emphasis added)
The theory here is that a highly centralized and corrupt early Christian church systematically altered the text of the Old Testament, rendering it incomplete and unreliable. In my article entitled "Is the Bible Reliable?"I debunk the assertion that a single church hierarchy systematically altered over 5,000 copies of the Greek New Testament. And so we now turn to the issue of the reliability of the Old Testament, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Discovered in the 1940s and 1950s, the Dead Sea Scrolls were the library of a separatist Jewish community at Qumran, created from roughly 200 bc to 50 ad, and containing portions of every Old Testament book except Ester. And when these scrolls were compared to our present Old Testament, they were found to be nearly identical. For example, when two copies of the Isaiah scroll were examined, "they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text…The five percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling" (Gleason Archer, Old Testament Introduction, p. 29). Please note the following observations.
- The Qumran community was Jewish, not Christian, and therefore could have had no connection with that "great and abominable church."
- The Dead Sea Scrolls predate the Christian era altogether, and therefore could not possibly have been subject to the corruption allegedly performed by that "great and abominable church."
- Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were of Jewish origin, and predate Christianity, even the Book of Mormon acknowledges their purity, "Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles" (1 Nephi 3:165–169).
- The fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls are nearly identical to our present Bible demonstrates conclusively that the text was faithfully handed down to us; our present Old Testament is accurate and reliable.
- These ancient texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain virtually none of the text Joseph Smith inserted into his so-called "Inspired Version" of the Bible.
- These ancient texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain virtually none of the text Joseph Smith inserted into his so-called "Inspired Version" of the Bible.
- Had the Book of Mormon assertion been accurate, the Dead Sea Scrolls would have actually confirmed the massive insertions Joseph Smith placed in his Inspired Version of the Bible, since these texts predate the corruption of that "great and abominable church," and were therefore deemed "pure."
The implications of this ancient discovery are inescapable and devastating: (1) One of the greatest contentions of The Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 3:165–169) is proven false, adding to a mountain of other evidence demonstrating that the whole book is fraudulent. (2) Joseph Smith's so-called "Inspired Version" of the Bible is also proven to be fraudulent, having been betrayed by the ancient manuscripts which actually should have confirmed it! Could anything be more clear? Latter Day Saints need to come to grips with this stunning reality.
Joseph Smith could not have known that a hundred and twenty years later the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls would completely betray his entire work. But his followers now have the benefit of this wonderful discovery. Please pray with us that this information will help awaken them to the fact that Joseph Smith is indeed a false prophet. Only then will they be freed up to learn of the real Bible, the real Jesus and the real gospel. ❧
Who would say such a thing? And why? Read on to discover the startling answer!
by Paul T. Trask © May 20, 2002
NOTE: The following is an updated version of the article which has been on our website since 2002. In 2007 this article was plagiarized by another author and placed in a book and on his own website without any attribution whatsoever. This author has since been notified of his infringement, and he has posted corrections and proper attributions both on his website, and as an Errata to his book.
In the heat of the Missouri “Mormon War” of 1838, Joseph Smith made the following claim — and threat,
I will be a second Mohammed to this generation…whose motto, in treating for peace, was “the Alcoran [Koran] or the Sword,” so shall it be eventually with us, “Joseph Smith or the Sword.”
It is most interesting that a self-proclaimed Christian prophet would liken himself to Mohammed, the founder of Islam. His own comparison invites us to take a closer look as well. And when we do, we find some striking — and troubling — parallels. Consider the following.
• Mohammed and Joseph Smith both had humble beginnings. Neither had formal religious connections or upbringing, and both were relatively uneducated. Both founded new religions by creating their own scriptures. In fact, followers of both prophets claim these scriptures are miracles since their authors were the most simple and uneducated of men.
• Both prophets claim of having angel visitations, and of receiving divine revelation to restore pure religion to the earth again. Mohammed was told that both Jews and Christians had long since corrupted their scriptures and religion. In like manner, Joseph Smith was told that all of Christianity had become corrupt, and that consequently the Bible itself was no longer reliable. In both cases, this corruption required a complete restoration of both scripture and religion. Nothing which preceded either prophet could be relied upon any longer. Both prophets claim they were used of God to restore eternal truths which once existed on earth, but had been lost due to human corruption.
• Both prophets created new scripture which borrowed heavily from the Bible, but with a substantially new “spin.” In his Koran, Mohammed appropriates a number of Biblical themes and characters — but he changes the complete sense of many passages, claiming to “correct” the Bible. In so doing he changes many doctrines, introducing his own in their place. In like manner, Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon, much of which is plagiarized directly from the King James Bible. Interestingly, the Book of Mormon claims that this same Bible has been substantially corrupted and is therefore unreliable. In addition, Joseph Smith went so far as to actually create his own version of the Bible itself, the “Inspired Version,” in which he both adds and deletes significant portions of text, claiming he is “correcting” it. In so doing he also changes many doctrines, introducing his own in their place.
• As a part of their new scriptural “spin,” both prophets saw themselves as prophesied in scripture, and both saw themselves as a continuation of a long line of Biblical prophets. Mohammed saw himself as a continuation of the ministry of Moses and Jesus. Joseph Smith saw himself as a successor to Enoch, Melchizedek, Joseph and Moses. Joseph Smith actually wrote himself into his own version of the Bible — by name.
• Both prophets held up their own scripture as superior to the Bible. Mohammed claimed that the Koran was a perfect copy of the original which was in heaven. The Koran is therefore held to be absolutely perfect, far superior to the Bible and superceding it. In like manner, Joseph Smith also made the following claim. “I told the Brethren that 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 its precepts, than by any other book.”
• Despite their claim that the Bible was corrupt, both prophets admonished their followers to adhere to its teachings. An obvious contradiction, this led to selective acceptance of some portions and wholesale rejection of others. As a result, the Bible is accepted by both groups of followers only to the extent that it agrees with their prophet’s own superior revelation.
• Both Mohammed and Joseph Smith taught that true salvation was to be found only in their respective religions. Those who would not accept their message were considered “infidels,” pagans or Gentiles. In so doing, both prophets became the enemy of genuine Christianity, and have led many people away from the Christ of the Bible.
• Both prophets encountered fierce opposition to their new religions and had to flee from town to town because of threats on their lives. Both retaliated to this opposition by forming their own militias. Both ultimately set up their own towns as model societies.
• Both Mohammed and Joseph Smith left unclear instructions about their successors. The majority of Mohammed’s followers, Sunni Muslims, believe they were to elect their new leader, whereas the minority, Shiite Muslims, believe Mohammed’s son was to be their next leader. Similarly, the majority of Joseph Smith’s followers, Mormons, believed their next prophet should have been the existing leader of their quorum of twelve apostles, whereas the minority, RLDS, believed Joseph Smith’s own son should have been their next prophet. Differences on this issue, and many others, have created substantial tension between these rival groups of each prophet.
• Mohammed taught that Jesus was just another of a long line of human prophets, of which he was the last. He taught that he was superior to Christ and superseded Him. In comparison, Joseph Smith also made the following claim.
“I have more to boast of than any ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
In light of these parallels, perhaps Joseph Smith’s claim to be a second Mohammed unwittingly became his most genuine prophecy of all. ❧
1. Background – This statement by Joseph Smith is from the sworn affidavit of Thomas B. Marsh on October 24, 1838, who was a first hand witness of the prophet’s remarks shortly before. Up until this time, Marsh had been President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. On February 10, 1838, Thomas Marsh and David Patten together, had also been elected Presidents ‘pro tempore’ of the Church in Missouri (RHC, vol. 2, p. 142). Marsh’s testimony is confirmed in the sworn affidavit of Orson Hyde, who had formerly been a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles as well.
Joseph Smith’s Mohammed statement is also verified in the sworn affidavit of another first hand witness, John Corrill. Up to this time John Corrill (High Priest and Bishop’s assistant) also had a long and distinguished career in the church; he had been placed in charge of Kirtland Temple, appointed member of the committee to appraise and sell lots in Far West, appointed Keeper of the Lord’s Storehouse and as recently as April 6, 1838 had been appointed a historian of the church (RHC, vol. 2, pp. 9, 113, 120, 149).
The sworn affidavits referred to above come from Correspondence, Orders, &C., in relation to the disturbances with the Mormons; and the evidence given before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-house in Richmond, in a criminal court of inquiry, begun November 12, 1838, on the trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, for high treason and other crimes against the state. (Fayette, MO: Published by the order of the General Assembly, 1841), Thomas B. Marsh, pp.57–59; Orson Hyde, p. 59; John Corrill, pp.110–113. This book may also be viewed online on the website of the Missouri Secretary of State.
RHC above refers to The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, MO: Herald House, 1967).
2. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Facts on Islam, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), pp.8–9. Eric Johnson, Joseph Smith & Muhammed, (El Cajon, CA: Mormonism Research Ministry, 1998), pp. 6–7.
3. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2nd revised edition, 1978) vol. 4, p. 461.
4. Ibid, vol. 6, pp. 408–409.
Joseph Smith never understood the gospel of Christ. And so he attempted to replace it with his own brand of Old Testament style legalism.
My wife, Leslie, taught at a Jewish synagogue school in Los Angeles for 13 years. A fellow teacher once traveled to Texas for a wedding and returned with a question. “Leslie, what is this Christian thing with grace?” When Leslie asked what prompted her question, she replied, “We saw a number of Christian churches while we were there, and many of them had ‘Grace’ in their name. We figured it must be a significant Christian concept.” What a wonderful opening! Leslie then did her best to explain the Christian gospel of grace. But the concept never seemed to register. You see, this woman was a very observant Jew. She kept a strict kosher home, religiously kept the Jewish Sabbath and invited us to a festive Jewish ceremony where her husband circumcised their newborn son. No wonder Leslie’s explanation of grace never registered; there is no room in such a system for the Grace of Christ. This is why Jesus abolished their system.
But this woman was right when she observed that grace must be a significant Christian concept. In fact, grace is the very essence of Christ’s gospel, as Paul says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). Interestingly, the Greek word for grace, charis, may also be translated gift. That’s why Paul also describes salvation this way, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Accordingly, he had dedicated his entire life to “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Time and again the New Testament makes clear that Jesus’ gospel of salvation is in fact a gift, which can never be merited or earned through works of legalism. We honor God by simply trusting Him and accepting His gracious offer. Period. Consequently, there is no room for legalism in the gospel of Christ. The inseparability of grace and gospel is the reason grace appears in the New Testament 123 times!
Joseph Smith’s emphasis, however, is exactly opposite of that found in the New Testament. In his Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) for example, Joseph Smith mentions grace 26 times, but law(s) 75 times – nearly 3 times as much! And 3 additional times he characterizes God as the church’s lawgiver. When Joseph Smith does mention grace, it is mostly lip-service in order to make his pronouncements sound more Biblical. Most of the time grace is simply an attribute of deity, such as “full of grace and truth” (D&C 22:4, 21; 36:1; 66:5, etc.). On the other hand, he makes numerous references to a wide variety of laws being given to his church by their lawgiver. One of Joseph Smith’s clearest proclamations of his legalistic “works salvation” is in connection with the resurrection of the just; people obtain this resurrection “by keeping the commandments, they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins” (D&C 76:5b). Consider also his astonishing claim from the Book of Mormon, “And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses…” (2 Nephi 11:45). That Joseph Smith was solidly rooted in legalism is further evidenced by his creation of an Aaronic priesthood and High Priests, mimicking the Old Testament legal priesthood of Israel. However, this officiating priesthood was an inseparable part of the Mosaic law and was forever abolished by Jesus’ completed work on the cross. The Apostle Paul is most emphatic on this point.
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code [Mosaic law], with its regulations, that was against us...he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13–14).
"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:2–4).
Laboring under their burden of false scripture and doctrine, is it any wonder that Latter Day Saints are lost?
Each fall we have a Ministry Picnic for former RLDS members, although others attend as well. A couple of years ago, with well over 100 in attendance, I asked how many were former RLDS members. Nearly every hand went up. I then asked how many never understood the gospel until they left the RLDS church. As far as I could tell, the same hands went right back up. And that’s because they never understood the grace of God. Conversations with hundreds of Latter Day Saints over the years have confirmed this.
Latter Day Saints are just as lost as Leslie’s Jewish teacher friend. When we try to talk to them about the grace of God, they look just as puzzled as she did. They need to be set free from their legalistic trap, and introduced to the beautiful Gospel of Grace given us in Jesus…. because the entire work of Joseph Smith can only be characterized as a dis-grace. ❧
The Book of Mormon portrays a very different Jesus from that of the Bible
You may not know this, but more people attend church on Easter than any other time of year, including Christmas. In fact, church planters will often time the official launch of their new church to coincide with Easter, so they can capitalize on this fact.
Easter—commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ—is indeed the centerpiece of the Christian faith. In this event, God demonstrates His unbounded love for mankind, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17).
Students of the New Testament see Jesus going to great lengths to reclaim sinners. He even “hangs out with them” in order to save them. One time He went out of His way to spend time with a wealthy tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. As a result of this visit, Zacchaeus ended up dramatically repenting of his great sin, to which Jesus proclaimed for all to hear, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:9–10).
But perhaps the most dramatic example of Jesus’ desire to save the lost is found in Luke 15. This chapter contains what is popularly called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” So profound is its message, that theologians have long referred to this chapter as “the gospel within the gospel.” The entire chapter is really one parable in three acts. It starts with a man seeking out and reclaiming a lost sheep, then moves on to a woman diligently seeking out a lost coin, and concludes with a father seeking out not one, but two wayward sons, in the hope of reclaiming their fellowship. In the process he withstands severe humiliation in order to hold out costly love to his rebellious sons. In the parable he is successful with the younger son, but we are left in tension regarding the fate of the older. His costly love, however, is extended equally to both.
Jesus’ work of salvation not only continued, but exploded after his resurrection. Some people, though, mocked these early believers, because they felt Jesus had not made good on His promise to return soon. Peter explains why the delay. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
And so the Jesus of the Bible is portrayed as patient and loving, in the hopes of saving lost mankind. For this was His very purpose from the beginning. And His efforts to this end are epitomized in His death and resurrection, which we commemorate at Easter-time. His work of redemption is thus made available to all.
But in the Book of Mormon, we find another Jesus at work—one quite different from the Jesus of the Bible we’ve just been looking at. Those familiar with the Book of Mormon know that it claims Jesus visited the Americas after his resurrection. But before He gets here, he wipes out massive segments of the population. The 4th chapter of 3rd Nephi (RLDS version) describes a three-hour-long holocaust at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, followed by three days of absolute darkness. Horrific storms and violent earthquakes overtake the land, such that the whole topography becomes deformed (v. 14). Many cities are burned, many others are sunk in the sea (v. 11), and a mountain of earth is heaped up upon at least one city, burying its inhabitants alive (v. 9). In each of these cases, the entire population is annihilated. When the dust clears, we are told, “It was the more righteous part of the people who were saved” (3 Nephi 4:66, see also v. 41). Whereas the real Jesus of the real Bible “came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), the Book of Mormon Jesus annihilates the lost before He even arrives! And didn’t Jesus say, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32)? In the Book of Mormon, however, the doctor annihilates his entire hospital!
Yes, it is true that Latter Day Saints claim to believe in Jesus. But theirs is not the real Jesus of the real Bible. Their Jesus is one of Joseph Smith’s fertile imagination, and is radically different. The Biblical Jesus still lives today to “seek and save what was lost,” and His work continues around the globe, giving people of every nation hope, forgiveness and salvation, full and free. The mythical Jesus of Joseph Smith, on the other hand, only serves to ensnare people in a false hope of a false salvation based on a counterfeit gospel, which “is no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7).
Please join with us and pray for the deliverance of those who have been ensnared by Joseph Smith. Remember, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). ❧
The Worldwide Church of God (now Grace Communion International) interviewed Paul Trask in March 2003 for publication in the May 2003 issue of thier monthly magazine, The Worldwide Church of God News. A text copy of that interview is directly below.
In March, 2003, Paul Trask met with three leaders of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), headquartered in Pasadena, California. The WCG was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, and revolved around his personal interpretation of Sabbatarianism, and
Paul Trask (right)
with Mike Morrison
a variety of other legalistic doctrines. Armstrong's death in 1986 freed the church's surviving leadership to begin examining their cultic doctrinal positions in the light of Biblical truth. Over the following nine years, the WCG shed itself of Armstrong's heretical teachings in favor of Biblical Christian doctrine. As a result, the WCG is no longer considered a psuedo-Christian cult, but has joined mainstream, genuine Christianity. The WCG has since changed its name to Grace Communion International.
The WCG asked if they could publish an interview with Paul in their May 2003 issue of The Worldwide Church of God News (WN). The content of this interview follows below.
with Mike Morrison
“Former RLDS minister helps free others from heresy of Mormonism”
Paul Trask, a former minister in the Reorganized Latter Day Saint church (RLDS), met with J. Michael Feazell and Michael Morrison, March 10. Following is a WN interview with Mr. Trask.
WN: What is your background with the RLDS?
Paul Trask: I joined the RLDS church shortly after my wife, Leslie, and I were married in 1970. We were both 19 at the time. Before that I was a Baptist.
I joined the RLDS church in relative ignorance of its real theology. I had not yet read the Book of Mormon. I later became active in the church after we had been married about three years. This happened after I was forgiven by the Lord for living a sinful life during my final college years.
After six months of high activity I was "called" to the RLDS Aaronic priesthood as a priest. A year after that I was called to be an elder in their Melchesidek priesthood and asked to be the pastor of their San Francisco, California, congregation.
After my tenure as pastor I was asked to be a counselor to the bishop of the San Francisco Bay Stake. I resigned this position, however, when I realized that most of my formal activity was not very spiritually oriented.
My wife and I went on to be active in RLDS congregations in Michigan and Texas before we moved to Independence, Missouri, where the RLDS church is headquartered.
Shortly after our arrival in Independence, the church experienced a major split over liberal vs. fundamental issues. Our family joined a large number of other fundamental RLDS members by meeting independently, outside the auspices of RLDS leadership.
I went on to be the pastor of the largest of these independent groups in Independence. It was while I was pastor of this independent group that my wife and I finished some of our most troubling research and soul-searching. In anguish, I resigned my position as pastor, and our family left the RLDS church in January 1989, never to return.
WN: What led you to leave?
Paul Trask: Our family left the RLDS church as we lost faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and in the reliability of his scriptures and doctrines. These are the foundations upon which our faith in the RLDS church was built. Without these fundamental pillars in place, the whole idea of the RLDS church became completely untenable.
I became gravely concerned that we had not only been deceived ourselves, but as a priesthood member and pastor, I had taught countless other people the same deceptions that I had fallen for. I deeply feared that I was seriously misrepresenting the God I loved and thought I was serving so diligently. I felt we were in a house that was on fire; we escaped as quickly as possible.
WN: When did you begin to doubt your beliefs?
Paul Trask: In 1983 we became aware that one of Joseph Smith’s books of scripture, the Doctrine & Covenants, had been substantially altered from its original form. I studied this problem carefully and actually conformed my personal copy of this book to the original documents. My goal at this time was to be more "pure" in my personal belief and practice.
I shared my discovery with others as well, with the thought of ultimately reforming the RLDS church back to these original pronouncements. But as I studied the altered documents over the years, it became apparent that we would never really be able to "put Humpty Dumpty back together again"; the damage was too extensive.
Current church structure and practice had been based on the altered documents since 1835. Plus, I encountered major resistance among church members to the whole idea of the Doctrine & Covenants having been altered. Many members simply could not entertain the notion. It was far too much of a stretch for them.
And then in the spring of 1988 I lent some material to a friend of ours written by one of the early church leaders. It exposed and explained some of the mistakes that had been made early in the church’s history, including the alteration of the Doctrine & Covenants.
Our friend had been questioning the church himself, even before reading this material. After he read it, he and his family left the church. I was shocked and flabbergasted. My friend then began giving me things to read, but I told him I was having a hard time being a pastor and reading all of those things!
Soon after this, however, my wife and I for the first time began a critical examination of the Book of Mormon. I expected it to hold up under scrutiny much better than it did. Before long we had discovered a number of major problems for which there did not seem to be any rational answer, except for one: that the Book of Mormon was a fraud.
WN: What is the difference between Mormons and the Reorganized Latter Day Saint church?
Paul Trask: The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was originally comprised of Mormons who elected not to follow Brigham Young from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Utah in 1846. They refused to follow Brigham Young for two primary reasons. First, they rejected polygamy, which Brigham Young was still promoting. And second, they strongly believed that Joseph Smith had designated his son, Joseph Smith III, to be his lawful successor as president of the church.
Many of these people stayed behind, and became scattered throughout the Midwest. In the early 1850s a group of these independent congregations came together as a loose "Reorganization." Although initially reticent, Joseph Smith III finally accepted the invitation of this group (which claimed to be a reorganization of his father’s original church) and became their president in 1860.
His mother joined this Reorganization with him. The RLDS church rejected not only polygamy as an unacceptable doctrine, but also a number of other doctrines and practices introduced during the Nauvoo era, such as baptism for the dead, eternal progression and secret temple ceremonies.
Notable factors that set the RLDS church apart from Utah Mormonism are (1) they have continuously had a direct descendant of Joseph Smith as their president (until 1996), (2) Joseph Smith’s widow, Emma Bidamon, joined with them, (3) they own and publish Joseph Smith’s revision of the Bible, the Inspired Version, (4) they were awarded the Kirtland Temple, where a court declared them the legal continuation of Joseph Smith’s original church and (5) they are headquartered in Joseph Smith’s city of Zion—Independence, Missouri—where they completed building their own temple in 1994.
For the past 40 years,however, RLDS leaders have endeavored to move the church gradually away from Latter Day Saint doctrine and identity, while secretively endeavoring to gain acceptance by mainstream Christian leaders. They are doing this while still claiming a belief in Joseph Smith’s spurious scriptures and un-Christian priesthood structure.
In contrast, the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ is still neither understood nor promoted. Beginning in 1984 a number of fundamentalist groups broke away from the RLDS church over these doctrinal issues, most of which have now incorporated as independent churches.
Unshackled by this fundamentalist movement, the surviving RLDS church has become increasingly liberal. Whereas Joseph Smith claimed for his church exclusive truth and authority, today’s RLDS church now openly promotes religious pluralism.
Pluralism wrongly teaches that God authored and is at work in all of the world’s religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, and that salvation can be found in them all. Pluralism also promotes dialogue among the world’s religions in order to create a high level of tolerance and respect for each others’ religious heritage.
It is in this sense that today’s RLDS leadership continues to identify with the religious heritage left them by Joseph Smith. They no longer claim this heritage as authoritative—as Joseph Smith did. Rather, they claim it as their own unique contribution to the religious fabric of the world, of which they so desperately want to be a part.
This is in stark contrast with their own history, and with Utah Mormonism, which still maintains a firm belief in Joseph Smith and his founding doctrines, including the exclusive authority to represent God on earth.
WN: Tell us about your ministry with RLDS. How did it get started? What prompted you? Why do you believe God is leading you to reach out to RLDS?
Paul Trask: When I first left the RLDS church, I just wanted to get it behind me. Yet I still had a love for God, and felt he had called me to ministry. I knew that I had been deceived, and wanted to know the truth about God. So I enrolled in Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. Our family moved to Pasadena, feeling that we would never return to Missouri.
The program at Fuller was so intense that I did not have much time to look back at Joseph Smith, which was just fine with me. After I graduated from Fuller, I was seeking the Lord’s will for myself, and direction for our family.
During this time, my son, Nathaniel, felt that one Sunday sermon was directed at me, that I should use my talents to address the RLDS issue. I was surprised at his response, but continued to ponder if he was right.
Around this time, during my morning devotions, I came across the following passage in Hebrews 7:11: "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?"
This passage started a flood of thoughts about Joseph Smith’s priesthood system, and was the genesis for a book I ultimately wrote titled Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons. A number of other things also began falling into line, and our family decided to return to Independence, Missouri.
While I had entertained the idea of writing a book about the RLDS church, I felt I needed some definite confirmation from the Lord before taking on such a large undertaking. My wife and I prayed one morning for such confirmation.
Later that same day the confirmation came in a most unexpected way. I discussed this confirmation with my wife, and we agreed that I needed to start on the book. I really had no idea how my book would be received, so I started small by printing only 250 copies when it was completed.
These copies were either sold or spoken for before they were ready to be picked up. So I then decided to print a much larger run. Shortly thereafter, the Independence newspaper, the Independence Examiner, ran a story about my book and me. I also did a book signing and got a few bookstores to carry my book. My book was now off and running.
I also taught six chapters of my book on the RLDS priesthood system at a Baptist church, which is supportive of my ministry. To my delight, my book was beginning to have an impact. People were leaving the RLDS church in favor of genuine Christianity. I continue to be thrilled each and every time I get word of someone leaving the deception of Joseph Smith and coming to the Lord by reading my book.
In early 2000 I felt the Lord prompting me to start a website to minister to the RLDS. My brother-in-law and I made some movement in that direction, but it was not ultimately successful. In early 2001 I had some downtime from my consulting work. During this time the Lord impressed upon me again, in the middle of the night, the need to start a website. His prompting was gentle, but firm.
The next day I went out and bought the necessary software. I spent the next two days going through the tutorial to learn how to use it. I then started constructing a website. Within a few weeks I had a website up and running. You can access it at www.help4rlds.com
In the past two years I have seen traffic steadily increase on the website, and I continue to answer numerous e-mails from people who visit the site and have questions or just want to vent their anger at me! I continue to get feedback that the website has filled a void in ministry to the RLDS.
Ministry to the RLDS is not something I ever aspired to. My book came first, and then the website. I sometimes have to pinch myself and acknowledge that I indeed have a ministry going on here. I am gratified as I see people being set free from Joseph Smith.
I know that the Lord is reaching people through the work he has led me to do. And if he wants to bear fruit for himself through my efforts, then I am thrilled to be a part of it.
I am privileged to use the knowledge and information the Lord has provided me to benefit others who are still ensnared in Joseph Smith. I have to be honest, that I was quite an unwilling messenger at first. But the Lord has inspired me to keep with it as I see souls being liberated.
WN: What interested you about the WCG’s journey?
Paul Trask: Awhile back I picked up a copy of Mike Feazell’s book, The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God, at a Christian bookstore. As I began reading it, I couldn’t resist underlining certain passages that were reminiscent of my own mindset while I was in the RLDS, and of my awakening process as I began discovering how wrong it was.
I finally had to stop underlining, because I got to the point where I was practically underlining whole pages. I was amazed that this kind of transformation could happen among numerous leaders of the same denomination at roughly the same time.
I was even more amazed that these leaders were able to courageously lead their entire denomination away from deeply entrenched —but wrong—teaching and into genuine Christian doctrine and practice.
It is my deepest desire for this same process to happen to the RLDS church. I still have family and friends in the RLDS church, and I would like nothing more than to see the Lord liberate them from Joseph Smith, as he did my family and me. Most people I have shared this dream with feel I am being hopelessly optimistic, and unrealistic. But I feel that if God was both willing and able to do this for the Worldwide Church of God, then he can do it for the RLDS. And so the WCG journey gives me hope and inspiration. ❧
The following articles have been converted from "tracts" on our old website. For the most part, they are condensed from material in Paul Trask's book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons. More information on these topics may be found in that book.
We have to choose either the real Bible, or Joseph Smith and his scriptures — because the two are completely incompatible
The Christian’s Relationship to the Bible
True Christians believe the Bible. In addition to His Son Jesus Christ, it is God’s special revelation of Himself to mankind. In the Bible God announces His goodwill toward us and explains how we can come back into relationship with Him through faith in Jesus, manifested in loving obedience to Him. Apostle Paul says to young Timothy: “...continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
Jesus believed the Bible. He quoted it authoritatively to Satan when tempted in the wilderness. He quoted it on many other occasions. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets ... I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the slightest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from it until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17- 18). We could not ask for a better testimony for the accuracy and reliability of Scripture. God gave us His own Word on it. [2000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls also confirm the reliability of today’s Old Testament. And more than 5000 manuscripts, some dating to the second century, testify to the accuracy of our New Testament.]
The same Spirit of God who gave birth to the Scriptures has continued to speak through them in living power to all generations who would seek the Way of Salvation. In countries today where Christian witness is severely restricted or even outlawed—the Bible often remains God’s only missionary to His lost sheep, and with amazing results. Christian workers in those countries recount an endless stream of converts whose only contact with Christianity was—the Bible.
Joseph Smith’s Relationship to the Bible
If Joseph Smith had ever had a genuine relationship with the Lord, he too would have believed the Bible. Instead, he held a “low view” of the Bible, maintaining that it was an inferior document and very unreliable. This low view is reflected in an official church newspaper article entitled “Errors of the Bible.”
“As to the errors in the Bible, any man possessed of common understanding, knows, that both the old and new testaments are filled with errors, obscurities, italics and contradictions, which must be the work of men... the church of Christ [Latter Day Saints] will soon have the scriptures, in their original purity [Joseph’s “Inspired Version”] ...It must be admitted by all who have any knowledge of the general state of society, at the present time, that it is very corrupt... and yet the bible, instead of the hearts of men, must be PURIFIED! (capitalized as in the original) It has been translated and sent to almost all nations, and now, the whole work is full of errors and indecent expressions!” (Evening and Morning Star, v.2, no.14, [Independence, Missouri, July 1833], p. 106, italics added)
Convincing his followers that the Bible was corrupt enabled Joseph to introduce new “scriptures,” which seriously contradict the Bible and establish his own doctrine. He would not be judged by the Bible; instead, he stood in judgment upon the Bible.
Today Joseph’s followers unknowingly discard the Bible as an inferior document in favor of Joseph’s own “revelations” which they feel are superior. In the words of an early conference statement over which he presided,
“The conference prized the revelations to be worth to the church the riches of the whole earth, speaking temporally. The great benefits to the world, which result from the Book of Mormon and the revelations, which the Lord has seen fit, in his infinite wisdom to grant unto us for our salvation, and for the salvation of all that will believe, were duly appreciated” (RLDS Church History 1:229–230, emphasis added).
According to church belief, one’s salvation hinges on accepting the scriptures Joseph generated. But the huge disparity between the message of the Bible and Joseph Smith’s scriptures is a subject which very few Latter Day Saints are willing to explore.
Joseph Smith produced four books of scripture which are accepted by his followers: The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Inspired Version of the Bible, and the Pearl of Great Price. RLDS accept all of these as scripture except a part of the Pearl of Great Price, the remainder being found in the other scriptures or in church history. Utah Mormons accept all four books, but lacking copyright to Joseph’s Inspired Version of the Bible, instead choose to include his alterations as footnotes or appendices in their King James Version. ❧
The short answer is: Neither — it is a scriptural and doctrinal heresy.
The Biblical priesthood of Aaron consisted of the offices of priest and high priest. These were set in place through Moses, along with the Law and the earthly tabernacle while the children of Israel lived at Mt. Sinai. The Lord specified only Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, and his sons to be Israel’s priests (Ex. 28:1). The other Levites were set apart as assistants to help in the work of the tabernacle and to care for its furnishings (Num. 3:5-10).
• When the Bible speaks of the “Levitical priesthood,” it is actually referring to the narrower lineage of Aaron and his sons within the tribe of Levi, the rest of the Levites being designated as assistants.
• Only one of these priests at a time was designated the great, or high, priest. He alone offered a “most holy” sacrifice once a year to atone for the sins of all Israel (Lev. 16:34). This took place on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32). Aaron was the first high priest, followed by his son, Eleazor (Num. 20:25-29). This high priest foreshadowed Christ’s perfect and final sacrifice.
• The other Aaronic priests performed daily sacrifices and other duties in the tabernacle (later, the temple), assisted by non-Aaronic Levites. This practice was still in effect at the birth of Christ (Luke 1:5-9).
• When men outside of Aaron’s lineage were appointed as priests, it led to God’s wrath and destruction (1 Kings 12:31-32; 13:33-34; 2 Chronicles 11:5, 13-17).
New Testament - The Aaronic Priesthood in the Light of Christ.
• The Levitical priesthood is an integral part of the Mosaic Law. Hebrews 7:11-12 makes this clear: “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest [Christ] should rise after the order [manner] of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” The law’s Aaronic priesthood was abolished by Christ’s own unique priesthood as He made the perfect and final sacrifice. “And every priest [Aaronic] standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on [at] the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting [waiting] till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified [being made holy].” (Heb. 10:11-14, emphasis added.) See also Hebrews 7:18, 8:13, 10:1-10; Romans 10:4; Col. 2:14; Gal. 5:2-4 all referring to Christ’s completed work, abolishing the law. Any attempt to return to the law’s Aaronic priesthood holds Christ in contempt.
• New Testament Priests? Acts 6:7 – “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” The original Greek tense here is more accurately translated “were becoming obedient” (NASB) making it quite clear that these are not Christian ‘priests,’ but former Levitical priests who accepted Christ as the Messiah.
The Heresies of Joseph Smith’s Aaronic Priesthood
• Priesthood not in Aaron’s lineage. Every priest and high priest within Israel was to be a male descendent of Aaron and his sons, with only the exception of those with physical deformities (Lev. 21:16-23). Since the main people of the Book of Mormon claimed descent from Joseph, it ignores this single God-given requirement for priesthood and holds faith, repentance and good works as the qualifying criteria for high priests (Alma 9:65, 67; 10:2). The D&C also teaches that this priesthood can and should be obtained by an individual’s own initiative (D&C 83:6c).
• Origin of the High Priesthood. High priesthood originated with Aaron at Mt. Sinai under the law of Moses. This fact invalidates Adam or Melchizedek being portrayed as high priests in the Book of Mormon, D&C or Inspired Version. (See related artcile on Joseph Smith's Melchizedek Priesthood.)
• An Aaronic Priesthood in the Christian Church. The perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross forever eliminated the need for a Levitical, or Aaronic, priesthood to administer the sacrificial system of the Mosaic law. This includes the offices of High Priest and Priest. Attempting to revert to the Levitical priesthood shows contempt for the perfect and completed work of Jesus, the Christ.
The short answer is: Neither — it is a scriptural and doctrinal heresy.
In Israel, royal kingship and priestly authority were completely separate and often less than harmonious. Melchizedek’s importance in the Bible is that he was both a priest and a king.
Before Jesus was born, Melchizedek is named only twice in the Bible:
• Genesis 14:18-20. This brief verse tells us two things about Melchizedek: he was king of Salem [later to be Jerusalem] and he was “priest of the most high God.” In the Bible, this combination of king and priest in one person is both rare and significant.
• Psalm 110:4. “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ ” This entire Psalm is a prophecy of the future rule of Israel’s Messiah. Jesus applied it to Himself (Matt. 22: 43-45; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42). The Psalm is also applied to Christ in Acts 2:34-35 and Hebrews 1:3; 5:6; 7:17,21; and 10:12,13. This scripture tells us that Melchizedek’s order [type or manner] of priesthood [both priest and king] foreshadows the priesthood of the coming Messiah. This was a new concept to Israel, whose law required priests only in Aaron’s lineage. (See the related article on Joseph Smith’s Aaronic Priesthood.)
New TestamentThe book of Hebrews mentions Melchizedek nine times (KJV), explaining that Christ’s own priesthood is superior to the law’s Aaronic priesthood (Heb. 4:14-7:25). The context allows no interpretation of a lost Melchizedek priesthood existing in the early Christian church.
• Melchizedek’s Priesthood is greater than Abraham or the Law. The Levitical priesthood was an integral part of the Mosaic law. Hebrews 7:11- 12 makes this clear: “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest [Christ] should rise after the order [manner] of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” The law’s Aaronic priesthood was abolished by Christ’s own unique priesthood as He made the perfect and final sacrifice. “And every priest [Aaronic] standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on [at] the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting [waiting] till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified [being made holy].” (Heb. 10:11-14, emphasis added.) See also Hebrews 7:18, 8:13, 10:1-10; Romans 10:4; Col. 2:14; Gal. 5:2-4 all referring to Christ’s completed work, abolishing the law. Any attempt to return to the law’s Aaronic priesthood holds Christ in contempt.
The Heresies of Joseph Smith’s Melchizedek Priesthood
• Origin of the High Priesthood. High priesthood in the Bible originated with Aaron at Mt. Sinai under the law of Moses. Melchizedek was never a high priest in the Bible, invalidating that claim in the Book of Mormon, D&C and Inspired Version.
• Multiple High Priests. Only one high priest served at a time under the Mosaic law (foreshadowing Christ, our great High Priest). But the Book of Mormon refers to many high priests at the same time (Mosiah 7:14; Alma 21:34; Helaman 2:23). Why?
• The Lineage of Melchizedek. Jews kept precise genealogical records to validate eligibility for priesthood. In Hebr. 7:3, the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood was that he had no such genealogy: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” In God’s Word there is no end recorded to his priesthood, and so he is compared to Jesus, whose priesthood also endures forever. Contrast this with Alma 10: 14 which says Melchizedek reigned under his father; and with D&C 83: 2c-g which claims that Melchizedek is one in an unbroken chain of high priests from Adam to Moses. God never alters His own Word (see Numbers 23:19).
• A Melchizedek Order of Priests. Every Biblical reference to the Melchizedek priesthood pertains to Jesus Christ’s unique role in bringing salvation to mankind. Any attempt by man to appropriate our Savior’s unique priesthood or title is a form of blasphemy.
Within just two short years, many of Joseph Smith’s original “revelations” were changed — massively and systematically. Yet Joseph did not protest, though the result was huge changes in his church’s doctrine and practice. Why?
Joseph Smith received fifteen revelations beginning in 1828 through the same “seer” stone through which he produced the Book of Mormon. These are sections 2-16 in the current RLDS/Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). An additional 98 revelations were received by “inspiration” before Joseph died in 1844.
• 1833 Book of Commandments. The church quickly took steps to publish these words “from [God’s] own mouth” (D&C 19:2b). They were printed piecemeal, one or more per issue, in the official church newspaper, the Evening and Morning Star (E&MS) until the complete book of revelations could be prepared at the church’s own print shop in Independence, Missouri. Mob action against the church in 1833 destroyed their press and stopped completion of the book — but press sheets of the first 64 revelations were salvaged and a few hundred bound copies of this Book of Commandments (BofC) were distributed. Some of these revelations had already appeared in the E&MS, and (with the exception of one 11-word phrase) those 22 revelations are identical in both the E&MS and BofC. In June 1833 Joseph Smith wrote to W. W. Phelps (the printer) pointing out only four one-word corrections after personally proofreading the entire BofC (RLDS History of Church, 1:300). Now one the rarest books produced by the early Mormon church, this 1833 Book of Commandments (along with the 1835 Kirtland Edition D&C) has been photo-reproduced by the RLDS church and is distributed by Herald House as a “Replica Edition.”
• 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. However, when we compare the 1835 D&C (Kirtland Edition) to the original revelations (from the bound B of C and later ones printed in the E&MS), we find over 2,700 words added and almost 600 words deleted. These changes are so significant the numbering of the revelations was altered to make them more difficult to compare.
• The Evening & Morning Star now needs to be reprinted. The E&MS was actually reprinted by the church leadership to include their new wording: “In the first 14 numbers, in the Revelations, are many errors, typographical and other, occasioned by transcribing manuscript; but as we shall have access to originals, we shall endeavor to make proper corrections” (E&MS, vol.2, no. 24, Sept. 1834, p 192). However, by examining these massive and systematic changes, it is clear that they are far more than simply typographical errors. Something else is clearly going on here.
• Covering Up the Occult Connection. In 1829 Joseph gave a revelation to Oliver Cowdery, his principal scribe for the Book of Mormon, encouraging his use of an occult divining rod—the “rod of nature.” Comparing D&C 8:3 with BofC chapter 7, we find 17 words deleted and 64 words added to change this “rod of nature” to a “gift of Aaron” and then declare it to be the “gift” or “power” of God. The church had become too respectable to admit of this overtly occult practice. Better cover up.
• Introducing High Priests and the First Presidency. David Whitmer (one of the three special Book of Mormon witnesses) in his Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: 1887, p. 56) tells us plainly why the early revelations had to be changed.
“In the winter of 1834 they saw that some of the revelations had to be changed, because the heads of the church had gone too far, and had done things in which they had already gone ahead of some of the former revelations.” (emphasis added)
Two ways they had “gone ahead” were by introducing the office of “High Priest” and the creation of a “First Presidency.” Every significant function of higher leadership in the RLDS church is performed by High Priests. But the office of High Priest is completely illegitimate in the Christian church (see our articles on Joseph Smith’s Aaronic & Melchizedek Priesthoods). The First Presidency created a ruling triumvirate of a President (Joseph) and two “Counselors.” This same pattern of government is used in the church down to local pastorates. In order to legitimize High Priests and a First Presidency, earlier revelations (D&C 17, 42 & 48) were altered so it appeared they were there from the beginning."
• Softening the Financial Law. Joseph met Sydney Rigdon in Kirtland Ohio in December 1830. Part of Rigdon’s Campbellite congregation was practicing “common stock,” imitating the early Christian church practice of “all things common,” found in Acts 2. By February 1831 Joseph himself received a revelation which sought to further regulate the practice, and — more importantly — put him in charge of it. Thus gaining the trust of Sidney Rigdon and his Campbellites, this one act alone more than doubled the size of his fledgling church. But dissention soon arose over the practice, including some in the highest ranks of the church, notably Oliver Cowdery. Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery was one of only two men charged with republishing Joseph’s revelations as the D&C in 1835. It is not surprising, then, that the offending revelation (BofC section 44) was gutted of “all things common” when republished as D&C section 42 in 1835. Problem solved.
• There are many other revelation changes than presented in this brief overview. See Paul Trask’s book, Part Way to Utah: the Forgotten Mormons for more details.
• Joseph died a full nine years after his own revelations were substantially altered in the 1835 D&C. Yet there is no evidence that he ever sought to overturn this outright coup of his original theology, nor that he ever publicly protested how others had had the audacity to change revelations which were directly from God.
• If Joseph’s revelations really were “from [God’s] own mouth” (D&C 19:2b), how dare anyone change them? And how dare Joseph Smith’s own complicity by playing along with it — for nine full years?
Joseph Smith produced his blatantly fraudulent Book of Abraham in the middle of 1835, even before Kirtland Temple was dedicated. Most RLDS consider Joseph to be at the peak of his prophetic career in 1835. Big problem.
The “Pearl of Great Price” is a collection of Joseph Smith’s “odds and ends.” It was first published by the LDS (Utah Mormon) church in 1851. LDS still accept the entire book as scripture, whereas RLDS do not — technically. But RLDS actually do accept most of the book — 3 out of 4 parts — either as scripture itself, or as authentic church history. Ironically, it’s the part they reject — the 4th part, the Book of Abraham — which creates the biggest dilemma for them. This article will explain why.
The Pearl of Great Price is divided into four sections. Here they are.
1. Book of Moses. Chapter 1 is a revelation by Joseph, received June 1830, giving prophetic support for his altered KJV Bible now called the “Inspired Version.” It was not included in any Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) until the RLDS 1864 edition as Section 22. Chapters 2–8 comprise Genesis chapters 1–8:18 of the Inspired Version, the official Bible of the RLDS and their offshoots. And so this entire Book of Moses is actually accepted by RLDS as scripture.
2. The Writings of Joseph Smith. The first subsection is Matthew 23:39–24:56 of Joseph’s Inspired Version of the Bible. The second subsection is comprised of excerpts from Joseph’s 1838 “History of the Church.” Both of these subsections, then, are accepted by RLDS, though the latter is not technically regarded as scripture per se, but is fondly embraced as the legitimate history of Joseph Smith and his early church.
3. The Articles of Faith. This document is a statement of faith included in an 1842 response to inquiries by John Wentworth, editor of the “Chicago Democrat” newspaper. RLDS usually refer to this document as their “Epitome of Faith” and often distribute it in a poster or framed picture format. It is that highly esteemed. This doctrinal statement continues to be embraced by both RLDS and Mormon churches alike. And so The Articles of Faith are not only accepted, but fully embraced by RLDS as a concise theological statement of their faith, generated by their founding prophet.
Before we get into the 4th part, I just want to emphasize that the RLDS actually do accept the 3 preceding parts of the Pearl of Great Price — part as their own scripture, part as their own legitimate history or as their own theological statement of faith. Now on to the juiciest part of all.
4. The Book of Abraham. So this is the only part which RLDS reject. But it’s the one that gets them in the biggest trouble. Let’s take a close look and see why.
In the mid-1830s a man named Michael Chandler had a touring exhibition of four Egyptian mummies and several papyri which were found with them. Having heard of Joseph’s reputation as a translator, Chandler came to Kirtland, Ohio to see if Joseph could translate these papyri. Joseph quickly identified one to be the writings of Abraham and another to be the writings of Joseph of Egypt. Excited about the prospects of Joseph translating even more ancient documents, the church purchased the papyri from Chandler for a sizeable sum.
At this point it is important to note that Egyptian was not translatable by American scholars until 1837 when the famous “Rosetta Stone” research became available to the English speaking world. And so Joseph first attempted to construct an Egyptian alphabet and grammar. But this attempt ultimately failed. So Joseph finally resorted to “inspiration,” a method with which he was very familiar by now. Since virtually no one else could decipher Egyptian at that time, he must have felt quite safe doing so. What did he have to lose?
Through inspiration Joseph “translated” the papyri and claimed them to be the writings of Abraham. (The writings of Joseph of Egypt were left untranslated.) His translation became known as the “Book of Abraham,” which the church began promoting as legitimate scripture. It was first published in the church’s official newspaper, “Times and Seasons,” beginning March 1, 1842.
However, unlike his Book of Mormon, whose plates were supposedly taken away by an angel when it was complete, Joseph left enough of a trail for us to evaluate his effectiveness in translating the Book of Abraham. Joseph included 3 facsimiles of the Egyptian hieroglyphics he had translated in the book’s first publication in the Times and Seasons. The first scholarly review of Joseph’s translation was printed in 1861 by Jules Remy, a Frenchman who wrote a book about his visit to Salt Lake City. He took the hieroglyphics to Theodule Deveria at the Louvre, who translated them. That translation was published parallel to Joseph’s in Remy’s “A Journey to Great Salt Lake City.” Deveria’s translation, however, was vastly different from Joseph’s. He claimed they were merely Egyptian funeral documents, unlike the Biblical content which Joseph had ascribed to them. Now who could have ever guessed that you would find ordinary funeral documents in a mummy? What a shocker!
In 1966 a University of Utah Professor by the name of Aziz Atiya recognized Joseph’s papyri in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. After substantiating the documentation of the papyri, the museum sold them to the LDS church. Egyptologists once again examined them, and once again they proved to be — funeral documents.
So why does all this matter? RLDS carefully insulate themselves from Joseph Smith during the “Nauvoo era” of the church (1839-1844) because of his esoteric practices such as baptism for the dead and polygamy that developed during that time. And since it was right in the middle of this period (1842) that the church started actually publishing his Book of Abraham, RLDS are able to dismiss it with ease. But what they fail to grasp, however, is that this blatant fraud was produced right in the middle of 1835, while Joseph’s loyal followers were busily sacrificing their cherished china to be crushed into mortar for the exterior of their beloved Kirtland Temple! The dedication service for the temple didn’t even happen until March 1836. And for many, many RLDS, this dedication service remains the absolute pinnacle of the church’s experience, divinely attended and abounding in spiritual manifestations, confirming that Joseph was indeed God’s true prophet and that his church was “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which [the Lord was] well pleased” (D&C 19:5e).
You’ve probably already formed these questions as you’ve read through this article thus far. And together, I think you’ll agree they form the RLDS Grand Dilemma:
If Joseph Smith was quite willing to deceive his followers with the Book of Abraham, what does that say about his willingness — and ability — to do the same with his other “scriptures,” including his Book of Mormon?
Furthermore, what does this story have to say about his fundamental integrity as a man, let alone as a prophet of God?
The following articles are provided by others.
A friend of mine forwarded the following article for me to look at and consider posting. It is quite good, and so I'm making it available here.
It is written to Utah Mormons (with related references), but the author's approach is applicable to all Latter Day Saints. He makes observations and asks questions which beg an answer.
The article is written by John R. Gentry, and comes from the website BibleStudyGuide.org. The article can be directly accessed at Is the Book Of Mormon Inspired by God? Was Joseph Smith a Prophet of God?
I requested and was granted permission to make this article available here in pdf format.
Paul Trask’s introduction to “The Paradigm Shift Dilemma,” by Nelson Hultberg
I discovered this article in the Liberty Crier, to which I am a subscriber (http://libertycrier.com). Its thrust is political & economic. But the principles discussed are universal. Nelson Hultberg puts his finger squarely on a cluster of human dynamics which are all intertwined — egotism, integrity, honesty and the ability to change one’s mind about important matters. This kind of change is popularly referred to as a Paradigm Shift, as Mr. Hultberg will explain.
Indeed, I have observed this cluster of dynamics in play in virtually every facet of human endeavor. But I have been particularly attentive to it in spiritual matters. And that’s the reason I am providing a copy of this article. All too often, people cease being “seekers of truth,” but rather “seekers of support for their previous convictions.” We occasionally make fun of this dynamic with the familiar line, “I’ve already made my mind up – don’t confuse me with the facts!”
At a certain point in life many people seem to develop mental and spiritual “rigor mortise” as it were. They lose the ability to think clearly and accurately about significant issues – even in the face of important new information. They instead spend their energy defending or justifying their thoughts or actions of an earlier day and time.
Now that you’ve read this short introduction, perhaps you, too, will be attentive to this inclination in yourself and others.
I hope you find this article informative and thought provoking. Perhaps it will even lead to a Paradigm Shift!