Document Difficulties

One does not need to expose the Mormon documents to refute them as being from God. All one needs to do is establish that revelation was completed with the New Covenant Canon.

 Moreover, taking the introduction of The Book of Mormon one does not seem to need latter-day revelation. It reads in its opening paragraph “It is a record of God’s dealing with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” Grammatically, this does not say that The Bible plus The Book of Mormon equals the fullness of the gospel. Instead, it says that just as the Bible contains the fullness of the gospel, even so, does The Book of Mormon. This may not be what they believe, but it is what their introduction says.

However, in this writing we do want to expose some difficulties with Mormon documents.

1. The Book of Lehi

The Book of Lehi was to be a part of the original collection of books which make up The Book of Mormon. It is missing. Its loss should raise some serious doubts about the genuineness of Joseph Smith’s work as a prophet.

The story goes that in the summer of 1828, Martin Harris (an early supporter of Joseph Smith) asked permission to take the book home to show to his wife and family members, who were skeptics. The request was twice denied by Smith, after prayerful inquiry was made to the Lord. Permission was granted by the Lord on the third appeal. The book disappeared while in Martin Harris’ possession. It was suspected that Mrs. Harris had hidden the book. Her motive? It was thought that she was testing the prophet to see if he could reproduce it word for word. Moreover, it was thought that if he did produce it, she would alter the original and use it to discredit him. She may have been tired of the financial support her husband was providing Smith. Whatever the case, the missing book, 116 pages long, was never found.

Smith did not reproduce the book. In the preface to the 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon, Smith explained “The Book of Lehi…some person or persons have stolen and kept from me…and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written: and if I should bring forth the same words again…they would publish that which they had stolen” (recorded in Don Simpson’s The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 87). Doctrine and Covenant reads “Behold, they say and think in their hearts – we will see it God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again; and if God giveth him power again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them; therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power…Behold , I say unto you, that you shall not translate again those words” (section 10:16-18, 30).

Do you not find this strange? Smith had the opportunity to show himself capable of reproducing the same words, much as Jeremiah and Baruch did (Jeremiah 36), but he didn’t reproduce the words.

What about the possible altering of the original? Don Simpson asked “If such a publication of the altered original be printed could not the original be recalled by experts for examination…? (ibid, p. 89).

2. The Book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham is a part of a collection of books which make up the Mormon book: The Pearl of Great Price. The story of this book should raise serious doubts about the genuineness of Joseph Smith’s work as a prophet.

The story goes that on July 03, 1835, Joseph Smith bought some mummies and papyrus from Michael H. Chandler in Kirkland, Ohio for $2400. Smith, then translated one papyrus which he claimed to have been written by Abraham. At the time of Smith’s translation little was known about translation from Egyptian hieroglyphics. “It was not until 1860 that the science of Egyptology had developed to the point that it could confidently tests Smith’s translation. By this time Smith was dead (murdered in 1844), and the collection of Egyptian papyrus with his notes had been lost. Where they went to, no one seemed sure, though the Mormon church thought they had been destroyed in a fire at Chicago” (The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 100-f). What did exist were three facsimiles made by Smith which also contained his interpretation. These were submitted to a scholar named Deveria at the Museum of the Louvre. His interpretation did not agree with Joseph Smith’s (ibid). However, the actual papyrus was still missing. It was found in 1966, in the Metropolitan Museum in N.Y. What was found? “There was no mention of Abraham, the religion of Abraham, nor the God of Abraham…The book of Abraham is nothing more than a common burial…papyri…with the fall of the book of Abraham, Joseph Smith also falls as a translator and a prophet” (ibid, p. 114). Wikipedia even provides the true translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics next to Smith’s interpretation.

3. The Kinderhook Plates

In 1843 Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitten, and Wilbur Fugate decided to test the prophet. They made six pieces of brass and engraved on them ancient Chinese-type characters. They used acid to give an appearance of age to the plates in and Indian burial mound near Kinderhook, Illinois. In the presence of Mormons, they dug into the mound an unearthed the plates. The plates were brought to Smith to interpret. Smith wrote “I have translated a portion of the history of the person…it was a descendant of them, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth” (Smith, History of the Church Vol 5, p. 372 recorded in The Truth about Mormonism: a former adherent analyzes of LDS Faith by Weldon Langfield, p. 59-f). In 1879 Wilbur Fugate told how they had forged the plates (Wikipedia). “In 1980 Professor D. Lynn Johnson of the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Northwestern University examined the remaining plate…and determined that the tolerance and composition of its metals was entirely consistent with the facilities available in a 19th century blacksmith shop, and more importantly found traces of nitrogen in what were clearly nitric-acid etched grooves” (Wikipedia)

4. Salamander Letter

The Salamander letter was created by Mark Hoffmann in the early 1980s. The letter was supposedly the work of Martin Harris and William Phelps (early Mormons). The letter supposedly told a different story of the finding of the Golden plates. Moreover, it indicates that Joseph Smith III and not Brigham Young was to be Joseph Smith’s successor (this would undermine the Salt Lake branch of the LDS). The letters were offered to the church for a price. The church, itself, did not purchase the letter. However, bishop Steven Christensen did for $40,000 and donated it to the church. The letter was later declared a forgery, and a fraud. The fraud was discovered when Utah police were investigating Hoffmann in a bombing investigation. Hoffmann is now serving a life term in Utah for murder and forgery. (Watch the Netflix docuseries Murder Among the Mormons).

The difficulty is that the L.D.S. assumed the letter to be genuine until the fraud was uncovered by Utah Police. What’s the big deal. Doctrine and Covenants indicates that the president of the Mormon Church is “A seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet having all the gifts of God” (107:91-92). One gift is the “gift of discernment”. How is it that the church could not discern the fraud?

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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