1. The Bible
There is a claim to believe the Bible. Joseph Smith declared, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God…” (The Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith, 8).
However, their belief is qualified by the words, “…as far as it is translated correctly” (ibid). This seems reasonable, but it provides a convenient out when challenged.
Furthermore, they believe that the Bible has been corrupted over time, and that “many plain and precious things” have been taken out of the Bible (1 Nephi 13:25-29). The burden is upon them to prove this.
The reality is, one is left wondering whether they really trust the Bible at all. Mormon Apostle, Orson Pratt, said, “No one can tell whether even one verse of either the Old or New Testament conveys the idea of the original author” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses Vol. 7, p. 28).
2. The Book of Mormon
They believe that the Book of Mormon is from God. Joseph Smith declared, “We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” (The Pearl of Great Price, The Articles of Faith, 8).
The Book of Mormon is less than half the size to the New Testament by word count. It consists of 15 books, and a total of 239 chapters.
The Book of Mormon may be summarized in the following way. (1) A group of people, led by Jared, migrated to the Americas, at the time of the Tower of Babel, approximately 2200 B.C. by their reckoning.. They were known as Jaredites. They ended up fighting among themselves, and completely destroying themselves. (2) Another group led by Lehi, migrated to the Americas in 600 B.C., before the fall of Jerusalem. Lehi had three sons. Nephi was righteous. Laman and Lemuel were unrighteous. In time, two hostile camps developed in the Americas: the Nephites (who were initially righteous), and the Lamanites (who were unrighteous). God cursed the Lamanites with dark skin. (3) After Jesus was resurrected, he appeared in the Americas to the Nephites. He preached to them. They were blessed for many years. (4) The Nephites were annihilated by the Lamanites in about 385 A.D. The location of the final battle was near the Hill Cumorah, in Manchester, New York. Mormon hid Nephite records on the hill (B.O.M., Mormon 6:6) other records were also later hid of Moroni, the Son of Mormon (B.O.M., Introduction; B.O.M., A Brief Explanation). These records were revealed to Joseph Smith, by a reappearing Moroni, centuries later. They are claimed to be the basis of The Book of Mormon.
3. The Doctrine and Covenants
It was first published in 1835. It contains “revelations given to Joseph Smith, the prophet, with some additions by his successors in the Presidency of the church (D&C, Title page). It currently contains 138 sections and two official declarations. These span from September 1823 to June 1978. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith and Spencer W. Kimball have contributed. These revelations are considered to be given “by inspiration of God” (D&C, Explanatory Introduction). These revelations are said to be “in preparation for the re-establishing of the church of Jesus Christ on earth, and later, for the direction of the church so organization” (ibid).
4. The Pearl of Great Price
It was supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith, but first published in 1851. It contains four books. (1) The Book of Moses concerns creation. It supposedly clarifies the record from hat had been corrupted in the Bible (The remarkable Book of Moses by Richard Draper, churchofjesuschrist.org).
(2) The Book of Abraham is a retelling of the life of Abraham. Ham’s descendants are excluded from the priesthood [Abraham 1:21, 25-27 (Not until 1978 were blacks allowed into the Mormon priesthood)]. Pre-mortal existence of man is taught (Abraham 3:22-23).
Joseph Smith supposedly translated this book from some Egyptian papyri which he had purchased. Little was known of Egyptian hieroglyphics at the time. We now know that these papyri had nothing to do with Abraham. They were common burial papyri (see Document Difficulties by Bryan Hodge).
(3) The writings of Joseph is the next book. Part one is Smith’s translation of Matthew 24. Part two is Smith’s record of personal history, especially concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon.
(4) The Articles of Faith contain a list of 13 basic points of belief. “The prophet Joseph Smith first wrote them in a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s request to know what members of the church believed” (Articles of Faith, churchofjesuschrist.org).
5. Continued Revelation
Mormons believe that revelation continues (The Articles of Faith, 7, 9). The President of the church is “a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God” (D&C 107:91-92; Also, continuing Revelation by President James E. Faust, churchofjesuschrist.org). President George Q. Cannon, “We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; but all these books without the living oracles and a constant stream of revelation from the Lord, would not lead any people into the celestial kingdom of God” (Continuing Revelation, churchofjesuschrist.org).
1. The Moroni Promise (or Challenge, Test)
When one asks for confirmation that the Book of Mormon is from God, one is commonly directed to the Moroni Promise. Moroni 10:4 reads, “When ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Usually, it is said that if this book is true, then this prayer will result in a confirming inward feeling. It may be a peaceful feeling or a burning sensation.
This certainly allows those who want to believe, justification for their belief. It helps with Cognitive dissonance.
Let’s remember that feelings can be wrong. The Bible both warns and provides examples of this (Proverbs 16:25; 28:26; Acts 26:9).
This prayer is defended by appealing to James 1:5. However, James 1:5 is a prayer for wisdom. Moroni 10:4 is a prayer for knowledge or revelation.
2. Failed Prophecies
Joseph Smith made some prophecies that did not come true. Consider: (1) Smith prophesied on December 25, 1832 about a coming war. He said that war would soon break out between the states. It would begin at the South Carolina’s rebellion. It would spread out upon all nations (The Doctrine and Covenants, section 87). The newspapers of the day were speaking of coming war (Don Simpson, The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 134-ff). South Carolina was practicing nullification. Therefore South Carolina was a major concern. However, while war did develop between the states, it did not spread upon all nations. (2) Smith prophecied in September, 1832 that they would build a temple in western Missouri, and that it would be built in that generation (D&C 84:2-5, 31 cf. 57:1-2). It never happened. Other failures could be mentioned (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20,22).
3. Translation Problems
There are reasons to question Joseph Smith’s translation ability. (1) The Book of Lehi was supposed to be a part of the Book of Mormon. The book went missing while in the possession of Martin Harris. Smith did not reproduce the book as Jeremiah and Baruch did (Jeremiah 36:27-ff). He said that he was instructed not to do so [D&C 10:16-18, 30 (see – Document Difficulties by B.H.)]. (2) There are problems with the Book of Abraham. This we mentioned earlier in this writing (see also – Document Difficulties by B.H.).
The DNA evidence to date does not support the claim that Native Americans descended from ancient Israelites (Bedrock of Faith is Jolted by William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2006).
The Smithsonian Institute has issued this statement, “Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book (of Mormon – B.H.)” (Don Simpson, The Golden Myth of Mormonism, p. 288). Tens of thousands of people were supposedly killed on or near the Hill Cumorah (Mormon 6). Where is evidence of this?