Summit Lecture Series: Is Mormonism Christian or a Cult? with Douglas Groothuis part 4

Summit Lecture Series: Is Mormonism Christian or a Cult? with Douglas Groothuis part 4 May 17, 2016

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There are ultimately four sources of Mormon authority. They believe that the Bible, when “properly translated,” is authoritative. Joseph Smith made his own ad hoc and unreliable translation of the Bible. They also believe that Doctrines and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, which discusses Joseph Smith’s vision of two personages – the father and the son – are authoritative. Out of these four, they consider the Bible to be the lowest source of authority. They claim that the Bible was originally authorities, but the teachings have been lost. Instead, they believe that these teachings have been restored through Mormonism, the Church of Latter-day Saints.

Image: L.A. Ramsey
Image: L.A. Ramsey

In 1820, a young man named Joseph Smith was seeking spiritual fulfillment and truth, when he had a vision. In this vision he saw two men, God the Father and God the Son, whom he referred to as “two personages”. These personages told him that all the creeds of the churches that are now extant are an abomination in God’s sight. Later, an angel named Moroni supposedly appeared to him and gave him instruction regarding things to come. He also spoke of golden plates that hold God’s truth that would one day be revealed to Smith to share with the world. In 1827, he found the golden plates and used a seer stone to translate them from “Reformed Egyptian”, a nonexistent language. This translation became the Book of Mormon, which is viewed as another revelation of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon includes various accounts of ancient American history, including some that claim that Christ came to America.

There are some tremendous issues with this story. First of all, Joseph Smith did not retain the plates for public inspection. Instead, they were reportedly taken back up into heaven. This gives us only his word as evidence that the golden plates existed and that he correctly translated them from a language that does not exist. Moreover, the claim that Jesus came to America and other historical claims put forth by the Book of Mormon have no verification in history or archeology. Also, about ten percent of the Book of Mormon is plagiarized King James Bible, despite the claim that was supposedly written long before the King James Bible was created. This plagiarism is word for word, including words that were inserted by translator to help people understand the meaning of the text.

Now, you have these golden plates, written in a language that no one except Joseph Smith has ever heard of, that were given to him by an angel. We have no access to this document and there are no historical and archeological verifications for the claims, unless you believe in the Book of Mormon.

In contrast, there are about 6,000 copies of the New Testament in its original Greek language. These documents are addressed when people make translations of the New Testament. We also have many reliable documents of the Hebrew Bible. These are not the original text, but the copies were written very, very carefully by various scribes. Real Christianity has a strong manuscript tradition to draw from and is, in fact, a deeply historical religion. Moreover, the Bible can be corroborated on any number of levels, historically and archeologically. This is not the case with the Book of Mormon when it deviates from where it plagiarizes. One could say that that this ten percent isn’t too bad since it stole from a good source, the King James Bible, but it also includes various teachings that contradict the Bible, as do the other supposedly sacred texts of Mormonism.

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