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Understanding Mormonism

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fascination with the Mormon church. It all stems from May 2007, as I was spending my first weekend in Russellville, AR during my internship at the First Free Will Baptist Church. The YP there was out of town, getting his Master’s degree and I was at their home on a Saturday morning when the doorbell was rung. I looked, and lo and behold there were two, young, white shirt, gentlemen at the door.

As we began to talk, I began to sense that they knew what they were talking about, from the standpoint of how to present their side. Me, being a senior in college, began to use my Bible training to my disadvantage as I began to get flustered while talking to them. I essentially told them that I believed the Bible to be true, while they told me that the Book of Mormon presented the name of Christ 2500 times. I asked them if they had ever read the Gnostic Gospels, which also mentioned the name of Christ, but did not make them true. It was at that point, they left, and I felt as though I had earned a victory. Yet since that time, I recognized that I was very unprepared to defend my faith. Not only that, I was acting like a jerk while doing it, getting a big head at the thought that I “ran off the Mormons.”

Since then, Mormonism has both intrigued and impressed me. I have read some books on it, as well as different sources and articles. I have tried to strike up conversations with  Mormons that I have met. I have done research in order to understand what they believe, and the most efficient way to share my faith with them. And, I have secured my own copy of their Book of Mormon.

Here’s what I have learned thus far:

  • Mormons are very knowledgeable. They are very willing to share with others what they believe. They have at least received some form of training in Mormon history and belief. They know the phrases to use, such as “plain and precious” truths to describe Scriptures.
  • Mormons are tough to witness to. This is in direct relation to the above statement. They know what they believe, and therefore, they are hard to sell. In addition, Mormons “bear witness” or testify of what they know to be true. They know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. They know that the Book of Mormon is true because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. This makes it difficult, because even at the supposed contradictions and problems, they believe they are true because of what they feel to be true.
  • Mormons are insistent to challenge you to try their faith. They are always offering you to read the Book of Mormon and ask God to know whether it is true or not. This is an awkward moment, as it calls on someone to make a decision right there in my opinion. But, they insist upon it, and challenge those that they speak with on the topic.

So there are many things that Christians can learn from the Mormon church and believers. Their knowledge and insistence are to challenge us. What would happen if each Christian dug into the Bible the way that the Mormon church digs into their beliefs and Scriptures? What if each Christian were to share their faith with strangers with the fervency that the Mormons share their faith? It would be dramatically different.

The one thing that has intrigued me most about Mormonism, though, is the belief upon the Scriptures. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is the second testament concerning the life of Christ. While the Old Testament gives the history of the Jewish people, and the New Testament gives the story of Christ and the explosion of the church, the Book of Mormon gives the account of Jewish travelers who came to the “American continent” and settled, to be visited by Jesus Christ later after His ascension into heaven. In the Book of Mormon, we find a prophecy in 1 Nephi 13 that in the future, the Bible would lose its “plain and precious truths” to be corrupted by the abominable church, thus showing the need for the additional testament of the Book of Mormon.

Yet, this is not what intrigues me the most. What intrigues me the most is the view that the Bible is the Word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” So I have inquired to a few Mormons – Where has the Bible been mistranslated? Below are a few of the answers I have received.

  • “Have you ever wondered why there are so many different churches with different beliefs?” The claim is that since different people translate different ideologies from the Bible, that it has obviously been mistranslated.
  • Acts 7:54-60 contains the stoning of Stephen. I was actually not able to get answers as to what the problem with this passage was, because the Mormon missionary I was chatting with lost their computer. At some point, we are supposed to reconnect online and pick up where we left off, but thus far, I have received no further information on this “mistranslation.”
  • 1 Samuel 16:14 speaks of the Spirit of the Lord departing Saul and a bad/evil Spirit coming to torment him. This is one that I was able to talk about for a while. I pulled up the wonderful resource at StudyLight.org and informed the Mormon that this is not a contradiction (as they supposed since they claim that God does not have an evil spirit – agreed of course) as the Hebrew word used for “evil/bad” is ra, which simply means a bad spirit that came upon Saul. The conversation quickly changed. I do not count this as victory, but instead, just a change of subject.
  • John 1. John 1 contains John’s speech on Christ being eternal with the Father and establishing Him as the Word. This is contradictory to Mormon doctrine and belief that Christ is eternal, and instead He was a created being from God and Mary. The source that was used here threw me for a loop, as I realized that the Mormons believe this is mistranslated because of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). The problem with the JST is that some verses stay the same, while others are completely changed. Yet, there is no proof anywhere that these need to be changed. So I inquired further about how we can know that this is true, but again, it came back to “Praying and asking God to reveal the truth while reading the Book of Mormon and the JST.” I asked for other examples, but every time, I was given links to the JST. This is the easy way to cop-out that the Bible has been mistranslated, simply because Joseph Smith claimed it was.

I’m presently studying a little further about the Joseph Smith Translation, and will post some more once I receive more information. But it creates a difficulty in discussion when informing the one who you are speaking with that if the Bible has been mistranslated, then from the thousands of manuscripts from hundreds of years would document this. But it all referred back to the JST and the testimony that it was true. It’s difficult.

What do you know about Mormonism?

  1. Gowdy
    May 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I know they believe they are becoming like gods. I found that to be fascinating when we took a mission trip to Ogden, UT and Tim Lewis explained it to us. Admittedly, however, I sometimes get JW’s and Mormons confused and my YUTEs took much better notes during the mission trip than I did and asked more questions. This blog has been helpful.

    • May 24, 2010 at 10:10 am


      The theology differs from different Mormons as I understand it when it comes to “becoming like gods.” I asked something along those lines, and the answer was “Only God knows…” But then again, I am still learning.

  2. Joshua Davenport
    May 24, 2010 at 10:31 am

    The thing about Mormonism that gets me is how shady everything is: Joseph Smith was a known liar and cheat in his home town, as were the men who became his first “disciples”; he read the golden tablets aloud from behind a sheet while someone else wrote down what he said (no one ever saw the golden tablets); said golden tablets magically disappeared after he finished translating them; he finally had to leave New York because the people there wouldn’t tolerate his nonsense any longer; etc. I simply couldn’t take seriously any religion that was founded by a notorious liar.

    • May 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm

      True, yet I try to equate it to the fact that Christianity is in no place to be calling other people crazy. I mean, I literally believe that a whale swallowed a man, people were raised from the dead, and that a donkey talked. I’m in no place to say what they believe is crazy, because some of the very writers of my books were liars, cheats, and murderers…

      But, I do understand what you are saying. I just think it is wise to be careful of how we present things. Not for the sake of being politically correct, but because its true.

      For us though, I stand that we have the evidence to back up our absurd claims, and I know this is what you’re getting at. I think its just about how we phrase that.

  3. May 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    My first introduction to Mormonism was when a new temple was built in the city in which I lived, and my family took a tour of the inside before it was consecrated. I wish I had been a little older to really get a grasp on what they believed.

  4. May 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I think you may be looking at the phrase “as far as it is translated correctly” very differently than do Mormons. Most non-Mormons see the phrase as claiming that the Bible is faulty, whereas Mormons see the phrase as indicating the Bible is the word of God–unless translated incorrectly. The existence of new Bible translations essentially is saying the same thing as Mormons; otherwise the translators would be happy with existing versions. You’ll probably not get a satisfactory example of a bad translation from most Mormons–it’s been my experience that orthodox Christians will appeal to the Greek or other translations far more often than do Mormons (illustrating that they too believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly.)

    Have you ever suggested that someone look at the Greek text or gone yourself to see what the Hebrew or Greek says? If you have, you’re illustrating the concept of the LDS 8th article of faith.

    Perhaps my favorite example of a bad translation is found in the Romanian Bible in the 10 commandments in Exodus. It says, “Thou shalt not commit too much adultery.”
    While I’m sure that’s good advice, I’m certain other translations convey the Lord’s perspective a little better.


    • May 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm

      I actually have examined what the Greek and Hebrew says. I don’t consider this to be an article of my faith, but looking at the evidence that is supplied to me.

      The problem is, every “example” or a bad translation that I have been given is offered from the standpoint of another culture. You have cited the Romanian Bible in the way that it translates a certain phrase. Yet, if I were to check the Hebrew, would it not say – “Don’t commit adultery?” But in fact, it does.

      So basically, what the Mormons would be stating is that the Greek and Hebrew are accurate, but when they’re translated into other languages they would be incorrect?

      Again, I simply ask for a legitimate example where there are clear examples of mistranslations. If this is fact, then it can be documented by a book other than Joseph Smith’s personal translation…

      • May 25, 2010 at 9:29 am

        The whole premise of textual criticism deals with finding the best translation from varying manuscripts. Certainly you can agree that what the original author penned was the intended wording; yet over thousands of years changes have been introduced either by way of omission, interpolation, faulty transmission or translation (which terms can be synonymous.)

        One of my Greek New Testaments lists textual variations with sometimes as many as 40 variant readings on a single page of text. These variations are only samples from among thousands of manuscripts. Consider these few:

        In Acts 7:14, Stephen refers to Genesis 46:26, noting that the number of Jacob’s family going into Egypt was 75. Hebrew manuscripts of Genesis uniformly give the number as 70. The difference exists because Stephen was citing the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. At some point of translation the number got changed–and one of them is incorrect.

        Matthew 12:21 adds a phrase to Isaiah 42
        that only exists in the Septuagint; “And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” If your English copy of Isaiah 42 doesn’t have that phrase, that’s an example of a translation error.

        In the same chapter of Isaiah, (verse 6) God says He will give “thee for a covenant of the people…” Some scholars believe this should be translated “thee for an everlasting covenant” because they’re unsure whether the original word was o’lam or ol’am.

        In Revelation 22:14, the KJV says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life…” My NIV says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes…” Clearly, the Holy Spirit inspired one of those passages and someone changed the other one. Obviously, the NIV translators thought the KJV was faulty or they would have left it unchanged.

        My 1975 edition of the NIV has a pretty astonishing passage in Colossians 2:9 that was revised in a subsequent translation. Again, this is an example of someone concluding that a translation was in error and needed to be changed–precisely the principle articulated by Mormons that that Bible is the word of God when translated correctly.

        The number of textual variants is so large that no one really knows how many there are. I see people claiming percentages like “99% of all the manuscripts agree,” but I think those people end up working in the congressional budget office pulling numbers out of thin air.

        You illustrated my point with the Romanian citation by noting, “If I were to check the Hebrew…” By checking the Hebrew, you ascertained that the translation was faulty. While this problem isn’t unique to other cultures, the Romanian is merely one of the more entertaining examples.

  5. May 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm


    Unfortunately you’ve got some misconceptions in your comments. A lot of people claim that Joseph Smith was a “known cheat and liar” but that depends on who you talk to. His first disciples as you call them claim that they did see the plates; not that they magically disappeared. Eleven men testified that they saw the plates and 8 of them claimed to have handled and lifted them. Their testimony appears in every edition of the Book of Mormon and they were recognized as honest men by their neighbors.

    It is true that he and his followers were driven out of New York and several other states and many were murdered because the people wouldn’t tolerate what they considered to be nonsense. When they were persecuted in one city, they fled to another (Matt 10:23). I think it’s fascinating that could happen in America where men are supposed to be able to enjoy freedom of religion. I’ll bet many of the Jews thought the Apostles were teaching nonsense as well.


  6. Joshua Davenport
    May 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm


    I apologize; you are right about the “disciples” handling the plates. I had forgotten about that. However, I would like to point out that all the men who did so were either family members or close friends of Joseph Smith. And then later, when several of these witnesses abandoned Smith, he sought to destroy their integrity, calling them “liars.” Furthermore, there were a lot of witnesses who claimed to have seen Smith simply dictating the text of the Book of Mormon, rather than reading it from the golden tablets.

    One other thing that I forgot to mention was Smith’s own proclamation as being a prophet of God. This is quite important, because if a prophet of the Lord makes a prophecy “in the name of the Lord,” and said prophecy does not come to pass, then we can know him to be a false prophet. Here are just a couple of the many prophecies Smith made that never happened: 1) “It is the will of the Lord that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was night – even fifty-six years, should wind up the scene.” (Smith prophesied that Christ would return in fifty-six years. I believe that date has long since passed). 2) On September 1, 1842, Smith declared that, “…for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it.” Less than two years later, Smith was shot in a jail in Illinois. These are just two of his failed prophecies; I can certainly give you more if you like.

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