Doctrine: If you are Christian, than the witness of God’s Holy Spirit should carry more weight than the witness of “flesh and blood.” The Book of Mormon supports and validates the witness of the Bible. To disprove the Book of Mormon is also to disprove the Bible. Bible Prophets have the same human characteristics and weaknesses of Joseph Smith. To discount Joseph Smith as a prophet because of His humanity is to discount all prophets. The wisdom and witness of men is the god of atheists. The wisdom and witness of God and His Holy Spirit is the god of Christians.
If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and your testimony is struggling in the current societal environment, buckling under growing church transparency, and stifling under a list of ordinances, covenants and commandments: what are your options?
You basically have only three options.
- You can hang on to what you believe even though it’s a struggle. You can trust the spiritual experiences you’ve had. You can turn to God with your questions and to His word for your answers. You can keep trying to come unto Christ as you wait to see more clearly through the all the worldly fuzz and your own personal confusion, struggles, and issues.
- You can leave the Church. You can decide that God isn’t real. You can become an atheist.
- You can pretend that the only things about God and religion that bug you are inside the Mormon Faith. You can try to join another Christian faith (with all its accompanying issues). You can try, for a while, to hold onto the logic you used to leave the LDS church until you realize it applies to all Christian faiths. Then, you either have to stick to your decision in pride to prove a point and avoid embarrassment, or you have to become agnostic or atheist (option 2), or you have to come back to your original faith and embrace option one.
If you are considering option one, then hopefully this blog will help you hold strong. If you are considering option two, then hopefully this blog will help you find belief in God again. If you are considering option three, then I hope this blog will encourage you to put your trust in the witnesses and information you have received “from God” through the Holy Spirit over the witnesses that come from “flesh and blood.”
The Book of Mormon
A lot of people leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they become convinced that the Book of Mormon has some inconsistencies. From a misspelled word to some minute perceived educational or historical discrepancy touted by some anti-Mormon religionist (i.e. a person whose religion is to prove Mormonism wrong). These inconsistencies overwhelm any spiritual experiences or witnesses they have received of the book and cause them to fear. After all, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our witness of Christ. If it’s got issues, then the whole Church must be wrong, right?
First, let me take the apologetic argumentative approach to this. If you are discounting the Book of Mormon because of an inconsistency, then you must also discount the Bible for the same reasons. Or perhaps you feel you can safely discount the Book of Mormon because only 15 million+ people believe in it while 2.2 billion+ hold some respect for the Bible. But, if your comfort level believing in the Bible is only due to the number of people who accept its validity, then that’s not really a very good reason to believe in it at all.
Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). When Joseph Smith said “most correct,” I don’t think he meant without flaws or issues. I think he meant that it is the “most correct” in its witness of Christ and Christ’s doctrines. The fact that its authors in their individual records may have written in a way that is contrary to what our modern society recognizes as historically accurate for that time, or that there are simple or minor errors in the translation from Joseph who translated it by the gift and power of God and those who were scribes for him is not surprising. If that is the case, we could discount any book on earth that contains any human error whatsoever–especially the Bible.
For the modern Christian, or for any Christian, the Bible is so full of perceived and real inconsistencies. And if we are to base its usefulness in leading us to Christ on its lack of inconsistencies, then we might rather be atheist.
Here is one, and only one example (or I would spend the whole blog on simply the Bible’s inconsistencies, or any religious text’s inconsistencies). The Bible says that God is the same (Ps. 102:27) and that He changes not (Mal. 3:6). If that’s true, then when God says in Amos 3:7 that He doesn’t do anything “except He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets,” then, it stands to reason that God should always have prophets on the earth to whom He can reveal His will. But, all modern Christian religions believe that “God has done His work,” that “there are no prophets today.”
Now, Catholicism adheres to the idea that the Pope communes with God to an extent, but aside from that, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that believes in modern prophets, apostles, the church organization instituted by God, and constant, on-going revelation. So, people who believe the Bible are saying that God is the same…but He’s not? Or, they are saying that simply because we are such an enlightened world we don’t need God’s dedicated guidance through a prophet anymore? That’s hardly possible. Or, that God doesn’t love us as much as the people in the past and so He doesn’t have prophets for us? But, wait. Doesn’t the Bible say that God loves all His children the same? Hence, I could as easily disprove the Bible the same way people try to disprove the Book of Mormon.
Now, let me be quite clear. I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. I believe it leads people to Christ as much as it is capable of doing, despite human meddling, human interpretation, and human deletions. As well, I’ve studied the Bible and I know what the God of the OT and the NT was like and it’s the same God that is preached in the Book of Mormon. As well, I have prayed about both books and the Holy Spirit has confirmed to me that they are God’s words.
The Book of Mormon is called “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” So, to discount the Book of Mormon is to say that you “have a Bible and there can’t be any more Bible” (2 Nephi 29:3-8). Except, the Bible you have came from the Jews, who aren’t even Christians (that they are aware of). But, whether you understand the origin of the Bible or not, what you’re saying is that you don’t want another witness—to the whole world—that the God you believe in is real? Or, you don’t want a witness of Christ that is not perfect…even though the Bible isn’t perfect? Or, you don’t believe that God spoke to any of His other children…and only the Jews?
Does not the Bible say:
Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and I will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:19)
Now, IF you believe the Bible is true I’m not saying you have to believe the Book of Mormon is the stick of Joseph. But, all “flesh and blood” logic aside, then where is the other stick/record? Is God a liar? Or, perhaps He hasn’t brought forth the stick of Joseph yet. But, either way, when it comes to light (if you don’t believe it’s the Book of Mormon), how will you know if it is indeed the word of God? Because some slick-tonged, educated, anti-Mormon religionist tells you it’s true? A man/woman who is no more than flesh and blood whose breath is in his nostrils (Isaiah 2:22) is going to control how you define where God’s word is?
In Matthew 16:13-18 Christ has a discussion about the authority of the voice of flesh and blood over that of God.
Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Here the entire world said Christ was something else than He was. And I have no doubt that they were convincing. At that time monotheism was a joke (except for the Jewish religion and even they struggled with reverting to idol worship). 2.2 billion+ were polytheists with idols and the like. Yet, Peter had a witness from God that Christ was the Son of the only true and living God. That was how he knew the truth. There were not even a few thousand, that actually believed Christ was the actual Son of God.
If the Bible is true in any sense, the only way to know it—despite its perceived or real contradictions and flaws—is by a witness from God. There is no greater witness. Not from “flesh and blood.” It is the same with the Book of Mormon. For those things that are spiritual are only comprehended by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11, 14). Not by fact, not by science, not by educated men and women giving their thumbs up.
But, let me continue on with a less apologetic rant (2 Nephi 29:7-8 [3-8]).
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea: and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
So, if you want to discount the Book or Mormon—another witness of Jesus Christ, the God to whom you so desperately cling—then you must also, at some point, discount the Bible. Because the Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible and Christ.
But, if your doubts about issues with the Book of Mormon is still strong. I have a few final things to share.
Here is the first. These are scriptures from writers of the Book of Mormon where they are concerned about their human mistakes in writing the record. They are worried that future generations will see these weaknesses and discount the record.
2 Nephi 33:10-11:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words (meaning the Book of Mormon) and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things (meaning the records within the Book of Mormon) because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou has made us mighty in word by faith, but thou has not made us mighty in writing; for thou has made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou has given them;
Thou has also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness…
Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness…
And I Moroni, after having heard these words was comforted, and said…Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou has said, that if the Gentiles have no charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.
And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity…
And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things: And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
Here is my second.
One of my biggest complaints about people that try to discount the Book of Mormon after having once testified of its truth or believing in it is that they never comment about whether or not it is bringing them to Christ or not. That never factors into why they stop disbelieving it or why they leave the Church.
Does reading the Book of Mormon make you better? More Christlike? Or, if you haven’t studied it in a long time (which is often the case), are you discounting it based on a vague memory of what you read? If it’s not true, don’t turn only to the few issues people point out. Read it from cover to cover. Find out if it leads you to Christ or not despite its weaknesses. Isn’t that the true test?
However, if your issue is that it was translated by Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim or a seer stone or a rock he found on the ground or through a stained glass window, then again, what really matters is “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16-20), if you believe the Bible. What is the fruit of the Book of Mormon? Whether it has a million typos or a historical or other discrepancy on every page, what are its fruits?
If the Book of Mormon is flawed even though it testifies of Christ then so is the Bible. If you once accepted the Book of Mormon; either it’s from God and so is the Bible, or its not from God and neither is the Bible. It’s impossible to dismiss the Book of Mormon without also dismissing the Bible. If your issue is with how it was translated instead of what its fruits are, then you’re straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24). If your issue is with Joseph Smith, then continue on…
Prophets, Apostles, and Church Leadership
The world and members of the Church have begged for the Church of Jesus Christ to be transparent. So, the Church has worked hard to become more transparent. They have produced as much honest fact and material as they can. And, some of this information doesn’t answer all the questions and issues people have. And, they are upset that there are still some things God hasn’t revealed to “their” pleasure. And, it suddenly becomes the Church’s fault.
As well, people who have only ever studied about Joseph Smith enough to gain a testimony of him and the Book of Mormon are now taking the time to look into the history of the Church, it’s past, and the humanity of its prophets and leadership. What they find shocks them. Joseph was a pretty regular human guy. He was subject to the culture of his time. He was poor with finances and most administrative concepts.
Of course, this delving into the Church’s history and the weaknesses of its leadership leads to all sorts of concerns and questions. Could this man really have been a prophet?
I’m not sure if the issues people have with past and present Church leadership is more a question of their unrealistic expectations versus reality. But, a lot of them seem to have this idea that God calls only perfect people to do His work. Some of them seem to think that once a person is called to God’s service that they won’t make any mistakes or that God will keep them from making certain mistakes and that all will be easy and well.
Just as so many religions claim “God has done His work,” we modern Latter-day Saints seem to also believe that God somehow was only meant to ask hard and difficult things of past people, not us present ones. Heaven forbid we are ever asked to do anything that teaches us the depth of our own faith. God is too nice for that now… He won’t ask me to do anything as difficult as Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).
I honestly haven’t been able to figure out what the real basis is of people’s complaint against Joseph Smith, but it boils down to a lack of faith. It has nothing to do with Joseph Smith—not really
But, I have found that most people who leave the church still like to fall back on Christianity (in a general sense) and therefore the Bible. They think there, in the Bible, they will find prophets who are “true prophets.”
So, let’s make a comparison of Bible prophets and Joseph Smith. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to quote every scriptural reference that validates these lists. If you don’t believe the lists then I put it to you to search the Bible, both OT and NT, and prove my list wrong. It’s not hard, but it will take time. But, I had to put in the time, so it’s clearly possible.
|Bible Prophets and Leadership||Joseph Smith|
|· Were previous sinners who reformed
· Were doubted and betrayed by family and close associates
· Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service
· Lost privileges when they forgot to put God first
· Regained privileges when they repented
· Were often the “least” of their brethren and associates
· Often had weaknesses that would have made them a surprise pick for prophet
· Received a mission and commandments from God
· Commanded to dispense God’s plan, ordinances, commands, and covenants
· Saw the Lord Jesus Christ
· Accepted their prophetic call despite their self-doubts
· Were asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (at the time) didn’t understand
· Were prone to the superstitions and culture of their day
· Were often poor administrators or parents
· Doubted the Lord’s requests and commands
· Allowed others to lead them astray for a time
· Made mistakes
· Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so they had to seek the Lord for guidance and information
· Had annoying human personality traits
· Had marriages that were disliked or questioned
· Had multiple wives as commanded by God
|· Was a previous sinner in some normal human aspects and reformed
· Was doubted and betrayed by close associates and friends
· Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service
· Lost privileges when he forgot to put God first
· Was the “least” of the people of his time
· Had weaknesses that made people doubt God would call him as a prophet
· Received a mission and commandments from God
· Was commanded to restore God’s church (dispense His full plan), ordinances, commands, and covenants
· Saw the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father
· Accepted his prophetic call despite his doubts
· Was asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (then and now) often don’t understand
· Was prone to superstitions and culture of his day
· Was well known to be a poor administrator as well as poor at most organization and finances
· Struggled with some of the Lord’s requests and commands
· Allowed Martin Harris, and others, to lead him astray on some issues
· Made mistakes day to day like all humans do
· Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so he had to seek the Lord for guidance and information
· Had a natural playfulness that many people of his time thought was unbefitting a prophet, and irreverent of a holy man
· Had marriages that were disliked or questioned
· Had multiple wives as commanded by God
I’m sure there are more things to list on both sides. I’m not trying to present a comprehensive list. I’m merely trying to point out that Joseph Smith was no different than any other prophet called by God. In fact, most of the prophets had some or most of the items on the list, but not all. Joseph was proven and tried with everything past prophets had been tried with. What a burden! And people don’t even give him any credit.
So, Joseph Smith is Joseph Smith. A good man, not a perfect man, who became a great man, but who nonetheless was human. Was he a prophet? That’s for you to decide. But, it’s very senseless to take any part of his humanity and use it as a data point to say he couldn’t have been a prophet. God can and will use whomever He wishes to fulfill His work. If we want to sit around and entertain and hiccup over complexities and doubts based on a person’s imperfections and humanity rather than to trust the fruits of the person’s labors, that’s our business. But, it will never bring us peace.
If we are willing to serve God and we love Him, it matters not how imperfect or weird we are. God can use us to do His work. And, He will. The only time God can’t use someone to do His work is if that person isn’t willing, and doesn’t love God. It has nothing to do with perfection or talents or charisma or experience. If God chooses someone, then they are chosen until they become unwilling to do God’s will. End of story. That’s GRACE! Grace is about doing God’s will imperfectly and still being accepted because we are trying. I know we like to put people on pedestals, but it applies as much to prophets and apostles as it does to us.
So, on a final note, people like to pick and pry and complain about all of Joseph Smith’s (and other Church leaders issues, policies, etc.). And, yet, they can solve all of the little doubts and complexities with sincere prayer (2 Nephi 32:8) offered with real intent to follow the answer: “God, was Joseph Smith a prophet despite his humanity?” Or, if you’re issue is with modern prophets and leadership: “God, is <current prophet> your chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance today?”
We can pray about individual policies too, but in reality, it’s much simpler than that. If Joseph Smith was a prophet then the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth and will bring us closer to God than any other book. If <current prophet> is God’s current chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance, then God is behind whatever he is doing whether we understand it or not. Don’t trust man! Ask God!
Indeed the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Book of Mormon says, “Ask God if these things are true and the Holy Ghost will reveal the truth of it unto you” (Moroni 10:3-5).
“Flesh and blood” is no good for a foundation of faith. If you want to believe in God and not be an atheist, then you must place the witness of the Holy Ghost above the witness of men. Men’s wisdom is the god of the atheist. Godly wisdom is the god of the Christian. If you claim to trust God’s word then you must study it and “by its fruits” and a witness of the Holy Ghost know if it is true.
Most of the time, in my life, I have found that seasons of doubt—which are often fueled by the doubts of others—are most often caused by a shock to our religious expectations. The only way to overcome this romantic, incorrect view of God and His plan is to study His word, listen to His prophets, and seek the witness of His Holy Spirit—not the factual, data-driven witness of men. We must come to know Him, not our version of Him. Then, we can stand with surety in our faith. Until then, we have merely built our spiritual house (testimony) on sand.