Just a word of explanation to those of you who are not LDS. I didn’t blog this week on the next lesson on the teachings of George Albert Smith because it will not be studied this week in the LDS church. They only study it on the 2nd and 3rd Sundays of each month. On other Sundays there is a little more flexibility on what they will study in Relief Society and priesthood quorum meetings. For example, for this coming Sunday they will be studying one of the General Conference talks from last October – which specific one is decided on by the local leaders.
But each Sunday, in their Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine classes, they will be studying the Book of Mormon. The focus this Sunday is on 1 Nephi 12 – 14. This is the section that repeatedly states that “the great and abominable church” has removed “many plain and precious things” from the Bible.
One interesting note has been how the interpretation of the “great and abominable church” has changed over the years. Years ago, when I first started witnessing to Mormons, it was not uncommon for them to identify it as the Catholic church of the Middle Ages. This, however, is not how the teacher’s guide for this course interprets it. It says: “Emphasize that the great and abominable church is a symbol of apostasy in all its forms. It is a representation of all false doctrine, false worship, and irreligious attitudes. It does not represent any specific church in the world today.” (p. 18)
Much more important is the Book of Mormon’s claim that many plain and precious things were taken away from the Bible. How should we react to that? We could bring in evidence from the scholarly discipline known as textual criticism to show how faithfully the Bible was passed down from generation to generation. Especially pertinent is the fact that the vast majority of variants between the various ancient biblical manuscripts consist of additions to the text rather than subtractions from the text. But, to be honest, even though Christians see textual criticism strongly supporting the faithful transmission of the Bible, in my experience, its findings don’t seem to faze most Mormons.
I think the same can be said for the comparison between the wealth of archaeological evidence supporting the Bible and the dearth of such evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. Yes, this concerns some Mormons but not that many. Many haven’t thought about it, and when it is pointed out to them, many shrug it off as unimportant.
The bottom line is that, even though there is strong evidence of the faithful transmission of the Bible, it is still a matter of faith that we believe that today’s Bible faithfully represents the original. As it is a matter of faith for Mormons to believe that many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. Because of that, I feel that it is more productive to talk about how the book of Mormon does not complement the Bible, but rather contradicts it.
I realize that many Mormons will vehemently protest that last statement. But for them to say that it doesn’t contradict the Bible would be similar to me saying that my beliefs complement and don’t contradict Mormonism, even while I reject many of Mormonism’s beliefs. How many of them would sit still as I proclaimed, “I am a Mormon, even though I don’t think Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that the LDS Church was the only true church, or that heaven doesn’t consist of three kingdoms of glory”? Similarly, we can’t sit still when the Book of Mormon is referred to as another testament of Jesus Christ even though it states that we are saved by grace after all we can do, or that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a blessing, that there was a great apostasy from 100 AD through 1800 AD (Teacher’s guide, p. 16) and on and on.
The messages of the two books are different! I am so thankful that the Bible tells me that I am saved solely by grace, without works rather than “after all I can do”. I am so thankful that it promises that there will always be believers and thus the church on earth until Christ returns. I am even thankful that it shows just what a tragedy the Fall was because that highlights for me that I was spiritually dead and thus my utter inability to please God and my dire need of Jesus doing it all for me.
It is my hope and prayer that many Mormons will stop and think and see the drastic differences between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. And that they will listen to the Bible rather than the Book of Mormon.