By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Note: Since the publication of this article in the Hazard Herald, I have learned that archaeology supports the Book of Mormon in one regard: there is evidence to suggest that the Hebrews may be the progenitors of the Native Americans. I have adjusted the article below accordingly. It is important to realize, however, that this knowledge of the Native American ancestry was commonplace among Americans long before the times and influence of Joseph Smith, and does not therefore lend credibility to the claims of the Book of Mormon).
One of the great blessings of being a Gospel preacher is having the opportunity to meet lots of different people.
In my ministry, I have talked with and become acquainted with many different people, from many diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some of my most interesting and valued Bible studies have been with those members of a denomination that is known officially as “the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints,” or unofficially as “the Mormon church.”
I am aware that many of the adherents of this religion are offended by the term “Mormon,” believing that it was originally given to them out of derision. Therefore, out of respect, in this article I will refer to my “Latter-Day Saints” friends as “LDS.”
I respect my LDS friends; I admire their zeal and their devotion in trying to share the message they so strongly believe in, at least in a private capacity.
However, as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I firmly believe that their doctrines are not true; indeed, that the teachings of this denomination are of such a nature that they will lead a person to condemnation.
Recently, I contacted my LDS friends in this area, about the possibility of entering into a public debate regarding certain propositions. With one of our congregation’s elders, I met with two very nice and respectful young men about the specifics of this discussion. The Bible certainly commands and exhorts Christians to defend the Gospel both in private and in public (I Peter 3:15; Jude 3; Acts 17:17; 18:28; etc.). As my LDS friends quickly agreed, their own scriptures teach the same thing:
“Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.” (Doctrine And Covenants 71:7)
Sadly, however, the debate was cancelled by the LDS church in town. I was certainly sorry to hear about that, and am hopeful that the LDS church will agree to enter into such a dialogue with the church of Christ in the future.
After all, it only makes sense that if our LDS friends truly have the truth, they should be willing to proclaim and defend it. Why should anyone accept the teachings of the LDS church as true if they are not willing to believe and practice their own scriptures?
In this article, I am going to propose several reasons why they may not want to enter into such a public dialogue with the churches of Christ.
If they change their minds regarding such a public exchange the churches of Christ are certainly willing to meet them in a cordial and comprehensive investigation of the matters that separate us. Indeed, we are willing to engage in such a discussion in the newspaper and-perhaps-on the radio (assuming that the local paper and radio stations are amenable to such an arrangement).
Let me point out, before I go any further, that it is often claimed by our LDS friends that those who oppose the teachings of Joseph Smith are always quoting their church’s doctrines out of context.
As such, I challenge every reader of this article to carefully examine the source materials I am quoting from, to see that my points are not based on twisting of Latter-Day Saint doctrine and literature, but are based instead upon an honest investigation of what the LDS church documents actually claim. I have spent hours researching these matters, and encourage you to do the same!
A Brief Synopsis Of The Book Of Mormon
Many people do not know what the Book of Mormon is about. So, let me provide you a brief description from the Book of Mormon itself. In the Introduction to this document, we are told:
The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other two came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians. The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and it tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come. After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language…Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
This is a brief description of the Book of Mormon. The above statement is factually wrong on several points, but especially in its’ claims to being the “most correct” of any book on the Earth, and that a person would get nearer to God by its’ teachings than by any other book. I challenge that statement, and am willing to put the Bible up against the Book of Mormon. Many of the statements that our LDS friends make against the Bible are simply inaccurate, and a public debate would be one occasion where such could be made absolutely clear.
Could that be the reason why our LDS friends will not meet with the church of Christ in a candid discussion of these matters?
Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know The Truth About The “Three Witnesses”
Our LDS friends put a great deal of stock in the testimony of their three witnesses. These three men (Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery) were supposedly witnesses to the “gold plates” from which the Book of Mormon was translated.
In fact, if you open up the Book of Mormon, you will see the testimony “they” gave to the world, declaring their beliefs in the things they had “witnessed.” Someone says, “Well, Mark, isn’t that a pretty strong case?” It might be, except for several facts.
First of all, did these three men actually “witness” anything? I have before me a publication of the LDS church, known as the Dessert News, dated August 15th 1942. It took me quite some time to find this publication from a library in Salt Lake City, Utah. (I mention this to dispel the potential claims from my LDS friends that I am quoting from a non-LDS source.) Anyway, in the article, a man is interviewing Martin Harris. I quote from page 5 of this publication:
Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses-(Harris-Cowdery and Whitmer). I said to him,-“Martin did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up and said, “No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.”
Dear reader, what kind of witness is THAT?
Suppose a police officer investigating a murder begins to look for witnesses. A man approaches and begins telling him all kinds of details. The officer, writing all these things down, says, “So, you saw all of this happen with your own eyes?” Imagine the witness stopping, looking at the officer and stating, “No, I saw these things with a spiritual eye.” You know that that invalidates this kind of testimony!
Contrast that with the eyewitnesses of the Lord, who actually SAW Jesus, HEARD Jesus, TOUCHED Jesus, ATE with Jesus, etc. (Acts 10:39-43; II Peter 1:16). This right here is sufficient evidence to show us that the witnesses of the LDS church simply are not credible.
Second, did these three witnesses give their own testimony as to what they “witnessed?” No, they did not. Instead, there was a statement made, and they were to sign their names on it. Again friends, listen to what the LDS account says of this:
Doctrine And Covenants 5:26-And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.
So, Martin Harris and his other two friends did not truly give their own eyewitness account in the beginning of the Book of Mormon; instead, something was written down and they signed their names to it. Friends, do these sound like reliable witnesses thus far?
Consider thirdly, however, the fact that all three of these witnesses eventually left the LDS church.
While it is claimed that two of the three eventually were restored back to their relationship with the LDS church (and the evidence on this is quite shaky), I have to also point out that all three of them are referred to in less than favorable ways by the scriptures of the LDS church.
For example, in Doctrine And Covenants 3:12, Martin Harris is called a “wicked man.”
It is also clear from Doctrine and Covenants 30:1-2 that David Whitmer had trouble with Joseph Smith. Much more could be said along these lines; but I believe this is sufficient to establish the point.
Fourth, according to our LDS friends, there were eight more witnesses to the gold plates.
However, this is in direct contradiction to what the LDS scriptures themselves proclaimed. Notice:
Doctrine And Covenants 5:13-14-I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are: and to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness-clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. And the testimony of three witnesses will I send forth of my word.
Notice that according to Joseph Smith, there were only to be three witnesses to the gold plates; indeed, Joseph Smith has God telling him that no one else in that generation would see them.
However, our LDS friends then claim that eight others saw the gold plates that Joseph Smith made reference to. Friends, do you see the contradictions here?
So, what it boils down to is this: the witnesses that our LDS friends rely on for the Book of Mormon did not actually witness anything with their natural senses; they did not give their own testimony as to what they “saw;” all three eventually left the LDS church (although our LDS friends claim that two of them were restored); Joseph Smith himself, along with the scriptures of the LDS church, shows many serious character flaws in these men that definitely reflects on their credibility; and the statement regarding these three witnesses and their unique role is clearly contradicted elsewhere in the teachings of the LDS church in regards to the testimony of the “eight witnesses.”
Could these be some of the reasons why our LDS friends do not wish to engage in public dialogue?
Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know The Truth About How Archaeology Has Not Helped To Confirm The Claims Of The Book Of Mormon
I often hear my LDS friends make the claim archaeology (the study of ancient civilizations) has time and time again proven the claims of the LDS church. I was curious about that, so I did some research. Writing an email to the Smithsonian Institute, I posed a simple question: Have any archaeological discoveries been made that confirm or deny the teachings of the Book of Mormon? Here is (part of) their response:
The Smithsonian considers the Book of Mormon a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and has found no archaeological evidence to support its claims.
Please notice, my friends, that archaeological discoveries have not furthered the claims of the LDS church. While archaeology suggests that the Native Americans may be the descendants of the Hebrews, the overall claims of Mormonism have been proven false. Other archaeologists have testified similarly. Now, contrast this with some of the archaeological evidences which help form the foundation for the credibility of the Bible. Notice the testimony of two well-known archaeologists regarding these matters (both quoted in The Evidence Bible, complied by Ray Comfort, page 1237; Gainesville, Florida; Thomas Nelson Publishers):
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. (Dr. Nelson Glueck)
Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts…Yet archaeological discoveries have shown that these critical charges…are wrong and that the Bible is trustworthy in the very statements which have been set aside as untrustworthy…We do not know of any cases where the Bible has been proved wrong. (Dr. Joseph Free)
Could THIS be the reason the LDS is not willing to enter into a public debate?
Perhaps They Do Not Want People To Know That Joseph Smith Made Many False Prophecies In His Lifetime
Joseph Smith made many false prophecies in his lifetime. I do not have time and space just here to chronicle extensive examples, but I give this sampling of evidence.
In the LDS book, History Of The Church, Volume 2, page 182, we are told:
President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision FN.3 and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion–our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; FN.4 and it was the will of God 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 nigh–even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.
Joseph Smith made this prophecy in the year 1835. So, according to Smith, Christ was to return “fifty-six years” from that time, which would have been in the year 1891.
However, Christ did not come back in the year 1891!
Many more examples could be given of the false prophecies of Joseph Smith, but this should be sufficient to show us that the LDS church is built upon a false foundation.
I have shown this “prophecy” to many of my LDS friends, and encouraged them to go and research it. Not one has told me that I have misrepresented what Smith said. Friends, the evidence is clear!
Could this be part of the reason why they will not enter into public debate with the church of Christ?
Friends, much more could be said regarding these matters. I hope that you see the teachings of the LDS church are not in harmony with the Bible, and I also hope you realize that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is the Word of God. Build your life on this great book! Accept Jesus Christ by yielding to His plan of salvation.
Having faith in His atoning death, burial, and resurrection three days later (I Corinthians 15:1-8), repent of your sins and be baptized into Him, so your sins can be forgiven and you can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).
Then, live faithful to Jesus, even till the time of His Second Coming, that you may receive the great reward of Heaven itself (Revelation 2:10).
To all of our LDS friends: please know that I, and the churches of Christ, love you very much. We would not be speaking these things if we did not. If you wish to engage in a personal Bible study of these (or other matters), please call upon us. Or, if you have changed your mind and would be willing to enter into a public discussion of previously arranged and agreed upon debate propositions-whether at our respective church buildings or via the radio or newspaper (again, assuming that there are no objections to this course of action from the local radio stations and newspaper)-then the churches of Christ are more than willing to explore that possibility.