Mormonism: From God or Man? (I)
Robert H. West
The religious system popularly known as "Mormonism" looks to Joseph Smith, Jr., as it founder. Smith, born in Vermont in 1805, claimed to have received visitations from the Father and the Son, and the angel Moroni in 1820 and 1823, respectively. The first alleged appearance was for the purpose of warning young Smith not to join any of the religious groups in his area. During the second visit he was supposed to have been advised that God had selected him for a divine purpose. He was further advised, we are told, of an ancient book written on golden plates which was hidden in a hill near Palmyra, New York. He was allowed to visit this location once each year until September, 1827, when the plates, according to his claims, were delivered to him.
In April, 1829, assisted by a local school teacher, Oliver Cowdery, Smith began to translate the peculiar characters on the golden plates into English. This, it is claimed, was accomplished by "the gift and power of God."
The result of these supposed labors was published in 1830 under the title, The Book of Mormon. This highly ungrammatical and tedious work claimed to be an account of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent-their origin, religion, and wars. But far more than just a historical work, it claimed to be the word of God-the "fulness of the everlasting gospel."
The same year this book was published, Joseph Smith, claiming to be a divinely appointed prophet, organized a church which, in 1834, was officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From that time until now, this group claims to be the "one true church," divinely restored to the earth.
In the ensuing years before the violent murder of Smith in 1844, he produced two other books, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. Both of these works, like The Book of Mormon, purported to be the word of God.
After the death of Joseph Smith, his followers were divided into warring camps. The largest of these, under the brilliant leadership of Brigham Young, made the famous exodus to the Salt Lake Valley, from which headquarters Young's successors still govern the people we know as the Mormons.
Although there have been some ninety Book of Mormon-believing groups formed since 1830, the one centered in Salt Lake City is by far the largest. It is to its tenets that we shall be primarily addressing our remarks. However, much of the material will also have application to the other "Mormon" groups.
Why Examine The Claims Of Mormonism?
The answer to the above question can be best seen in the words of Orson Pratt, one of the original "apostles" of the Latter-day Saint Church. Speaking of the Book of Mormon, he wrote:
"If after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the Imposture was detected should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the mature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments-by evidences adduced from scripture and reason" (Orson Pratt's Works, 1899 Edition, p. 69).
Pratt further wrote:
"This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal Interests of every people under heaven .... If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God. . ." (Ibid., p. 63).
We agree emphatically with both of these statements which clearly present justification-more than that, a challenge, to examine and, if possible, prove whether the claims of Mormonism are from God or men.
We enter this examination not only with the approbation of a Mormon spokesman, but by the eminently higher authority of the Bible. On its pages we are told to "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11) and "Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they be of God, for many false prophets axe gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Having established both Mormon and Biblical authority to pursue this study, we direct your attention to the consideration of the principal question-IS MORMONISM FROM GOD OR MAN?
It Is From Man If The Bible Is Complete
The doctrine of continuous revelation is the basic premise from which the entire system of Mormonism is derived. This doctrine asserts that revelation was not completed with the New Testament, but, rather, other revelations from God (such as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price ) have been and will continue to be made known to man through the years. But, if it can be established that revelation was completed in the First Century-that the Bible contains all of the truth-the entire structure of Mormonism is proved to be man-made and, therefore, false.
Orson Pratt understood this point and stated the proposition as follows:
"If it could be proven from scripture that God had revealed all that He ever intended to reveal, then a professed revelation would not require investigation; for It would be known at once, that every thing of the kind was an imposition. It would be folly in the extreme to Inquire whether a professed new revelation were true or false; for if God had declared In His word that no more was to be given, all writings or books purporting to be a new revelation could not be otherwise than false" (Ibid., p. 70).
We see from these statements that all of Mormonism hinges upon whether or not the Bible is a sufficient guide in religion. This, Mormonism emphatically denies. Not only do they tell us that not all the truth was revealed in the Bible, but they also say that what was revealed has been corrupted and much of it lost. Listen to these words from the Book of Mormon:
"And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the lamb, many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away .... Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which Is the book of the Lamb of God. . ." (1 Nephl 13:26-28).
Having the Mormon position clearly in mind, let us examine the Bible itself. What are its claims concerning completeness? Has it been corrupted as the Book of Mormon claims?
In John 16:13 our Savior was speaking to His apostles when He said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth."
The precise nature of the truth into which the apostles were to be guided by the Spirit is limited and defined by the following scripture: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3).
By letting the Bible define its own terms, we see that the apostles were guided into all truth "pertaining to life and godliness."
Notice carefully, please, that all truth containing "All things which pertain to life and godliness," was revealed to the apostles. The inclusion of the word "ALL" in these passages proves beyond doubt the fullness of revelation in the First Century!
We might pause here to observe that since all truth was revealed in the First Century, and Mormonism was not revealed in the First Century, therefore, Mormonism must not be any part of the truth!
But continuing our search of the scriptures, we read: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us . . . And these things write we unto you. . ." (1 John 1:3-4).
So we see that what the apostles received (all truth), they declared to mankind in writing, which writings were to be viewed as the "commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37).
These and many other passages conclusively establish the fullness of revelation in the First Century and show that such revelation was also delivered to mankind.
But, remember, the Mormon position is that the gospel was indeed delivered in the First Century and again delivered in 1830. The inspired writer in Jude 3 conclusively settles the matter when he states: ". . . earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
That "the faith" is the truth revealed to the apostles and prophets is seen from Gal. 3.23. But notice that this faith was "once" delivered. This word is translated from the original Greek work hapax which means:
"Used of what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never never need repitition, once for all" (Joseph H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 54).
You see then that "the faith" which was the "all truth" into which the apostles and prophets were guides, was "so delivered as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition!" The entire Mormon system falls under the rebuke of this passage.
But not only was the faith "once for all" delivered in the First Century, it was also given the divine promise of indestructibility, whereby its continued existence would be assured: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever ... the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (I Pet. 1:23-25). To contend, as do the Mormons, that much of the word was lost and corrupted, is to deny this plain passage.
The apostles and prophets of the New Testament clearly understood that their teaching would comprise the complete and final body of truth for mankind. We know this because they frequently warned against preaching anything other than their teachings. Notice: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).
The gospel of Mormonism is not the same as that of the New Testament. It cannot contain more truth than the First Century Gospel, because the first Gospel contains "all truth." Since the Mormon gospel is not the same and cannot contain more truth than the Gospel of the First Century, it must be another gospel, and, therefore, is expressly condemned!
Mormonism is of man, not God, because the Bible is both complete and uncorrupted - a sufficient religious guide for mankind.
Truth Magazine XXI, 3: pp. 42-44