By Luther W. Martin
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matt. 21-24).
Jesus was pointing out the inconsistency and the gullibility of Pharisees, a Jewish denomination of the first century. He used the above example of straining out gnats, but swallowing that which was obviously more gross. Therefore, I have made use of our Savior’s figure of speech, in pointing out the “Camels of Mormonism.”
Camel 1: The Book of Mormon: Its Origin
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see it if was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man” (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, Richmond, Missouri, 1887).
“Martin (Harris) explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say, ‘Written,’ and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraved on the plates, precisely in the language then used” (The Myth of the ‘Manuscript Found’ or the Absurdities of the ‘Spaulding Story,’ Salt Lake City, Utah, 1883).
The above two quotations related how the Book of Mormon was “translated” from an “Ancient Egyptian” language, inscribed upon golden plates. An angel had reportedly told Joseph Smith where to find these plates buried in a hill in the State of New York. They were inside a “stone box” along with two “seer stones” called “Urim and Thummin.” The golden plates were said to be seven inches wide and eight inches long. These plates were held together by three rings running through the plates near one edge. This formed a book of golden plates about six inches thick. The “seer stones” were said to be “in silver bows,” fastened to a breastplate inside the stone box.
In considering the testimony of the two witnesses quoted above, note that one states that “one character at a time” appeared. The other witness said that “sentences would appear.”
“Before this (the Book of Mormon) was offered to the world, the Lord confirmed it by opening the heavens in broad day light, and sending down an holy angel, who descended in the presence of four individuals, three besides Mr. Smith, and the angel took the plates, and turned them over leaf after leaf, while, at the same time, the voice of the Lord out of the heavens told them it had been translated correctly, commanding them to send forth their testimony to all nations, kingdoms, tongues, and people. They (Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris-LWM) accordingly attached their printed testimony in connection with the Book of Mormon” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. II, page 293).
“In council with the Twelve (Mormon-LWM) Apostles, 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'” (A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, by Franklin D. Richards and James A. Little, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1882).
From the above quotations, we learn from Mormon sources: (1) The Lord Himself endorsed the correctness of the translation of the Book of Mormon. (2) The Book of Mormon is “the mot correct book on earth.” (3) One can get nearer to God by following the Book of Mormon than by following the Bible! This is indeed quite a “Camel to swallow”!
Camel 2: The Book of Mormon: Its Contents
(a) The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ would be born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10).
(b) It teaches that there would be three days of darkness at Christ’s death (Helaman 14:20).
(c) The Book of Mormon claims to cover a period of time from 600 B.C. until 421 A.D., at which date, Moroni the last of the “Nephite historians” sealed the “sacred record” and hid it in New York state. Then, in 1827 A.D., this same Moroni (now resurrected as an angel) revealed the hiding place of the golden plates to Joseph Smith.
(d) Now, remember that the “sacred record” referring to the un-translated Book of Mormon was buried in 421 A.D. Yet, when Joseph Smith got through “translating” it into English, it contained Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, exactly as the King James Translators had given the Sermon on the Mount, in the year 1611 A.D., lacking two verses. Matthew 5 became 3 Nephi; Matthew 6 became 3 Nephi 13; and, Matthew 7 became 3 Nephi 14.
(e) The Book of Mormon has the name “Christian” being used by “believers” in 73 B.C. Yet, the New Testament states: “. . . the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Thus, the Book of Mormon has “Christian” (meaning a follower of Christ) used before Christ had ever come in the flesh, to be followed.
(f) The Book of Mormon has the church being established about 147 B.C. Yet during His personal ministry, Christ spoke, “I will build My church . . .” (Matt. 16:18). This was approximately 30 A.D. So, if the Book of Mormon was right, then Christ’s church had been in existence for almost two centuries, and Christ did not even know it! Of course the truth is, the Book of Mormon is a conglomeration oi confusion!
(g) The expression “The Bible,” literally meaning “the books,” came to be used and applied to the canon of the individual books comprising the Holy Scriptures. This expression came from the Greek ta biblia about the fourth or fifth centuries A.D. But the Book of Mormon has another “Camel” for us to swallow, as the author bemoans with disgust, those who quote Scripture . . . The Bible!
About 550 B.C., the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 29:3) contains: “And because my words shall hiss forth–many of the Gentiles (non-Mormons–LWM) shall say: ‘A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”‘
2 Nephi 29:6 continues: “Thou fool, that shall say: ‘A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?. . .
The above two quotations from the Book of Mormon simply show the Mormon reaction and attitude toward those who respect the Holy Bible, and who correctly consider the contents of the Bible to be complete and adequate in furnishing the child of God, with all needed instruction. (See 2 Tim. 3:15-17).
Camel 3: Changes and Alterations In The Book of Mormon
Under “Camel I” of this article, we gave quotations from early Mormon leaders who testified as to the correctness of the translation of the Book of Mormon . Now, let us notice some evidence, relating to the fact that many, many, changes have been made since the First Edition.
In my library, I have a photocopy of the first edition of the Book of Mormon. After the title and brief description is given, the title page says: “By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor. Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin, for the author. 1830.” Later editions of the Book of Mormon dropped the “Proprietor” designation.
Also on the title page, Smith inserted a disclaimer, as if he realized his own lack of ability in writing and punctuating: “. . .And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; . . .”
Although Joseph Smith had been active in a local literary and debating society, he had not learned to write. So, to begin with, his wife Emma wrote as Joseph dictated. Next, Martin Harris served as scribe. However, none of Smith’s secretaries had any knowledge of punctuation. When the manuscript finally went to press (They had contracted with the printer to pay $3,000 for 5,000 copies.) there were hardly any capital letters, commas, or periods in the entire manuscript.
The printer complained about the lack of punctuation or correct grammar. Of the first two hundred sentences, one hundred and forty of them began with the conjunction “And.” At first, when Hyrum Smith and Martin Harris would bring the manuscript to the print shop, they would carry it under their coats, and produce it only after they were safely inside the shop. One of the printers suggested that they leave the manuscript with him overnight, in order that he might proofread it and provide it with proper punctuation and grammar. But he was refused with the statement: “We are commanded not to leave it.” However, eventually the manuscript was left occasionally, so that some punctuation could be added.
Approximately 27,000 words were taken directly from the King James Bible. The daughter of Jared, like Salome, danced before royalty, and a beheading followed. A fellow named Aminadi, like Daniel, read some handwriting on a wall. Alma was accosted and converted like the New Testament record of Saul of Tarsus. Fawn Brodie writes, in her book No Man Knows My History, a biography of Joseph Smith, “The daughters of the Lamanites were abducted like the dancing daughters of Shiloh; and Ammon, the American counterpart of David, for want of a Goliath, slew six sheeprustlers with his sling” (p. 63).
Jack Free, writing in his book entitled Mormonism and Inspiration, states:
If, as Joseph Smith said, “the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth,” why was it necessary to make 6,593 changes in punctuation and 5,256 changes in spelling, wording and phraseology? When these changes are brought to the attention of Latter-day Saints, they say these changes are trivial. But, trivial or not, they are changes, and proof that this was not the “most correct book on earth” (p. 11).
Camel 4: Plural Marriage or Polygamy Practiced!
Just as many of the “stories” in the Book of Mormon were taken and modified from Old Testament episodes, so the practice of multiple-wives was borrowed from the Old Testament, and conveniently served to fuel the lust of the early Mormon leaders.
The Utah Mormons have received more publicity regarding the practice of polygamy than have the “Reorganized” group head-quartered in Independence, MO. In fact, the Missouri group for years denied that Joseph Smith ever was a polygamist. In recent years, however, it has been ascertained that the “Prophet” Smith had numerous “wives.”
Many of the “faithful” continued to practice plural marriage until the United States Government outlawed the practice. Some even continued the relationships for years after it was outlawed. I’m also sure that some of the members of the Latter-day Saints movement never did descend to engaging in polygamy.
The most comprehensive list of the wives of Joseph Smith has been compiled by Fawn M. Brodie in her biography of Smith entitled No Man Knows My History, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. A total of forty-eight wives are identified and named by Mrs. Brodie. Some of them cohabited with the “Prophet,” some bore his offspring, while others were “celestial brides.” The word “sealed” is used in denoting the bond of marriage. Some brides were “sealed for time,” some were “sealed for eternity.” A good number were “sealed for eternity” to “Prophet” Joseph Smith, after his death, The brides waited until the Temple was completed at Salt Lake City, and then the “sealing ceremony” took place in the Temple. Some of Joseph’s wives later were “sealed” to Brigham Young and others of the Mormon leaders. All of this business involving lust, licentiousness, and polygamy is another “camel to swallow.”
Camel 5: Proxy-Baptism, Or Baptism For The Dead
The Latter-day Saints practice “proxy-baptism,” wherein a living “saint” may submit to baptism in behalf of a deceased person, was not a “saint.” This false doctrine and practice, in essence, provides a “second chance” after death . . . something only countenanced by the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead. Baptism “for the dead” is not a biblical teaching. However, there is one New Testament passage that has been distorted by the Mormons to supposedly teach proxy-baptism.
The-verse is 1 Corinthians 15:29-“Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why they are they baptized for them?” In studying any passage that is difficult, or seems to be hard to understand, one should always consider what precedes and what follows the verse in question. The entire 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians is devoted to the subject of the resurrection of the dead, and particularly, Christ’s resurrection . Some of the Corinthians were questioning and doubting the matter of Christ’s coming again. Apparently they had anticipated that He would return in the clouds of the air, as they had been told that when he departed. Now, they were tired of waiting . . . they were discouraged . . . they were wondering if He had even been raised from the dead. So, the apostle Paul takes up their very doubts and reasons with them, very logically, that if they had been baptized for a dead Savior, instead of a living, triumphant Christ, that they were of all men most miserable. Paul devotes twenty-eight verses to this argumentation, and then asks a rhetorical question: . . . What will they do, who are baptized in the name of a dead (Savior)? If as the Sadducees teach, there is no resurrection of the dead, they why be baptized?
Paul further wrote: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also “I be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:14).
There are many honest and upright people numbered among the Latter-day Saints. Some have accepted this religion from their immediate ancestors with scarcely any questioning on their own part. Consequently, they have rather gullibly swallowed a scheme of religion that is founded upon fallible men, and fanciful theories, rather than upon a book, chapter and verse, from Holy Scripture, the Bible . . . and for this age of the world, the New Testament.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 18, pp. 564-566
September 20, 1984