The Latter-Day Saints and the
The Remnant's Continuing Work of Restoration
"No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God be accomplished and the Great Jehovah say the work is done." ( The History of the Church 4:540)
The Prophet Joseph Smith penned these words in 1842 in what is called the Wentworth Letter. It was three years later that he himself gave his life in a brutal attack by a ruthless crowd. That was one-hundred and fifty years ago this very year, and time has once again justified his words. The work that God had started with him has done exactly what the prophet predicted. Amidst the slanderous accusations against this work by the heathen, the violent assaults of years past, the work of God cannot be frustrated. It has spread to every continent, so that the elect from all nations and tongues might believe and come to the knowledge of the truth. The building of Zion has not faltered, or been hampered because of the assaults of perverse and godless men. Certainly, none of the Twelve or the Prophet himself could have ever construed, even with the most ambitious and clever plans, of the advancement of Zion in this day, except that it be that "the Lord build the house." ( Psalm 127:1). Yet Joseph Smith clearly had the vision for what God Himself was going to do. As Elder John A. Widstoe very eloquently stated in the Conference Report, April, 1946
Unknown, untaught, with no reputation, (Joseph Smith) should have been forgotten in the small hamlet, almost nameless, in the back woods of a great state; but he dared to say that the work he was doing, under God's instruction, was to become a marvel and a wonder in the world...The truths set loose by the Prophet Joseph Smith have touched every man of faith throughout the civilized world, and measurably changed their beliefs for good." ( Pg. 21-22)
Today, the Latter-day Saints have become perhaps the epitome of character and virtue in this country. They have remained remarkably free from the allegations of scandal that have plagued many other churches. They are not rocked by the disclosure of avarice or sexual misconduct as are the many sects that claim to be the "true church". Since any accusation against the character and nature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clearly groundless and hypocritical, the majority of attacks against the church have been either regarding Joseph Smith ad hominem, or his discovery of the golden plates.
The personal attacks upon the Prophet's character have availed virtually nothing. Even while the prophet was alive, a detractor of his, a Mr. E.D. Howe, was gathering names and information from the Smith's former neighbors in Palmyra, New York, who all claimed that the Smith family were "entirely destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits." Such attacks are worth very little. Besides the fact that thousands of persons much more intimate with them would testify to the contrary, we need to question the relevance of such personal attacks. For example, what type of testimony would we have from the Christians in Tarsus regarding the zealous young Saul? Surely they would say that he was murderous and dangerous, and ought not be welcomed into the fellowship of believers. It is also ironic that some Catholics and Protestants would engage in such ad hominem attacks when we know so much about the character of Martin Luther and the infamous lives of so many popes.
The attacks regarding the discovery of the Golden Plates likewise cannot hamper the restoration that God in working in these days. The reason that the existence of the Golden Plates would be called into question is, of course, because the plates comprise the written revelation that compliments the Holy Bible. It is the existence of these plates that provide the illumination that the rest of the Scripture (i.e. Doctrines and Covenants et al) rest upon. If "Babylon" can discredit the existence of the plates, and cast doubt on the testimony of the witnesses, then she feels she can release herself from the obligatory service that Jehovah has called His servants to. Since this is the fulcrum of the issue of the restoration, then this certainly deserves closer inspection. It stands to reason, that if Joseph Smith did receive the Golden plates from the angel Moroni, and was given the ability to translate it's words, then the Mormon church ought to be heeded as the manifestation of the restored church of Jesus Christ. If, however, it could be proven that Joseph Smith did not receive any plates, and that they were a clever fabrication, then the Mormon church ought to only be regarded as just another apostate sect, guilty of perpetrating fraud. This author believes that a verdict to this question can be reached by the discerning individual.
In 1827, Prophet Joseph Smith began translating the Golden Plates that he had uncovered in Palmyra, New York. It would be three years before the translation was finished and the Book of Mormon would be published. Since he did his work behind a curtain, many persons have over the years tried to call into the questions the very existence of the plates. Fortunately, we have the testimony of the Three Witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris), in addition to eight others, who testify to having seen the plates, and their testimony is recorded in the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris, it seems, was in particular, a very inquisitive and initially somewhat skeptical of the existence of the plates before he was an actual witness to them. At one point he had pressed Prophet Smith to let him take the manuscript home to be examined. Joseph Smith, against the Lord's direction, had eventually complied and let Harris take the manuscript home, which resulted in that particular manuscript being lost. It is of the utmost interest to all of course, that Martin Harris also took a copy of the characters of the plates themselves to one of the most learned men in the world, Professor Charles Anthon of Columbia University, to verify that they were indeed reformed Egyptian characters. According to Harris' report, professor Anthon had said that "the hieroglyphics were true characters". This element of the story, however, is contradicted by Professor Anthon in a letter he wrote in 1834 regarding his encounter with Martin Harris. He wrote on February 17th that:
"The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be "reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics" is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simple hearted farmer, called me with a note from Dr. Mitchell of our city, now deceased, requesting me to decipher, if possible, a paper, which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. Mitchell confessed he had been unable to understand. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax."
Professor Anthon then relates how Martin Harris explained the existence of the plates, and how a young man was deciphering them with the aid of a huge pair of spectacles, and how the young man was trying to get Harris to sell his farm in order to finance the publication of the translation. Anthon continues:
"Upon hearing this odd story, I changed my mind about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as a part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues."
Professor Anthon goes into to detail in the letter regarding the paper that Harris had given him. He described it as a series of "Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways...it contained anything else but Egyptian hieroglyphics." At this point, we have merely one man's word versus the other. It could be very possible that Professor Anthon repudiated the story of his encounter with Martin because of the scholastic disrepute he would fall into by validating the Mormon inscription. Most non-Mormons remain very skeptical of Martin Harris' version of the story since Harris had a vested interest in the success of the published Book of Mormon, namely a large amount of money he had invested in the project. The skeptical scientific world, of course, would like to see the plates themselves to dissect them and scrutinize them. How unwise it would be for God, however, to leave something of that nature here on earth. As Doctrines and Covenants points out, even the plates being in full view of skeptics would not convert them. Furthermore, for the faithful, if the plates were still on the earth, it could be cause of idolatry, much like Gideon's ephod was ( Judges 8:27). Since God's ways are indeed higher that our ways, it demonstrated His wisdom that such plates were no longer in full view of mankind.
Regarding this issue, there is a comparison that the opponents of Mormonism rarely mention, that is, that the plates need not be on earth today in order to be deemed as authentic. Most Christians belief that the Holy Bible is authentic and trustworthy, yet we do not have a single autograph, that is, original copy of the Old Testament or the New Testament. Those of the Jewish faith do not require a carbon-dating of the ark of the covenant to validate their faith. The ark, of course, disappeared millennia ago. Why then, do individuals make such a production over the fact that the plates cannot be examined by scientist today? The more honest evaluation of the authenticity of the plates would be a test of it's content. Scholars examine documents such as the New Testament and the Old Testament in light of biblical criticism, and the results of all disciplines of science have overwhelmingly validated the authenticity of the Holy Bible. How about the Book of Mormon? If we were to intently examine the contents in it, would we find that it was irrefutably the accurate accounts of God's work on this continent? Are we honest enough to respond appropriately to whatever conclusion we may reach? This is the most important question. For if, as it has been cited, an unbeliever would not repent even if they should be in possession of the Golden Plates themselves, would we repent if it was discovered that we were in error regarding the authenticity of the Book of Mormon? If we can not answer in the affirmative, then there is no reason to read any farther. If we are resolved not to respond to truth, but to stubbornly remain in our own ways regardless of the truth of God we discover, than it is useless to even investigate truth. I trust, however, that we have the sincerity and volition to continue this investigation.
THE VALIDITY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Book of Mormon is said to represent the only of true "Testament of Jesus Christ", barring of course, the New Testament. In Church History and Modern Revelation 1:28-29, it is acknowledged that "thousands of attacks and scores of books have been published" to criticize the Book of Mormon. Joseph Fielding Smith says that none of these attacks or criticism have survived. Most of these have been to refute Mormon doctrine, alleging that it is anti-Biblical and merely a fabrication by the elders and prophets of Mormonism. Mormons are rarely bothered by such reasoning, since such arguments presuppose that there is no more scripture or revelation after the New Testament. More disturbing however, is the allegation that the Book of Mormon itself is largely a plagiarism, a sort of hybrid between a piece of fiction by a man named Spaulding and the King James Bible. The assertion that parts of the Book of Mormon were borrowed from Spaulding cannot be conclusively proven. It still remains, even by the admission of anti-Mormon writers, merely speculation. There is no proven connection between Spaulding's writings and the Book of Mormon. Whether the Book of Mormon is a plagiarism from the King James Bible is an issue which should be more thoroughly examined.
Those who contend that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized usually cite that large sections are apparently taken right out of the King James Bible, word for word. Although it makes sense that the same prophetic Spirit would use the same wording to reveal truth, many have objected to the fact that for some reason, the plates, when translated, would even use the same 16th Elizabethan English in the identical texts. This is answered by most Mormons as being accounted by the fact that the King James Version was the most popular version in existence at the time, and God would most likely provide a translation to the plates which is most congruous with what God's people were most familiar with. It is here that we encounter the most difficult problem. Assuming that the previous statements were true, and the Book of Mormon is identical in some chapters to the King James Version because God wanted to demonstrate the continuity of revelation between the golden plates and the most read version of the Holy Bible, would we then expect that God would even allow 16th century errors in translations and interpolations ( late additions) to be found in the translation of the Book of Mormon? It would be absurd to think so. If a footnote that was written in the King James version in the 16th century was found in the Book of Mormon, then we would be forced to acknowledge that Joseph Smith was copying a King James Version of the Bible, not translating golden plates when he provided his manuscript for the Book of Mormon. Likewise, if we found a copyist error or mistranslation that was only made in the King James Version repeat itself in the Book of Mormon, our conclusion would have to be the same. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we have. Many times over. Just to use one example. In 2 Nephi 14:5, it is written:
And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and a shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory of Zion will be a defence.
Notice that even the spelling of the word "defence" is that of 16th century England. The notes in the Book of Mormon note that this text is identical to that of Isaiah 4:5. The problem is that the King James translators made a scribal error on the word here translated "defence". The Hebrew word in the text for Isaiah is "chuppah" which means curtain, covering or chamber. The translators made the error, and in every translation since then, including the New King James, the error hs been corrected, and the word is rendered "covering". In the Book of Mormon, however, the error that was made by a careless translator appears in the text under the guise of being a "translation" golden plates. Unless God does not know Hebrew, or He was interested in perpetuating a mistake by an Englishman, we have to conclude that the Prophet Joseph Smith was merely copying out of a King James Bible when he was "translating" large amounts of the Book of Mormon. In the years of studying this "Testament", I have found many such examples. Why, for example, when Christ was delivering the equivalent of the "Sermon on the Mount" did he warn the Nephites about saying "Raca" to one's brother, since "raca" is an Aramaic and Greek term that would have been mere gibberish to the Nephites? ( 3 Nephi 12:22, see also Matthew 5:22). Again, Smith was reading out of his King James Version. There are hundreds of examples, many which border on the absurd.
When all of the evidence is sifted through, and we take an honest and hard look at the claims of Mormonism, a new picture begins to take shape. We know that Professor Anthon did not verify anything for Martin Harris. No one has every shown even a single hieroglyph to support that there was ever anything to actually translate (excepting the hieroglyphs that were once pawned off as being from the golden plates, that actually turned out to be from the Egyptian Book of the Dead). The Book of Mormon itself has proven to be a forgery. Mormon scholars are continually embarrassed by the archeological findings on this continent that contradict the history as told by the Book of Mormon. Anthropologists know that the Native Americans are not descended from any Semitic peoples, as Mormonism would have us believe, but are of mongoliod descent, having migrated from Northern Asia over the Bering Strait many thousands of years ago. One glance at the facial features and basic genotype will quickly confirm this.
What then, do the Latter-day Saints do with the Book of Mormon? Joseph Fielding Smith, in Church History and Modern Revelation, says concerning the Book of Mormon that if:
The work ( Book of Mormon) being spurious, it would have come to a speedy and ridiculous end. It would have never survived the first year of it's existence. It would have been filled with flaws that the scrutinizing gaze of the world would have exposed in all it's folly."
Proving that it is spurious is not the difficult part. The flaws have been catalogued many times. Some of them have been corrected by the Mormon Church (i.e. The Pearl of Great Price used to say the Nephi appeared to Joseph Smith to introduce him to the golden plates; that was later changed to Moroni). Others are not so easy to revise without admitting that the whole "revelation" is a sham. The difficult thing is to get Mormons to respond to that understanding. The Latter-day saints are extremely sincere people, and much of their family and social life is intricately tied to the church. It would be a trying and traumatic thing to question the tenets and major doctrines of Mormonism.
I would ask the reader, then, what will you do? The restoration of the church of Jesus Christ is indeed a valid mission, but is it still a valid mission when the church we are restoring is found to be fraudulent? I believe in the historical church that Jesus established, and it is that church that God will glorify and exalt to the fullness of Christ. Ultimately, God's kingdom is going to be the only unshaken government left on earth, and it is imperative that we "examine ourselves" and indeed verify that we are adhering to the "faith that was delivered once and all to the saints". ( Jude 3). We are warned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 not to have factions were we would profess our loyalty to men, so why would we revere the individuals of Smith and Young to the point that we nullify God's Word to follow their teaching?
God still has a remnant of people who have not bowed knee to Baal. They are concerned with the the Gospel of God, and the restoration of God's church. They are found in different facets of the Body of Christ, rather than one exclusive sect or denomination. They put the truths of God's Word, the Bible first; rather than the traditions or alleged "revelations" of any individual. Serving Him in sincerity and in truth excludes the possibility of us being defrauded by the vain teachings of men. We sincerely want all men to come to a knowledge of this truth. If you would like more information on Bible truth, or have a comment or question about what you have just read, please write to
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