Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Response to Matt Slick or Steve Smoot's Excellent Adventure in Anti-Mormon Zombie Hell (Pt. 2)

"The whole structure of anti-Mormon scholarship rests on trumped-up evidence."
-Hugh W. Nibley

In the second half of his article "A Quick Look at the Book of Mormon", Matt Slick provides the reader with a handy chart comparing teachings of the Book of Mormon with other Latter-day Saint doctrines. This is not, however, to be mistaken with some attempt to show consistency between the teachings of the Book of Mormon and other LDS beliefs. Instead, Slick tries to show that Mormon doctrine and the Book of Mormon "is not internally consistent and it is self-contradictory." This is a rather bold pronouncement, one that needs to be investigated.
Below are the points made by Slick. They shall be in red while my comments will be in black.

There is only one God
Mosiah 15:1,5; Alma 11:28; 2 Nephi 31:21
Mormonism teaches there are many gods.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 5

First, the scripture references provided by Slick will be posted.

Mosiah 15: 1,5
[1] And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
[5] And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
Brant Gardner, commenting on these verses, writes:

The Nephite understanding was that Jehovah would come to earth as the Messiah. Modern readers read "Jehovah" as the premortal designation for Christ, and, hence, agree with the Nephites[1].

Gardner explains elsewhere that the Nephite understanding of God, in the context of pre-exilic Israel, would have included a belief that YHWH, or Jehovah, as the God of Israel and also one of the 70 Sons of El, would come to atone for the sins of the people[2]. YHWH, however, is not to be confused with El Elyon (God most High) whom, as Margaret Barker has shown, was viewed as a separate deity by the ancient Israelites[3]. Thus, these verses do not compromise the teachings of plurality of gods as later taught by Joseph Smith as the Prophet himself taught that Jehovah and Elohim were two distinct personages, as is recorded in the Book of Mormon.

Alma 11:28 features a discussion between Zeezrom and Amulek in which Zeezrom, who is described as being an "expert in the devices of the devil"(Alma 11:21), tries to catch Amulek in his words by asking if there is a plurality of gods. Amulek, who had previously spoke of only one God, answers that there is one God in verse 29. Slick tries to use this as evidence against the Book of Mormon. However, as has been pointed out by Brant Gardner, it is clear that Amulek answered the way he did in order to avoid getting caught in Zeezrom's trap of catching a contradiction in Amulek's words[4]. Furthermore, notice how the Book of Mormon text capitalizes the "G" in God. While it is true that LDS believe that men and women can become gods - lower case "g" - we reserve worship and faith to God the Father, which is consistent with Amulek's words.

2 Nephi 31:21 reads:
[21] And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

However, once again, we need to look at these verses in the context of ancient pre-exillic Israel. To the ancient Nephites, the oneness of the Godhead would have been in the fact that they are united in their purpose; namely, to atone for the sins of the world and "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

Furthermore, there is some indication that the Book of Mormon teaches that man can become as God. In Alma 18:31 we read of how the righteous shall "become as Gods" if they follow the commandments.

The Trinity is one God
Alma 11:44; Mosiah 15:5; 2 Nephi 31:21
The Trinity is three separate gods.
James Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 35. 1985.

Like with his other proof texts, Slick does not bother to read these verses in context. As should be noticed by the reader, he even repeats the same passages as he did in trying to establish Book of Mormon monotheism. However, Brant Gardner has shown that the ancient Nephite understanding of God is both consistent with the ancient pre-exilic Israelite idea of God and the Modern LDS view as well[5].

God is unchanging
Mormon 9:9,19; Moroni 8:18; Alma 41:8; 3 Nephi 24:6
God is increasing in knowledge.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 120.

Once again, Slick fails to read in context. Mormon 1:9,19 teaches that God is unchanging in that he will always grant miracles unto the children of men. This is consistent with the teachings of Joseph Smith, who taught that God will always give miracles and revelations unto men. Alma 41:8 teaches that the "decrees" of God are unalterable and says nothing of God himself not changing. 3 Nephi 24:6 and Moroni 8:18 teach that God is unchanging, but they need not mean in knowledge or power. The Book of Abraham teaches that all intelligence is eternal and that the spirits of men (including God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ) are equally unchanging (Abr. 3:18). The Prophet Joseph Smith in his King Follett discourse taught that:

Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man--on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement[6].

Thus we see that, as is taught in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham and by the Prophet Joseph Smith, that the reason why God is not changing is because his spirit and intelligence is eternal.

God is spirit
Alma 18:24,28; 22:9,11
God has the form of a man.
Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 3.

The verses cited in Alma which, according to Slick, demonstrate that God is a spirit read as follows:

Alma 18 -
[24] And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
[25] And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.
[26] And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?
[27] And he said, Yea.
[28] And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

Alma 22 -
[9] And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?
[10] And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?
[11] And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

The Latter-day Saints fully affirm that God has a spirit. Such is clearly taught in the scriptures both ancient and modern. However, we also believe that God has a physical body. What Slick fails to show his readers (probably on purpose) is that the Book of Mormon teaches this as well.

In the Book of Ether we read of the Brother of Jared who saw the finger of the Lord.

Ether 3 -
[6] And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

Furthermore, Brant Gardner has show that the specific identification of the Lord as a "Great Spirit" was probably to gain an association and connection on the part of Ammon between Lamoni who, as a Lamanite, would have been worshipping a pagan god. This is similar to Paul or the other early Christian apologists who associated Christ with various pagan gods in an attempt to make a connection with others and thus have a better chance of contextualzing the Gospel for non-members[7].

Eternal hell
Jacob 3:11; 6:10; 2 Nephi 19:16; 28:21-23.
Hell is not eternal.
James Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 55.

First, none of the verses cited by Slick speak of an "eternal hell". 2 Ne. 28:23 does speak of hell as "endless torment" but, when read in light of D&C 19: 10, we find out that the phrase "endless torment" is a rhetorical usage that emphasizes God's judgment of the wicked.

Furthermore, The Nephite concept of hell has been explored by John Tvedtnes and David Bokovoy in their book Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and Hebrew Bible. In this is volume, they write that the Hebrew word "Sheol" - which is the equivilant of the English word "Hell" - is not a place of damnation, but is rather the dwelling place of spirits after death[8].

This is in strict accord with modern LDS teachings which speak of the spirit world (Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison, respectively) that the spirits of all men and women will enter into upon death until the resurrection.

Polygamy condemned
Jacob 1:15; 2:23,24,27,31;3:5; Mosiah 11:2,4; Ether 10:5,7
Polygamy was taught and practiced.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266

Again, we turn to Brant Gardner. He has convincingly shown that the Nephites did not condemn polygamy per se, but instead condemned the pratice of plural marriage in the context of using this system to get personal wealth or power. In ancient Mesoamerica, the most likely place were the Book of Mormon events took place, social statues was exalted by not only material goods but also by how many wives men had. Notice that Jacob (and the other Nephite prophets) condemns both of these practices together in conjunction in these verses. This shows that while, as is indicated by Jacob, polygamy is acceptable if commanded by the Lord to raise up seed under the covenant[9], the practice of polygamy for personal gain is not acceptable[10].

After this impressive laundry list of items of supposed contradictions, Slick then asks:

If the Book of Mormon is the "most correct book of any on earth" (History of the Church, vol. 4:461), then why does it not contain essential Mormon doctrines such as...
1. Church organization
2. Plurality of Gods
3. Plurality of wives doctrine
4. Word of Wisdom
5. God is an exalted man
6. Celestial marriage
7. Men may become Gods
8. Three degrees of glory
9. Baptism for the dead
10. Eternal progression
11. The Aaronic Priesthood
12. Temple works of washings, anointing, endowmants, sealing.

First, it must be understood that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring men unto the fulness of the Gospel of Christ and Salvation. The fulness of the Gospel of Christ, however, is different then those doctrines required for exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. The fulness of the Gospel of Christ is a 6 step program that is intended not for exaltation, but simply salvation in the Celestial Kingdom - one of the lower two degrees in the Celestial Kingdom - in and of itself. These six steps include:
  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins
  4. The Laying on the Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost
  5. The doctrine of the Resurrection
  6. The doctrine of Eternal Judgment.[11]
The other doctrines selected by Slick, while being important for exaltation or becoming like god, do not have to do with the fulness of Christ' Gospel. This is why there is no explicit mention of some of these other items listed in the Book of Mormon; because they do not have to do with the fulness of Christ' Gospel.

However, some of the items listed by Slick are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, as we shall see. Once again, Slick's comments are in red and mine in black.

Plurality of Gods
Alma 12:31 speaks of men who shall "become as Gods".

Plurality of Wives
Jacob 2:30 teaches that the Lord will command polygamy if he desires to "raise up seed unto me".

Men may become Gods
See Alma 12:31 again. Furthermore, 3 Ne. 27:27 has an admonition by the Savior to his 12 Nephite disciples to be "even as I am" [i.e. deified beings or gods].

Temple Works
A fascinating article on the Temple in the Book of Mormon, including the rituals therein, has been discussed by Thomas R. Valletta in the book The Temple in Time and Eternity. In this volume, Valletta explores the temple and shows evidence for a Nephite understanding of the Endowment ceremony[12].

After yet another list, Slick then concludes that "essential Mormon doctrines aren't even found" in the Book of Mormon. However, one has to ask what doctrines aren't found. As has been said earlier, the purpose of the Book of Mormon was to proclaim the fulness of the Gospel of Christ.

This Gospel, however, is not to be mistaken for other doctrines that, while important, nay, essential for exaltation, are not required for salvation.

Slick, true to form, then ends his article with a giant logical fallacy. He declares that the reason these doctrines are not found in the Book of Mormon is because "the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a fictional account made up by Joseph Smith."

This is a massive non sequitor. The logic simply does not follow. Just because certain doctrinal concepts later introducted by Joseph Smith are not found in the Book of Mormon, that does not mean that the Book of Mormon events are fictional. How on earth does the fact that the because the Book of Mormon does not teach baptisms for the dead that therefore means that an ancient American named Mormon could not have written it? How is it that because the Book of Mormon is silent on issues like God once being a mortal that therefore means that there was never a battle at Cumorah or a city called Zarahemla? The historical aspects of the Book of Mormon are to be judged based on historical criteria such as archaeological and/or anthrological evidence, not theological evidence.

That being said, Slick in another essay does devote some attention to the historical aspects of the Book of Mormon, which we shall explore next time.
**End of Part 2**

[1]: Brant Gardner in Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Greg Kofford Books. 2007. 6 volumes.) volume 3 pages 299-300. Henceforth this title shall be abbreviated SW followed by the volume and page number
[2]: See Gardner in Monotheism, Messiah, and Mormon's Book presented at the 2003 FAIR Conference. Link here.
[3]: See Margaret Barker The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God (Westminster John Knoxs Press. 1992.) For a discussion of the early Israelite understanding of monotheism and polytheism, see Mark Smith in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Ploytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (Oxford University Press. 2001.)
[4]: SW 4:187
[5]: Aside from Gardner's excellent article referenced in note 2, also see his Excursus: The Nephite Understanding of God in SW 1:214-222. For an excellent rebuttal to the claim that the Book of Mormon reflects modalism, see David Paulsen in the FARMS Review (13/2). Found here.
[6]: Found online here.
[7]: SW 4: 281-283, 331
[8]: John Tvedtnes and David Bokovoy in Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and Hebrew Bible (Heritage Press. 2003.) pg. 81.
[9]: SW 2: 483-499
[10]: Ibid. Also see Jacob 2:30
[11]: 3 Ne. 11:31-39 and 27:13-21 outline the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon. The JST translation of Hebrews 6:1-3 also provides these six points as the "principles" of the Gospel of Christ. And, finally, in a discourse delivered 27 June 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith further elaborated on these principles and other items. See Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook in The Words of Joseph Smith (Religious Studies Center. 1980.) pgs. 3-6.
[12]: See "Conflicting Orders: Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah" in The Temple in Time and Eternity (FARMS. 1999.) pgs. 183-231. Found online here. Also worth reading is John W. Welch "The Temple in the Book of Mormon: The Temples at the Cities of Nephi, Zarahemla and Bountiful" in Temples of the Ancient World (FARMS. 1994.) pgs. 297-387.


  1. Greetings all! First of all I must apologise for taking so very long since my last post. Well, there is a lot here so I'll have to break it up into several posts.

    So, about the Trinity. I always get nervous when Mormons talk about Trinitarianism because they invariably, in my experience, misunderstand it. So let's clarify the doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity is the biblically inescapable teaching that there is only ONE God. This ONE God is THREE persons. God is one what and three who's (thus Trinitarianism does not violate the law of non-contradiction). So Jesus is God, the Father is God, and yet there are not two Gods (or three or whatever). And the Father and Son are different Persons (but not different Gods).

    Now, if the Book of Mormon is consistent with polytheism (polytheism = belief in many Gods) that still does not explain the bold-faced contradiction between LDS theology as it presently stands and the inescapable teaching of the Bible. The Bible says, implicitly, that God is a Trinity. Mormonism denies that. So Mormonism is not biblical. Period. Nothing you have said, dear Steve, in this post refutes that.

    Next, the Nephites agree with pre-exillic Israel? That is precisely the problem! The reason for the exile was a punishment for idolatry. Idolatry is more or less synonymous with polytheism. But Mormons don't worship the other Gods, you say? Even to admit that they exist is blasphemous to God. You need to remember, He will not share His glory with another. That is without the further qualification, in Isaiah. It does not say, well, He won't share His glory with another unless they are sealed for time and all eternity in the temple, keep the word of wisdom, etc. God is God and man is man and NEVER the twain shall meet. This is not just my own pet doctrine. Rather, it is taught in the Bible from beginning to end. Cults such as Mormonism are very good at twisting the Bible to fit their alien theology. If you were to come to the Bible more objectively, with eyes to see, you would see what I am saying very clearly.

    That is all I have time for right now. I'll try to respond to the rest in a more puntual manner.

    Shalom out!

  2. "Cults such as Mormonism"? Bye, bye, useful conversation and respectful dialog.

  3. evangelical: Please post the scripture and verse that uses the word "Trinity". Also, please quote the Nicean or Athanasian creed directly from a book of the New Testament.

    Next, please explain to whom Jesus was speaking in the intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Thank you.

  4. First, a couple of comments in counter-reply. The term "cult" is not derogatory in any way, shape, or form-at least as I use it here. Rather, I intend the term in an objective descriptive sense. All it means is "a sect claiming to be Christian that is not, in point of fact, Christian." Mormons claim that they are Christian but, in point of fact, they are not. This is an objective statement of fact.

    And Rob Watson's comments, with all due respect, illustrate my point perfectly that Mormons, at least in many cases, will talk about how bad believing in the Trintiy is and why we shouldn't do that, but, at the same time, betray a great misunderstanding of it. If one is going to deny something, one ought to know what it is they are denying. "Rob Watson" does not appear in the Scriptures and yet we all, presumably, believe in Rob Watson. Jesus was praying to the Father in Heaven in the Garden of Gethsemany. That passage is one of the one's Trinitarians appeal to to prove the doctrine of Trinity. It is always surprising to me when cultists appeal to it in an attempt to disprove it. I say all this with sincere respect for you, but you simply don't know what it is, apparently, that you are denying.

    Now, I'd like to respond to the matter of God being (or not being) a spirit. To say that God HAS a spirit is totally different from saying that God IS a spirit. Is man a spirit? Absolutel not. Man does have a spirit, however. We need to be very clear about this. Man has a spirit and, in addition, man ALSO has a body. God, on my view, does NOT have a body. The passages in Alma confirm that God IS a spirit which contradicts current LDS theology. The passages in Ether should, it seems to me, be taken in one of two ways. First, it may mean that God appeared to man AS a man. To appear as a man is to be a non-man. Or, another possible interpretation is that Jared (or whomever it was) was speaking phenomenologically. Note carefully the phraseology. "...AS a finger of a man." If it was AS a finger of a man then it was NOT A finger of a man. So when the weatherman says, "the Sun shall rise at 5:30AM he is also speaking phenomenologically for the Sun does not literally rise (the Earth itself moves instead).

    But let's move further. The Bible speaks of the wings of God. Are we to take it that prior to the apostate creeds of Mormonism, Christians believed God was literally a bird? Of course not. In the Bible, therefore, we should not be surprised to hear people speaking of the finger of God, like in Ether, without God really being understood as having a literal finger.

    What is more, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The heavens and Earth includes everything save God Himself. So the creator of ALL material reality cannot possibly be material Himself. He is thus non-physical or spiritual. The Bible explicitly says God IS a spirit. The Book of Mormon appears to teach the same thing explicitly.

    Paul and other Christians apologists associated Christ with pagan gods? This is the most ridiculous statement I have ever read in my entire life (the person making the claim, however, is NOT ridiculous). I almost fell off the chair when I read it. The early Christians lost their lives for being atheists (i.e. NOT believing in the pagan gods). When Paul was on Mars Hill, he told the philosophers that the idea of God having a material body, as the pagans thought, was utterly false. And he told them this in no uncertain terms.

    In conclusion, God IS a spirit according to both the explicit and implicit teaching of the Bible and, it seems to me, the Book of Mormon as well though this blatantly contradicts current LDS theology. And it is always best to go with the teachings of scripture, in my estimation.

  5. All [cult] means is "a sect claiming to be Christian that is not, in point of fact, Christian."

    A rather idiosyncratic and self-serving definition. I see no reason to accept it other than your assertion.

    Mormons claim that they are Christian but, in point of fact, they are not.

    Nah, they are Christian. Daniel Peterson adequately struck down the "cult" and "not Christian" thing in his book Offenders For a Word. It has yet to be rebutted.

  6. Now some thoughts about polygamy.

    In Jacob 2, Ether 10, and Mosiah 11, "whoredoms" is used as a synonym of "polygamy". And "whoredoms" certainly seems to have negative connotations. Notice it is not a particular type of polygamy, or polygamy with any explicit qualification. Just straight up polygamy.

    The Jacob passage is interesting. In the prefatory remarks (added later, presumably after polygamy took hold amongst Mormons, and considered unispired) we read, "Jacob condemns the unauthorized practice [as opposed to authorised practice?] of plural marriage." In the text of the chapter itself, however, there is no "unathorised." At least, there is no explicit "unauthorised." What's more, Jacob explicitly states that he is speaking in "plainess" as he proclaims the word of God. He then talks about how bad their pride is. Next, he explicitly states a change in subject, from pride, to a "grosser crime." Grosser than what? Their pride and greed. So the whoredoms, unchastity, abomination, and grosser crime of polygamy is a separate issue. Since Jacob openly admits he is speaking plainly, why should we read into it an implicit "unauthorised" prefix to the "polygamy"?

    Now, in verse 30, God says, through Jacob, that he could raise up a seed unto Himself through commanding polygamy IF He wanted to. But according to the context (if there is justifiable hermeneutical grounds to go with a less than straightforward, or 'plain', meaning, I do not see it) He would never want to. Why? Because polygamy is an abomination in His eyes and He delights in the chastity of women. Polygamous wives are, by implication, unchaste.

    And isn't God supposed to work exactly the same way today as He did in New Testament times and in Old Testament times today? There were 12 Apostles back then so there are 12 apostles today. David and Solomon sinned, according to Jacob 2, by having many wives so we sin in these latter days by having many wives. Either that, or 2 + 2 really does equal 5 after all.

    Fastforward to the days of the Restoration. Joseph Smith purportedly translated the golden plates and Mormonism grew as a movement. Like any young man, I suspect, he was subject to the same like passions as the rest of us. There were women around who hung on his every word.

    So Joseph was a powerful man. He could have used that power to commit acts of lewdness if he so chose. But adultery is a very serious sin for a true saint. Is this where the practice of polygamy (in Mormonism) came from? Joseph initially tried to hide his marriage to the Partridge sisters from his first wife Emma. Eventually, however, it was convenient to release the purported revelation to Emma. I believe there is even a chapter in D and C wherein she is instructed by God, through Joseph, to accept his prophetic authority, particularly with respect to polygamy, without question, or serious judgment of God would follow. What if you came home and found your spouse in bed with another man or woman? They assure you, "its not what it looks like, baby. God revealed to me that this is part of His plan." That is essentially what happened with Emma Smith. She never really accepted, apparently, the additional wives. And I don't blame her one bit for this.

    I was actually talking to some LDS missionaries lately and one of them tried to tell me that Emma was Smith's only wife and it was Brigham Young who instituted plural marriage! Apparently they've never read D and C. I was also recently watching a movie (I think the title was "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration"). In that movie Smith is taken by an angry mob to be tarred and feathered. Later he is shot and killed by a similar mob. All the while emotional music is playing. The implication was that these people were corrupt heathens who hated Smith because he preached a loving message. It conveniently leaves out the FACT that many of Smith's additional wives were already married to other men in the community. Also left out was the fact that some of his additional wives were 14 year old girls (in addition to other unsavory FACTS about Smith that are traditionally left out of 'faith affirming church history' in LDS sunday school classes).

    Well, as you know (if you are a Mormon) the American gov't did not take too kindly to plural marriage. So polygamy was pleasurable but inconvenient. God just happened to make another convenient revelation, about polygamy, this time forbidding it (i.e. if we consider the official declaration to be inspired-there is, perhaps, some ambiguity on that point).

    Doesn't all this smell the least bit fishy to you? It does to me. So the Book of Mormon does seem to teach against polygamy. And if you, dear Steve Smoot, cannot show a more plausible interpretation, then I guess I'll have to go with mine. The whole beginning of polygamy, in Mormonism, is rather fishy. Bottom line, Mormonism is once again weighed in the balances and found wanting. Perhaps Slick wasn't as far off base as you, Steve Smoot, would have us to believe.

    Shalom out.

  7. Context, "evangelical," context.

  8. Now about Hell.

    Well, "sheol" is a Hebrew word meaning "the place of the dead." The place of the dead could just be the grave. While this word is normally translated "hell" in the Old Testament it is not Hell in the traditional sense.

    When people nowadays speak of Hell they normally mean what, in Revelation, is called "the lake of fire." And the lake of fire is there said to be eternal. We normally ought to take the plainest meaning of a text unless we have good reason not to. I know of no good reason to take "eternal" in a non-literal sense in this book (or the rest of the Bible, for that matter).

    But what about the Book of Mormon? To say that the D and C later clarifies what was really meant is, I think, kind of to beg the question. For the "anti-Mormon" allegation is that Smith's religious/theological views changed over time. He taught one thing in the Book of Mormon, it is said, and something contradictory in the Doctrine and Covenants.

    The question therefore ought to be, is there anything within the Book of Mormon itself which indicates "eternal damnation" is not really eternal damnation?

    In Jacob 6:10, hell is said to be endless torment. In the next verse the audience is encouraged to get eternal life instead. Presumably, the eternal life is really eternal so eternal (or endless) torment would also be so, don't you think? A few verses later the word "Amen" appears. Which means, "truly truly." Truly truly, in other words, Hell and Heaven are both eternal.

    II Ne 28:22 tells us that there is no deliverance from the chains of Satan once one is insnared. No deliverance, if we take the plain meaning, would entail the eternity of Hell. The "no deliverance" of 22 cooperates the the "eternal torment" of 23 to establish the context as, apparently, literal.

    But even if the Book of Mormon is speaking hyperbolically when it speaks of Hell, this in no way solves the contradiction of current LDS theology with the Bible. The Bible says Hell is eternal, so when Mormons deny THAT, they are being unbiblical. There is definitely a contradiction with the Bible, in saying Hell is not eternal, and probably also with the true meaning of the Book of Mormon.

  9. On the number of deities.

    In Mosiah 15 we read of the Father (1st Person) and the Son (2nd Person) being not two but one God. This is, so far as I can see, Trinitarianism. The problem is that LDS folk today are extremely adamant in denying that they are Trinitarians. While it is, let us say, possible that there are other deities in addition to the triune one, in the Book of Mormon, to admit Trinitarianism into the Book of Mormon would be enough to make it "anti-Mormon propaganda".

    Now, to say that Jehovah came to Earth as Messiah is quite true-but irrelevant. What would be relevant was if the Nephites believed that Jehovah was the one, and only, deity. This passage does not explicitly teach monotheism but it does seem to implicitly teach Trinitarianism. Trinitarians are traditionally always monotheists.

    YHWH is 3068 in Strong's lexicon if you'd like to look it up. It can mean "the Jewish national name of God." Notice it does not say "A God" or "ONE OF MANY Gods". Just God. It can also mean "THE Lord". Of course, "the" is the definite article in English which implies there is only ONE Lord. Where this idea of 70 deities or a most high God above Jehovah comes from, I do not know. Brant Gardner and Margaret Barker apparently don't know what they are talking about. The Bible as a whole, from cover to cover, is unequivicle. There is no God but Jehovah. The Lord He is God. Before Me there was no God formed neither shall there be after me. I will not share my glory with another. Is there another like unto Me? I know not any. The passages speaking of "gods many or lords many" are referring to FALSE gods.

    But let us move on to the other verses. In Alma 11:25 Amulek speaks of THE true and living God. Other so-called gods are thus false and dead. Then Zeezrom asks him if there is more than one God and he (Amulek) says, unequivocally, "no". According to Amulek, then, there is ONLY ONE deity. This is in direct contradiction with current LDS theology. Nothing is more clear than that current LDS theology is NOT consistent with Amulek's words.

    So Amulek says that there is one and only one deity. He also says that the Son (Whom is, as we agreed earlier, Jehovah) of God will come. If the Son of God is Himself God, for "Jehovah" is a word for "God," but, there is only one God-and God is not His own Son, of course-it appears that Amulek is a Trinitarian.

    Now, the final passage sighted does NOT say "...the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one triad of deities united in a single purpose." Rather, it explicitly says that "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God." If the author of the Book of Mormon really meant "united in purpose" why didn't he just say so? Remember, in English "are one God" really means "are one God" and God Himself, it is said, inspired Joseph in his translating endeavor.
    To say that the righteous shall become AS Gods (note the capital G)is irrelevant, for to become AS a God is to not BE a God (only to resemble deity in some respect).

    And so Steve, it is three strikes and you are out. The Book of Mormon really does seem to teach there is one and only one God and yet, Mormons do not currently believe that. It is of course quite possible to read back into the Book of Mormon (or the Bible) what one wants to find there. But wishful thinking don't make it so. And the Bible itself teaches monotheism very strongly and consistently, so, Mormonism is, as we've seen before, radically unbiblical.

  10. Does God change?

    If God is eternal per se, then it is impossible that He should not be. In other words, it is impossible for Him to undergo ontological change. I mean to say, that God must always be God. He cannot obtain or loose deity (else He wouldn't be eternal and "YHWH" is defined in such a way as to imply that God is eternal). This idea rules out eternal progression for Him. So if it is possible for God to undergo change, it is not a change with respect to His being.

    Now, when X has an essential attribute, X cannot loose that essential attribute and remain X. Traditionally speaking, omniscience is regarded and an essential attribute of deity. If this is correct, then God cannot increase in knowledge for He already has all knowledge. What is more, the Bible teaches implicitly that God is, in fact omniscient.

    The spirit of man is unchanging? If the human spirit is emotional or rational, then that is obviously false. For we do change emotively and intellectually all the time. At any rate, human spirits are capable of birth and death in the scriptures. Being born or dying would certainly be a change.

    What can we say about the King Follet Discourse? Well, the "good logic" that Smith talks of, is, in a word, irrational. Prima facie, it is painfully obvious that a thing may have a beginning without and end or an end without a beginning or both or neither. The mortal life, for example, has a beginning but no end in LDS theology (correct me if I am wrong).

    So Smith is simply wrong when he says beginnings necessarily entail, and are entailed by, ends. But all this is pre-supposing the existence of an actual infinite. The problem is "actual infinites" appear to be logically contradictory. Let me explain.

    Imagine I start counting 1, 2, 3, and so on. When shall I reach the final number? Never. I will get tired of counting, say, when I reach a googool. But I could keep going. I could, POTENTIALLY, count higher and higher but it is impossible that I could ACTUALLY count through all the numbers. So then, a potential infinite is an increase (or decrease) without bound. But it is dreaming the impossible dream to suggest the infinite will ever actually be reached. When will eternity future be reached? Never for it keeps going. When will eternity past be reached? Apparently, if the past is eternally long then we have already reached an eternity of time now, but, that would be an actual infinite which is, it seems, impossible.

    But on this nuanced understanding, Smith is still wrong. The spirit of any man may be eternal into the future but not, I think, eternal into the past. This is not the only problem with the King Follet Discourse but discussing other problems would take us too far afield.

    Mr. Smoot apparently thinks that we are eternal in exactly the same way that God is. Why, then, make such a big deal about God's eternality if we have the very same thing. When one says (even in the Book of Mormon) that God is eternal, it seems one is magnifying the greatness of God.

    Is God unchanging? Yes. Do Mormons deny this? Yes. We see in this yet another reason to reject the LDS position.

  11. Evangelical: You have a lot to say against the LDS faith. You should start your own blog so that Steve and I can come over to it and fill up your comments section with our opinions on why you're wrong and why we're right.

    Oh, wait. You do have a blog. And, we don't do that.

    Here are a number of charitable organizations that could make better use of your time than we can. I suggest you call them and offer to swap the time you spend here with the time you could spend helping them.

    Thanks for your insights.

    (P.S. Given that I have the privilege of working from home at this stage of my career, my wife and I spend our whole day with our small children. We hear a lot of "is SO!" and "is NOT!" and "ya-HUH" and "nuh-UH", so we can quickly detect when a conversation has turned into a one-sided diatribe with no hope of resolution. We've given our side of the story and you've given yours. And it appears neither of us intends to budge. There really is no point in you continuing to post here if that's what this is going to turn into. Reasonable people can agree to disagree and move on with their lives.)

  12. The conclusion of the matter.

    I must be particularly anal by pointing out that it is Mr. Smoot, and NOT Mr. Slick, who uses the phrase "fullness of the gospel". All that Matt said was that "essential Mormon doctrines" are missing from the Book of Mormon. Smoot even admits that the doctrines listed are "essential" (i.e. for exaltation which is the ultimate goal of Mormonism).

    The doctrines listed are, indeed, essential to Mormonism. Any good Mormon would accept each of them whole heartedly. And anyone who accepts the entire list wholeheartedly shall almost certainly be a Mormon. What Steve tends to do, I've noticed, is take what people say, change it just a little bit, then respond to his (Steve's) own version. This, of course, is a straw man fallacy.

    Still, unless "fulness of the gospel" has some unique technicle meaning when Mr. Smoot uses it, I could only suppose that "fulness of the gospel" would mean, contrary to what he claims, exaltation in the highest level of the celestial kingdom.

    It must be remembered that all of Mormonism is said to be founded, primarily, on the Book of Mormon itself. If a large quantity of major doctrines are left out of it, then Mr. Slick really does seem to have a point.

    The doctrines which Smoot goes on to say are implied in the Book of Mormon are more or less dealt with in previous comments I've left above.

    Finally, I'd like to comment on the non sequitur. It is quit correct of Steve to point out that the absence of certain doctrines does not imply historical inaccuracies. However, if certain doctrines ARE taught in the Book of Mormon which are later contradicted in, say, the Doctrine and Covenants, that is a very serious problem. Or, if Smith (or whomever/s) simply fails to mention many foundational Mormon doctrines in Mormonisms foundational book, that would, quite plausibly, also be a major problem.

    The fact of the matter is, we have access to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price only through Joseph Smith. This one (and only one) man claims he got the books are inspired. If it could be known that Smith was a fraud, that would seriously undermine our faith in the Book of Mormon and Mormonism itself. There are way too many things that don't add up which seriously calls into question the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. This is the important point for Steve (and Rob and others) to notice. Not whether or not the Book of Mormon is historically accurate per se.


We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)