Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Smith’

The Book of Mormon Weathers Claims of Critics

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints profess that the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of the Mormon faith. It is considered to be a sacred volume of scripture that is comparable to the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is not used as a substitute for the Holy Bible, but rather it is used in conjunction with that sacred text, and its teachings enhance the doctrines and principles that are found therein. In fact the 8th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

The work is nothing less than a miracle and has touched the lives of millions of people all over the world. A modern-day Apostle, Elder Mark E. Petersen, in his October 1977 General Conference address titled “It Was A Miracle!” commented, “The Book of Mormon is a literary and a religious masterpiece, and is far beyond even the fondest hopes or abilities of any farm boy” (Ensign, November 1977, 11).  Nevertheless, for many years critics have done their best to discredit the Book of Mormon, and all but dismiss it as a book of fiction. The question that has caused considerable discussion and debate is, “Did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates as he claimed, and as witnesses testified, or did he write the narrative himself?”

The Book of Mormon – A Miraculous Book

There have been many instances when great works have faltered under the scrutiny of critics. However, despite all of the negativism concerning the Book of Mormon and its authenticity, it continues to be placed into the hands of people all over the world, and those who embrace its teachings have had their lives transformed and testify of its power. Here are a few reasons why the Book of Mormon is so miraculous.

Reason 1: There Have Been Minimal Changes to the Text

Book of MormonCritics have long claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be authentic because they purport that 3,913 “changes” have been made to the text of the first edition. Their argument is refuted, however, when the short period of time that it took to translate the volume, and the fact that it required fewer changes as compared to other translated works is considered. That in itself makes the Book of Mormon a miraculous work.

The fact that changes were required is not unusual for any complex manuscript. Even Bible scholars such as Daniel B. Wallace, a professor of New Testament studies, affirms that the manuscript of the Bible “has undergone three revisions, incorporating more than 100,000 changes” (“Choosing a Bible Translation,” christianity.com).

Several other tidbits of information also deserve careful consideration. First, when Joseph Smith verbally dictated the Book of Mormon manuscript to scribes, he was a 23-year-old uneducated farm boy. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the translation work, the finished result was a 588-page manuscript which had as its central theme, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it contained thousands of original phrases, brilliant doctrinal speeches, and unique names.

Joseph Smith did not have the advantage of skilled editors to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. He relied heavily on his scribes and the typesetter to make such corrections. In fact, when the Book of Mormon was completed it was basically one continuous paragraph with little to no punctuation. John H. Gilbert, an employee of publisher E.B. Grandin, set the type and punctuated the first edition of the Book of Mormon.  The 3,913 “mistakes” which critics use to substantiate their claim that the Book of Mormon is not true, are indeed minor changes such as punctuation.  The fact that the Book of Mormon with its length and complexity of manuscript required so few corrections, is substantial evidence and proof that the book is of divine origin.

Reason 2: The Complexity of the Manuscript Nullifies that it is a Work of Fiction

Many critics claim that the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a book of fiction, and Joseph Smith, whom they further claim is a fraud, is its author.

According to a 27 January 2015 LDS Living.com article written by Randal A. Wright:

One internet critic paints Joseph Smith as an ignorant fraud and then says, “The Book of Mormon is no more complex than many other works of fiction, such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” He failed to point out that it took Tolkien, an internationally renowned Oxford English professor, 12 years to write his classic book. It is believed that this brilliant professor knew up to 30 different languages in various degrees. He also associated daily with other renowned fantasy writers, one of which was his good friend C.S. Lewis. Perhaps no one was better prepared to write The Lord of the Rings than Tolkien. Despite his experience, at the time he finished his book, Tolkien said: “There were some frightful mistakes in grammar, which from a Professor of English Language and Lit are rather shocking” (Dennis Gerolt, “Now Read On,” BBC Radio 4, January, 1971).

Joseph SmithContrast J.R. Tolkien’s life to that of Joseph Smith. Joseph was a farm boy. He had very little formal education. He was not afforded the opportunity to consult with professional writers and editors, or professional translators for that matter. He was only 24-years-old when the Book of Mormon was published. The entire manuscript of the Book of Mormon was produced in 63 days. And, it should also be duly noted that Joseph did not have any notes to refer to, but rather he verbally dictated the manuscript to his scribes. Furthermore, at times when the dictation of the manuscript was interrupted, he did not have bookmarks to remind him where he had left off, but yet when he returned to the work, he was able to continue as if there had been no interruption.

Wright further comments in his article, “If Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, he should be considered one of the great fiction writers of all time. If he translated it, he should be considered a great prophet. It is interesting that he receives no credit for being either from the world.” However, the substantiating evidence that an uneducated farm boy could not have written such a powerful book as the Book of Mormon, and that he was a true prophet of God, far outweighs any arguments presented by critics.

Reason 3: Joseph Smith is remembered for good and evil

On 21 September 1823, Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and prophesied that Joseph’s name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33.) Most people who are able to obtain international fame or power in their lifetime are usually thought of as being good or evil, however, Joseph Smith is remembered as being both good and evil.

In his article, Wright further comments:

What horrific crimes did Joseph Smith commit to be viewed as evil? Perhaps his “crime” was similar to that of William Tyndale, who infuriated both the religious and political authorities of his day by translating the Bible into English. Because of his actions, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic and executed.

Joseph Smith, like Tyndale, also translated into English an ancient religious record that boldly testifies of Jesus Christ. Many political and religious leaders of his day also considered this heresy. As a result, they vehemently spoke against his character and his work, they unjustly persecuted him personally and legally, and some ultimately took his freedom and his life, fulfilling Moroni’s prophecy.

Reading the Book of MormonThe Book of Mormon is exactly what its title proclaims it to be, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book was never intended to replace the Bible, but rather to complement the Bible in its doctrines and principles. Like the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon is a powerful testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the True and Living God, and the Savior of all mankind.

In the closing chapter of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni gives this promise:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-4).

All who are willing to accept Moroni’s promise and diligently read the pages of the Book of Mormon with sincere intent will come to know for themselves that the book is true.

A Mormon Apostle Speaks at Harvard

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Speaks at Harvard Law SchoolThe Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on March 20, 2012 to students of the Harvard University Law School as part of the school’s annual “Mormonism 101″ series. Elder Holland (Mormon leaders are traditionally addressed by the title, “Elder”) explained about the history and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called “Mormons.” He then engaged in a question-and-answer session with members of the audience. Elder Holland’s remarks helped shed some light on the Church, which has received a lot of media attention lately due to the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Elder Holland began his remarks by congratulating the students on their openness to discussions of religious belief. “In the western world religion has historically been the basis of civil society as we have known it, and if I am not mistaken, men and women of the law are committed to the best—that is, the most just—civil society possible,” Elder Holland pointed out. “So thank you for taking religion seriously. You will not only be better attorneys but you will be closer to the truth in your own personal lives.” (more…)

One More River to Cross: Mormon Beliefs About Death and Eternal Families

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The S.S. William Tapscott mormonWilliam Tapscott Gillman was named after the ship upon which he was born, the S.S. William Tapscott. Alice Wickham, William’s mother, was crossing the Atlantic from land to America as a newly baptized Mormon. It was 1860. Over seven hundred new members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the “Mormon Church” by the media) were crowded into tiny berths on the refitted cargo ship. They were travelling to join the body of the Church in Zion, which is what they called the newly settled Utah territory where the rest of the Saints had gone to escape religious persecution. The crossing was long, thirty-five days, and the passengers were plagued by seasickness, measles, and smallpox. Four babies were born onboard, and five weddings were performed. Alice, who was unmarried, arrived in the Salt Lake with her new baby in the fall of that year, after months of travel by ship, steamboat, rail, and wagon. She married James Henry Gillman, who adopted the infant, in December of 1860.

The young couple eventually went to pioneer in the high desert country near Vernal, Utah, a place where the only thing green was the town’s name and the name of the Green River flowing nearby. The land was so remote that it became notorious as a location along the infamous “Outlaw Trail,” where various wild west outlaws could roam and hide freely during the late 1800s. Despite of, or perhaps because of, the heat and the cold, the dryness and the rough company, William Tapscott Gillman grew to be a strong, faithful Mormon man, and a successful farmer. He married Catherine McKowen in 1887 in Vernal, Utah. Together they raised ten healthy children, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (more…)

Mormon Women and the Relief Society: As Sisters in Zion

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

By Keith Lionel Brown

Church services in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church” in the media) are divided into three segments. The first and most important segment is Sacrament meeting, where members meet together to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper and hear talks given by various members of the congregation. The second segment is Sunday School. During the third segment, members split into various groups and attend separate meetings: Priesthood Meeting for the men, Relief Society for the women, and Young Men/Young Women meetings for the youth. “Primary”activities and classes are provided for children 18 months to 12 years of age during both the second and third segments.

A Mormon Woman Teaching a ClassMormon Women As Leaders and Teachers

Women are equal participants as teachers and leaders in every one of these church programs except for Priesthood Meeting. Along with the men, they pray and speak in Sacrament Meetings, conduct music, provide piano and organ prelude and accompaniment, and participate in choir and music programs. Similarly, both women and men teach and lead Sunday school classes. Women alone preside over the Primary program, although both men and women teach Primary classes. Women are the teachers and leaders of the Young Women, while men teach and lead the young men. Most importantly, however, the women of the church lead, teach, and comprise the Relief Society – their exclusive domain. (more…)

How Did Joseph Smith Learn Hebrew?

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Joseph Smith received very little formal education as a child and young man. He was largely educated by his parents, due to a lack of schools available. In all, he attended formal schooling only about three years. In addition, he was tutored by an angel named Moroni in spiritual things for several years prior to beginning his work. Despite this, by the time of his early death, he had become well-educated in many fields, including Hebrew.

Mormon Joseph Smith First VisionJoseph Smith began his role as a prophet with minimal traditional education. While he was literate, he was not highly skilled. When it came time to translate the Book of Mormon, he did the translation, but friends and his wife served as his scribe, because he lacked the skills needed to write the translations well. He did not know the language of the Book of Mormon-reformed Egygptian-but studied the materials and relied on the guidance of the Holy Ghost for confirmation.

It was after the church began that Joseph, who loved learning, set about increasing his education. His family had

always worked very hard for their living and there had been no time or money for advanced education. (more…)

Do Mormons Have Mass?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Catholics have mass to show adoration to the Savior. They teach Jesus offered Mass at the Last Supper and that the bread and wine offered during mass are literally transformed into the Savior’s blood and body.

Mormon Church MeetingMormons have a similar celebration, called the Sacrament. It is offered during a weekly Sacrament Meeting, which is the primary worship service. There are differences between the Catholic and Mormon service, however.

Mormons use bread and water in the Sacrament. Although wine was used when Christ held the first Sacrament, Mormons teach that the bread and water only represent the blood and body of the Savior, rather than being transformed into the actual blood and body, and therefore, it is not important that water is used instead. (more…)

Does Religion Take Away Your Agency?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

This is a common misconception about religion. Mormons teach that each person is given agency to choose for himself how to live

. Mormon beliefs begin the story of life prior to birth, when God created each of us as a spirit. We lived with Him, learning, developing our character and personality, and practicing making choices, until the time came to come to earth. At that time, we were, as always, given our agency. We could choose to come to earth with Jesus as our Savior. If we made this choice, we would continue to have agency and some would use it unwisely and be unable to return. God would send a Savior to do that part we couldn’t do for ourselves. This Savior, Jesus Christ, would take on the sins of the world and die for them.

Jesus Christ MormonThe other choice was to follow Lucifer. Lucifer wanted to take away our agency and send us to earth as puppets, with himself as the puppet master. He would control our every thought and action, and we’d live perfect lives, but for no purpose. Some were uncomfortable with the idea of continued agency, and rejected it. They preferred to stay with Satan and allow him to do their thinking for them. Those who followed Lucifer elected to give up their agency and were denied a chance to come to earth. They could not live here without agency.

The Mormon religion allows us to maintain control over our lives. Mormons teach that each person is required to find out for himself if the Mormon religion is true. While a very young child might believe simply because his parents believe, the child is taught, before he is eight years old, to begin deciding for himself. At age eight, he can be baptized, and before this happens, he is to learn his religion and to pray to know if it’s true.

This process is often repeated several times, as the child grows up and gains a stronger ability to recognize the promptings of faith. The pattern was set for us by Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet of modern times. He wanted to know which church to join, and after reading in the Bible that God would tell him, he went into the woods to ask God. Both God and Jesus Christ came to him to answer His question.

Most of us won’t get that type of answer, but we can receive an answer to our prayers, just as Joseph Smith did.

Does joining a church force you to give up your right to think for yourself? Of course not. Because each member of the church is taught to find out for themselves if the church is true, they are making an informed decision. Even after making this overall choice, if they learn something they’re not sure about, they can pray about that specific doctrine as well.

If your mother taught you not to touch a hot stove, and you obey, have you given up your right to think for yourself? No, because you are still free to touch the stove, as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences. You’re simply choosing to do what you know is best for you. Mormons, and other who believe in God, are doing the same.

One example often given is that of the sonnet. The sonnet is a poem with a very strict structure. Within the strict structure, however, a great deal of originality is possible. There are millions of sonnets, all following the rules, but all unique.

Believing in God is comforting. It’s a safe and healthy comfort, unlike the artificial comfort brought about by alcohol, drugs, or other immoralities many people turn to when they are stressed or worried. People who believe in God know there is someone who loves them and knows them, who always has their best interests at heart, and who, while not taking away our personal agency, will help us if we ask for help.

A true religion asks a great deal of its members. The Mormon religion isn’t a passive one. Because it’s a lay church, each member works hard to help it function, serving as leaders, teachers, and givers of service. They are held to a high standard of behavior.

Giving up your right to think for yourself is seemingly easy (although in reality it isn’t.) People looking for an easy way through life aren’t interested in being Mormon. The moral standards are very high and, since Mormons live in the everyday world, not in a sheltered community, this means making sacrifices and fighting those who want them to lower their standards. They raise families, have jobs, do volunteer work, and are also taught to make the most of the talents they have been given. They must figure out how to do this on their own, given their unique circumstances.

Religion never promises to be easy. The Mormons expect people to work hard for their own happiness and well-being, using the gospel as a guideline, but making choices within those guidelines.

What are Angels?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Angels are messengers from God and serve as ministering spirits. They’re spoken of often in both the Bible and Book of Mormon. There are two types of angels. The most common are resurrected beings—those who lived on earth, and then, after their deaths or translations (going to Heaven without dying), became angels. Some were those who lived exemplary lives on earth and will live with God. These often minister to those on earth, participating in critical events in the Earth’s spiritual history. Others are those who lived on earth, but did not keep the commandments well enough to return to God. These are spoken of in Matthew 22:29-30:

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as .

Mormoni and Joseph Smith MormonIn these verses, Jesus explains that angels-not the exalted beings, but the unworthy beings-will not be allowed to have eternal families because they will not be exalted. The Bible also mentions some who were angels without having been mortal previously. No angels have wings. Clearly, those who lived on earth aren’t going to sprout wings, since they are, as we are, in the image of their Father in Heaven. Wings are merely an earthly attempt to explain how angels are able to move around in the sky, but have no bearing in fact. With God’s power behind them, wings are unnecessary. (more…)