What Do Mormons Believe About the Bible and the Book of Mormon – Session 2
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Sandra Tanner, Dr. Lynn Wilder, Michael Wilder; ©2012|
|What does the LDS Church teach about the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and other scriptures? They are considered inspired, with the Book of Mormon called equal with the Bible and often treated as superior to the Bible. In this program, we will learn both from the stories of former Mormons as well as what the Bible teaches.|
According to a recent survey, half of all Americans believe Mormonism is a Christian religion, while one third think it is not. This has caused many to ask, are Mormons Christians? How do their beliefs compare with what Jesus and the apostles taught in the Bible? My guests today are three prominent Mormons who have left the LDS Church and become Christians. First, Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church.
- Sandra Tanner: In June of 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the president of the church at that time, he said “the traditional Christ of whom they,” meaning the Christians, “speak, is not the Christ of whom I speak.” Now, why isn’t it the same Christ? Because the Christ of the Bible has eternally been God. He’s never been less than he is today. And yet Jesus of Mormonism is one of a whole string of Gods. His father, Heavenly Father, had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus in Mormonism has not always been God. This is something he achieved. It is the goal of every Mormon man to someday achieve godhood the same as Jesus did, the same as Jesus’ father did.
- Second, Dr. Lynn Wilder, a tenured professor at Brigham Young University, who authored more than 50 scholarly publications. She left her teaching position in 2008 after becoming a Christian.
- John Ankerberg: As a tenured professor at Brigham Young, okay, and being a Mormon for 30 years, do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God?
- Lynn Wilder: I do not. There are contradictions all over their own scriptures. There are blatant contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, even. One says God is spirit, and one says God has a body of flesh and bones. You can’t have it both ways.
- And third, Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who worked in the Temple, was a member of the High Council, and served in two bishoprics.
- Ankerberg: Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey and Orrin Hatch, they’re all Mormons.
- Michael Wilder: Yes, they are.
- Ankerberg: Okay, so if I ask them the question, can you be a biblical Christian at the same time that you are a Temple attending Mormon, as one of those that gave the Temple Recommend, what would you answer?
- M. Wilder: I would say, with my understanding of Christianity now, is that, no, there’s a huge conflict between being a biblical Christian and being a Mormon.
- Tanner: It’s a totally different concept of who Jesus is, who man is, who God is, how we fit in the universe, how we get right with God. In Mormonism it all hinges on participation in the Mormon Temple ritual; in Christianity it all hinges on throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and claiming Christ as savior.
- We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about the claims of Mormonism; we’re comparing them with the teachings in the Bible. Which is correct? And my guests today are Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church. We have Dr. Lynn Wilder, who has been a tenured professor at Brigham Young University; and we’ve got Mr. Michael Wilder, her husband, who has been high up in some of the offices of the Mormon Church, which you’re going to hear as we go along.
- And this topic that we’re talking about today is crucial. We’re talking about truth claims. If God has actually spoken, the Bible says God has spoken to the prophets; Jesus Christ has come and spoken; the disciples have spoken. We’ve got their writings. This is the very word of God to us. The Book of Mormon says these are divine revelation, God’s word to man through Joseph Smith, alright. You’ve got revelation that’s been given. Now, the question is, when we check out this revelation, do we have solid information? Does it make sense? Can it be substantiated? And so on.
- And, Sandra, I want to come to you on this. According to the Book of Mormon, only fools believe that the Bible alone is a sufficient spiritual guide; II Nephi 29:6 states, “Thou fool, thou shall say, a Bible, we have got a Bible and we need no more Bible,” okay. Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS church, said about Christians, “They are ignorant translators, careless transcribers, designing and corrupt priests who have committed many errors.” Now, when you look at that, you say, okay, let’s check out, what is the Book of Mormon then; because the Book of Mormon is supposed to be this perfect book. Tell me, first of all, what is the Book of Mormon, for people that don’t know.
- Sandra Tanner: Well, the Book of Mormon purports to be the story of an Old Testament prophet named Lehi, who, with his family, immigrate to America, just after 600 BC. And they come over here and set up a group of Israelites who supposedly keep the law and they are faithful to follow God. Then it follows this family’s growth into nations and through to their great final battle about 420 or so AD, when most of the righteous people are killed off, leaving just the dark, sinful people, which are later identified as the American Indian. So the Book of Mormon ends about 421 AD. But that whole period is supposed to be about God’s dealing with the people in America, just as God dealt with Israel in the Old World. So, they receive scripture; their prophets go out in the land, predict coming doom in the Book of Mormon, Jesus comes over here after his death on the cross. He appears to the American people to tell them of the true gospel. So, it is truly another book of scripture. But once you accept that, then you’ve accepted Joseph Smith, which leads you to believe the rest of Mormonism. But the Book of Mormon is claiming to be a historical book on par with the Bible.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. And you have all of these civilizations that basically lived here on the North American continent. And when you say, okay, we’ve had civilizations in Greece and Rome that go back thousands of years, and even in Jewish history. And you can go back to, you know, 2000 BC, even before that, to Ebla and those kinds of things that are further back than that. And you can find artifacts of those civilizations. Now, according to the Book of Mormon, we should have a ton of physical material. Such as?
- Tanner: Yes. Well, the Book of Mormon people supposedly built great cities. So there should be those cities left over, at least some kind of remnant of the cities. Now, the Mormons will point to the Mayan ruins as some sort of evidence of an advanced civilization. But those are Mayan, they aren’t Christian Jews. So the problem is, for the Mormon, where are the artifacts for the Book of Mormon story that relate to those people? And they don’t have them. The Book of Mormon claims to have these great cities; we don’t find them. We don’t find any artifacts of their way of life. They supposedly had chariots and horses in their battles; no evidence of chariots and horses here in the Americas. They had steel swords; there’s no evidence of that kind of level of metallurgy here in the Americas. All the way through, you find these problems to make the Book of Mormon history. With the Bible, you can learn Hebrew and Greek and do your own translation. But no one knows the language for the Book of Mormon people. There’s no sample of their writing. Well, Joseph Smith made a little piece of paper, called the Anthon Transcript, where he gave a sample of supposedly the writing on the Book of Mormon plates. But no sample of that writing’s ever been found.
- Ankerberg: When Mormon missionaries have come by my house, or other folks’ houses, I’ve heard them say, “You know, the archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon is overwhelming. I mean, it’s outstanding. All you have to do is check it out.” Yet, Dr. Wilder, one of your colleagues at Brigham Young put it this way, “No one has found any inscriptional evidence for, or material remains that can be tied directly to any of the persons, places, or things mentioned in the Book of Mormon,” alright. When you look at what has been found across the world, has there been anything that’s been found?
- Tanner: No. In fact, the Mormons can’t even decide where the story happened. You will not find the Mormon Church putting out a map for the Book of Mormon lands. They won’t commit themselves to a location, because there’s no artifacts. And if they state that it was here or it was there, then you would know where to dig and you would expect to find something. You don’t go to Temple Square in Salt Lake City and go to a museum that has artifacts for the Book of Mormon. There’s just nothing there.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Now the Book of Mormon claims to be written by a prophet who lived how long ago?
- Tanner: Well, Moroni, the last guy that writes in it, he dies after 421 AD. But it starts out about 600 BC.
- Ankerberg: Okay. So, the last he could write was 400, right?
- Tanner: Yeah.
- Ankerberg: King James Bible was written when?
- Tanner: 1600.
- Ankerberg: 1611, King James Bible, alright. Now, the question is, when you get to the Book of Mormon, how did it end up with perfect King James English language throughout?
- Tanner: Well, this is one of the problems for the Book of Mormon. The people in Joseph Smith’s day did not speak in King James verbiage. And yet the Book of Mormon translation comes out in “thee’s” and “thou’s”, just like the Bible. And, in fact, you find throughout the Book of Mormon that it is plagiarizing verses from the Bible. They couldn’t have known these verses; they couldn’t have seen these things. This is a civilization that’s been separated from Bible lands for hundreds and hundreds of years. And yet, it’s full of King James phrasing and verses all the way through.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Now, I can’t believe you wrote this. How many pages is this? Over 700 pages: 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon, that you have found and you’ve written. This is just one of your many books.
- Tanner: Right.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Here’s the other one that I want to hold up right now. Joseph Smith’s Plagiarism of the Bible in the Book of Mormon. And what you have done is, you have put the verses that are either word-for-word, or very close to exactly what is in the Book of Mormon. Now, let me just give one example, so the folks can understand what this is.
- First, let me read from the King James Version, and then I’m going to read from the Book of Mormon, alright. King James, again, 1611; Book of Mormon had to be written before 400 AD. King James says, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” This is Matthew 5:22. Now, how did it come out in the Book of Mormon? “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” This is III Nephi 12:22. Now, what you’ve done is, you’ve got 400 of these that are word-for-word takeovers from the King James English of the Bible into the Book of Mormon. And he’s saying that he got it directly from God. Now, Lynn, when you were, as a professor, looking at your students’ papers, if somebody came up and did it word-for-word like that, would you believe they got direct revelation from God?
- Lynn Wilder: We actually have technology now that can chase down anything on the internet, and it’s called plagiarism.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Here is the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon claims to be divine, yet includes many contradictions. Let me just give you two, okay? The birth of Jesus. If you ask any Christian, “Where was Jesus born,” they would say Bethlehem, okay. “But thou Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me the one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Book of Mormon says, uh-uh, didn’t happen that way. Jesus would be born at Jerusalem. Alma 7:10, “Behold, he shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin.” Now, which one is correct?
- Tanner: Well, in Mormonism, they would say Bethlehem was a suburb of Jerusalem, so that it was sort of close enough, you know. But, it’s very… I mean, if Micah could get it right, why couldn’t the Book of Mormon people get it right? If God’s speaking to them, you’d think they would have a right knowledge.
- Ankerberg: Plus, there’s two Bethlehems, so Bethlehem Ephrathah was even a more…
- Tanner: Specific.
- Ankerberg: …more specific. Let me give you another one. The Bible says that during Jesus’ ministry he spoke of his Church as something that would be in the future. Matthew 16:18. “I will say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Book of Mormon says, uh-uh, the Christian Church will be established as early as 147 BC—before Christ. Mosiah 18:17 says, “And they were called the Church of God or the Church of Christ from that time forward.”
- Tanner: This is one of the problems in the Book of Mormon. You have the confusing of the Testaments, so that they have New Testament theology in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon and its time frame. And so, even before the time of Christ, in the Book of Mormon story, you have people being baptized for the remission of sin in the name of Jesus Christ. I mean, they have his name and the baptism. It’s totally out of place for what we understand in the biblical teaching, where the Old Testament was looking for the Messiah to come, but it didn’t already practice New Testament Christianity.
- Ankerberg: Alright. This is information that I think you’ve got to deal with. It’s factual data, and we’re just laying it out there and you’ll have to decide for yourself. But next, we’re going to take a break, when we come back, we’re going to talk about another part of the scriptures of Mormonism; namely, in the Pearl of Great Price, you have the Book of Abraham. And there’s evidence that’s come out that would suggest that Joseph Smith simply made it up. We’ll tell you about that evidence in a moment.
- Ankerberg: Alright. We’re back. We’re talking about the Book of Mormon and some of the other sacred scriptures of the Mormon Church. And we’re taking a hard look at the archaeological evidence; we’re looking at the language itself and seeing what we’re working with here. And we’ve got Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church; Dr. Lynn Wilder, who was a tenured professor at BY University; and we’ve got Michael Wilder, who’s been a Mormon for over 30 years. And we want to ask the question, what are the other scriptures of the Mormon Church? We’ve talked about the Book of Mormon, what else are we talking about?
- Tanner: Well, they have the Doctrine and Covenants, which is mainly a compilation of Joseph Smith’s revelations on the governance of the setting up of the Mormon Church from 1830 through his death. And then there’s a couple of other revelations by other prophets, but mainly it’s his revelations. Then they have the Pearl of Great Price, which is essentially two different books. One is called the Book of Moses, which is a revelation of Joseph Smith of how Moses wrote the creation story, essentially Genesis 1. And then you have the Book of Abraham, which is supposed to be a translation of some actual Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith had bought. And when he translated it, he claimed that it contained the writings of Abraham.
- Ankerberg: Yeah.
- Tanner: And his story of creation.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s talk about the Book of Abraham, because you’ve got a whole chapter in your big book on Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, all documentation, photographs, scholars, a whole bunch of things. I want the bottom line here. Why is it, as you say, “impossible, in light of new evidence, to escape the conclusion that the Book of Abraham is nothing more than the product of Joseph Smith’s imagination”? Those are strong words. Why do you say them?
- Tanner: Well, when Joseph Smith first did the Book of Abraham, and using these papyri, no one could read Egyptian, so he could say these actual ancient texts said anything he wanted. But since then, the hieroglyphics have been translated, and we now can read Egyptian. And so, for years, the Joseph Smith papyri were lost and they didn’t know where they were. They ended up being at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which have now been returned to the Mormon Church. And so those papyri have been examined by Egyptologists. And they all agree that the papyri just represent a version of the Book of the Dead, and specifically what they call the Book of Breathings. So the manuscripts could be translated.
- And there’s nothing in them about Abraham, so the Mormons are more and more having to default to revelation: that he’d looked at the papyri and received a revelation. But the heading of the Book of Abraham itself says, “A translation from some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt, the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand upon papyrus.” So it makes a specific claim—not just a revelation, a translation, of these documents. And in the Book of Abraham there are three pictures from the papyri, of Egyptian burial scenes that have to do with the Book of the Dead. And yet Joseph Smith gives a translation, supposedly, an interpretation of the pictures. Well, when you look at these, anyone that’s looked at the deities of the Egyptian religion will recognize Anubis and Osiris, Isis, and these different ones. And yet, Joseph Smith has a completely different interpretation of what those pictures are.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. And now he claimed that this was Reformed Egyptian, and a language that the scholars don’t even know about.
- Tanner: Well, that was the Book of Mormon that was supposed to be in Reformed Egyptian, they couldn’t translate. He just said this was Egyptian papyri that he was translating. Because no one knew how to read it, he could claim anything he wanted and couldn’t be contradicted.
- Ankerberg: And so now they have the same plates, and you do know how to translate it, and it’s not about Abraham at all
- Tanner: Right, right. It’s just standard Egyptian text about the Book of the Dead.
- Ankerberg: Michael, when you were faced with this kind of evidence, I mean, you’re a very smart man, okay. How did you process this in your mind?
- Michael Wilder: Well, basically, I was duped. In the LDS church, again, things you do not understand, you just go by faith. It comes back to that Book of Mormon. How do you feel about the Book of Mormon? I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, then everything else has to follow suit. So, when the missionaries knock on your door, they’re not going to talk about the Book of Abraham, they’re going to just concentrate on the Book of Mormon, because it is really the closest thing they have to the Bible. Because so much of it, you know, it’s been plagiarized from the Bible. And that, you know, a lot of those verses will make you feel good because they came directly from the Bible. But you get into the Book of Abraham, you get into Moses, you really don’t talk about that. Even in priesthood lessons, we never really hit on that very hard. It just kind of offset scriptures, especially since after they really found out what that represents, apologists have just been, you know, trying to cover their grounds very quickly that, well, you know, Joseph Smith wrote down what God wanted him to say about that. And it’s really not a clean translation,… But, again, it contradicts the writings of Joseph Smith. So, it’s all hiding. And, again, Mormons will go by feelings, and they’ll say, “Well, I don’t understand it. It’s one of the mysteries of God, but I do have a testimony of Joseph Smith, I do have a testimony of the prophet today, I do have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. That’s how they get around it.
- Ankerberg: Dr. Wilder, when you were teaching at Brigham Young, and this information was circulating, did you and the other professors have doubts about the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants?
- L. Wilder: John, in Mormonism, we didn’t hear anything about the Book of the Dead. I didn’t know any of these things while I was still in Mormonism. They do a very good job of kind of inculturating you; and part of the Mormon culture is, don’t read what we tell you not to read. Stay away, because it’s contentious, it’s evil, it’s anti-Mormon. And so, I mean, I really got brave, as this researcher mind, to have to step out and do some of that reasoning. And I did not know about the Book of Abraham until I was far into researching Mormonism.
- Ankerberg: So, what would folks who are Mormons right now, Michael, be saying to us? We can’t hear them, but if you were out there and you were a Mormon before and you listen to this kind of information, what would you be saying?
- M. Wilder: Well, you’re going to justify your belief. You’re going to say, “Well, they’re really not getting all the facts. There’s something misleading there.” And they will just kind of look over it. And again, it comes back to feelings: what’s in my heart. I feel good, my family, the doctrine of the LDS church is good and warm. I want to be with my family forever. Because they use fear, in that you have to be in the Mormon Church, you have to have that Temple Recommend. You cannot question your general leaders and the general authorities. You have to go by what they teach. And what other people are teaching about the Book of Abraham is immaterial. Regardless of what you see on the internet: It’s evil, don’t pay attention to it. Listen to your prophet, listen to your leaders, and they will not lead you astray.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. You’ve got to do that, because you can’t progress to godhood unless you obey your leaders.
- Michael Wilder: That’s correct.
- Ankerberg: And you can’t deviate from the doctrine, and they won’t let you, and they check up on you.
- Michael Wilder: Yeah and that’s in, actually in Doctrine and Covenants 1, I think the last verse. Again, it states that “whether I say it,” in other words, Christ saying it to Joseph, “or you hear it from your leaders, it’s as though it’s my voice.” So when they say something, it’s like Christ is speaking to you. And you need to obey that.
- Ankerberg: Give us some advice. You were there. You’re the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church. And you have this mind that all of a sudden is picking up this stuff. What was the struggle, and what’s your advice to somebody else that’s struggling?
- Tanner: Well, truth will stand up to investigation. We don’t have to worry about looking into the translation of the Bible. You can go learn Hebrew and Greek, and you don’t have to worry about coming up with a different version than the Bible. It’s going to say the same thing no matter who translates it. But you don’t find that in Mormonism. There is not this assurance of the translation being accurate, or that you could use your own mind to determine those things. Everything is phrased “follow the prophet; whatever the leaders tell you, that’s God’s instruction. Don’t worry about these side issues, the prophet is the man that speaks for God.” So, all evidence is downplayed; it’s set aside. If it contradicts what the leaders have said, then the facts don’t matter. I have people come into the bookstore that I talk with, and they’ll say, “I don’t care what the books say, I don’t care what the facts are, I prayed and I know. I have a testimony the church is true.” And that becomes the default position of every question. If you pray, you know it’s true; therefore you don’t need to look into these things.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. I think of the verse: “It’s not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” And I want to say thank you to you for being here and for your testimony; for all of the work, all the years, Sandra, that you have put into making these huge books that are just full of documentation that people need to know. And for your courage to come out and also be able to share this publicly with the folks. I want to say thank you to all of you for being here. We hope to have you back again.