Mormons, Firing Squads and Rev.22:18-19
The Mormon religion is consistently, and correctly, accused of violating the injunction of Jesus in Revelation 22:18-19:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: ‘If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to them the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.’”
In response, the usual puerile nonsense is trotted out by Mormons to the effect that “this book” cannot be a reference to the Bible since the Bible wasn’t in existence until some time after these words were written: therefore, “this book” must mean “this book of Revelation.” (Look of triumph on face of Mormon)
Not only is this response immature it is lazy and even dangerous in that it teaches people to be satisfied with the first answer that occurs or appeals to them as long as it defends their position instead of seeking a deeper, fuller and more true understanding of what John is writing. What is especially galling for the Bible student is the hubris that accompanies such Mormon nonsense, which is usually prefixed by high-minded statements like, “If you read the text carefully and in context….” To which we might rightly respond, “Indeed, if only Mormons would.”
Only ex-Mormons Exegete
It is well to remember in this regard that Mormon beliefs are asserted rather than explained and reasoned through. While the Christian Bible teacher expects to carefully exegete a text and the Bible student to use carefully reasoned commentary to come to an understanding of that text the Mormon simply declares what his or her church believes as though such declamatory discourse is enough to settle any issue. After all, the argument goes, this came from the lips of the prophet. When the prophets are tested however they are invariably found wanting, as we shall see here. That is why only ex-Mormons exegete.
While it is of course true that “the Bible” we know and love is not specifically in view here, nevertheless, the Word of God in any and all forms is. The emphasis in the passage is as much on “adds anything [or]takes words away” as on “this book.” John can hardly have been suggesting that you can’t add to the Book of Revelation without risking the most dire of consequences but that the rest of Scripture can be fiddled with to your heart’s content! This much becomes clear when we consider that the same command is already found in Deut.4:2;12:32.
From these Deuteronomy verses the Mormon, again thoughtlessly, will argue that the Bible has been “added to” since Deuteronomy was written and therefore we cannot infer from the Revelation text that no additions are to be made to the Bible, giving the Mormon licence to claim “new revelation.” But these Deuteronomy verses and the fact that most of the Bible we have today was “added to” them makes clear that it is not the adding of words to a pre-existing text that is in view but the adding of error to pre-existing truth, introducing teachings alien to the established plan and doctrine of God. In effect, these verses are saying, “this is what you are to believe and live by and if anyone tells you anything different don’t listen to them” (Gal.1:8-9)
Christ, God’s Fullest Revelation
The Christian would be on solid ground when declaring that God’s fullest revelation of Himself is found in Jesus (Heb.1:1-4) and that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3) There is no adding to, only the working out of such knowledge in faith, goodness, knowing or understanding, self-control, perseverance and godliness (1:5) This is not adding to Scripture but applying scriptural virtues to the Christian life in light of the good news revealed fully in Christ.
In short, when God declares his truth with regards an issue “complete” (which it must be if he declares that nothing should be added) then whatever follows in teaching and telling the story of God’s dealings with men and women must concur with what has gone before. Mormonism does not so concur with God’s established Word and the consequences of this are far reaching and sometimes dire in this world let alone the next. A prime example is an audacious addition made to the Bible by Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith.
Mormons and Blood Atonement
Part of the Noahic covenant in Genesis declares, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen.9:6) This verse demonstrates the high place of man as God’s image bearer and the focal point and representative of God’s kingdom on earth. To take the life of another is to show contempt for God.
Reflecting this same high view of man in God’s scheme, John 3:16 declares, “God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son that whosoever believes (trusts) in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The sacrifice of Christ in behalf of believers is so thoroughgoing in its effect and so comprehensive in its scope that “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Mt.12:29) Of course, to deny or blaspheme against the Spirit is to reject the very one who brings forgiveness, applies the healing balm of the blood shed on the Cross for sinners. It is effectually rejecting your own salvation. The sacrifice of Christ in effect pays for “every sin and blasphemy” for the repentant sinner and we begin to see why Christians call this the good news of Jesus.
Joseph Smith, on the other hand, reverted, as many false teachers do, to the earliest Old Testament law and covenant given to Noah and insisted that there are some sins that are beyond the reach of Christ’s healing blood and that “If these offences are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore, their only hope is to have their own blood shed and to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf.” This teaching is reported in the three volume Doctrines of Salvation by Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, who went on, “This is scriptural doctrine, and is taught in all the standard works of the church.” Doc. of Sal. Vol,1 p.135)
and Firing Squads
The sins and offences for which the blood of Christ could not sufficiently atone include murder, theft, adultery and immorality (yes, ironic isn’t it?), using the name of the Lord in vain and counterfeiting (another rich irony). Joseph Smith was in favour of beheading and Brigham Young similarly favoured slitting throats. This idea became know as the doctrine of blood atonement. Which brings me to firing squads.
On Friday 18th June 2010 Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad, the first in fourteen years to die this way and the third since 1977, and all happened in the Mormon state of Utah. Whatever your views on capital punishment consider for a moment that this barbaric form of it has existed into the 21st century because Joseph Smith added to the Bible and took away from it the saving blood of Jesus. When Mormons dissemble, prevaricate and deny when challenged on the issue of blood atonement it seems hardly credible since the very law of Utah has reflected that teaching for generations. It was repealed in recent years but the change was not made retrospectively, hence this latest, and last firing squad.
Adding to or taking away from the words of Scripture is not an academic thing that we discuss in the abstract. It is a real offence to a God who will not be mocked and a serious threat to the salvation of those who do it as well as those who listen to these false prophets. False doctrine is not only personal but societal in its effect and we would do well to heed the words of Paul to Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you” and of Jude to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (2 Tim 1:14; Jude 3)