Friday, 12 November 2010

Won’t You Pray About This Book?

Anyone who has taken lessons with Mormon Missionaries will have met the challenge of the Book of Mormon. “Won’t you pray about this book and ask God if it is true?”

They will have heard Moroni’s promise, “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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

This is the experience on which the Mormon testimony is based, the starting point of someone’s involvement in the Mormon Church.

In principle Moroni’s promise extends beyond the Book of Mormon, promising that by this method we “may know the truth of all things.” In practice I doubt you will find a Mormon today who has read and prayed about the Bible.

Of course Mormons pray about many things as they seek that inner affirmation that tells them they are being led correctly, confirms that the Mormon Church is true, and their leader is a living prophet.

They don’t, however, pray about the Bible. This is hardly surprising since the Mormon Church has by-passed God’s word in those very missionary lessons that are meant to teach God’s truth.

The whole thrust of the Mormon missionary lessons is their account of apostasy and restoration. The Bible is the book of the apostasy, the Book of Mormon the instrument of God’s restoration of truth through Joseph Smith.

References to the Bible are restricted to questionable interpretations of texts that confirm apostasy (Acts 20:29-31) and Mormon doctrine (John 10:14-16). While the Book of Mormon is presented as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” and a companion volume to the Bible, in truth this book of the restoration delivers the final blow to the Bible:

“Thou hast beheld that [when] the book proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew; …it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord…Wherefore these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles…And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious…and all this they have done that they may pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they may blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” (1 Nephi 13:24-27,cf Joseph Smith History, 1:18-19)

Here is the true heart attitude of the Mormon Church to Christian Churches. Christians are portrayed as corrupt and abominable and The Bible is relegated to only a remnant of truth. A book into which many errors have crept, whose dependability is confined to those bits that agree with the words of the Mormon prophets.

No, Mormons don’t pray about the Bible. They already “know” that it has been corrupted in its transmission, altered by profane and uninspired translators, and misinterpreted by “corrupt professors” whose creeds are “an abomination in the sight of God” who “draw near [to God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [him].” (JSH 1:19) They know this because the book they have prayed about has told them so. By the end of the first lesson the Bible has been effectively dismissed.

By the time the typical Mormon convert has a Bible in their hands they know that it is untrustworthy without ever having read it. Now the path is clear for establishing Mormon authority in its place. Mormons do read the Bible but their reading is guided by commentary from “official” sources through manuals and study guides, church magazines and conference talks, and church meetings.

The Bible is never allowed to speak for itself because it is not reliable. They need someone to guide them and to teach them what it really means, to untangle its skein and fill in the gaps. Typically in this process the Bible message is revised to fit ideas peculiar to Mormonism.

A piece of timely advice to Christians on how to deal with suffering (James 1:5) becomes a key formula for discovering truth much like Moroni's promise. An obscure reference to baptism for the dead that is neither taught nor explained in the early Christian Church (1 Cor.15:29) becomes the basis for the Mormon preoccupation with the dead. A prophecy concerning Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 37:16-17) and a dire warning to Judah about unholy alliances and false prophets (Isaiah 29:1-4, 11-14) become predictions about the Book of Mormon.

Mormons have no idea of any other interpretations because the Bible that Reformation martyrs died to bring us has been taken from them and made to mean whatever Mormon leaders tell them it means.

Won’t you Please Pray about this Book?

If Moroni’s promise is to be taken seriously, however, we should pray about all things that are presented to us as truth and the Bible should be no exception.

Here is a book, much of which Jesus, the apostles and gospel writers quoted extensively. A book so widely quoted by the Early Church Fathers that it could be reconstructed almost whole simply from lifting it from those extensive references.

It contains the most comprehensive account we have of the life and ministry of the Saviour, the establishment of the church and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. A book which, contrary to Mormon claims has been miraculously preserved at great cost to men and women who even died to preserve it, and extensively authenticated by archaeological evidence and under stringent academic scrutiny.

Written over a period of 1500 years by more than 40 authors from many walks of life, written in different places and differing circumstances across three continents and in three languages, yet with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation, telling one story of God’s dealings with humankind and with his people.

Any person seeking truth would surely consider seriously a book with such qualifications, would read it, ponder and pray about it. And any church purporting to represent the authority of the Bible’s central character, the Lord Jesus Christ, would surely emphasise it and give it the attention it deserves; more attention than the Mormon Church gives it. No one would dismiss it on the word of two strangers whom they have just met – would they? Tragically many do.

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