Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mormonism Misusing Scripture 2: The Case of the Absent Atonement

I wonder would you do something for me? Read through the following brief account of a little adventure I had recently and then answer the two questions at the end. Its a true story, I know because I made it up myself:

I recently bought a car because I planned to go on a road trip with a friend and my old jalopy simply wasn’t up to it. It surprised me that, within my budget, I was offered a great little model, much better than my old banger and with an interior so comfortable it was like driving a limo.

When I arrived at my friends’ house he took one look and said, “Nice wheels.”

“You like my motor?” I replied.

“Its a nice Auto,” he said, “and it looks like that model is going to take us places.”

With that we got in the vehicle and drove off on our adventure.

Q1. How many times does the word “car” appear in this narrative?

Q2. How many times is a car mentioned in this narrative?

We’ll get back to this shortly.

It still amazes me how Mormon thinking makes Mormon leaders so clumsy, so blindly incapable in their handling of the word of God. I recently blogged about Mormonism Misusing Scripture using the example of Spencer W Kimball in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness. It is an illustration that seems familiar enough to make us say, “they’re at it again,”  yet still surprising enough to make us marvel at such ineptitude. Sometimes, however, they just go too far and something here is more than clumsy and inept, its downright dishonest!Russell_M._Nelson

I refer to an article in the latest, July 2014, Ensign magazine. It is written by Russell M Nelson, a Mormon apostle, an “authority,” and addresses the issue of the gathering of Israel and the second coming. The theme is a subject for another time but I want to pick up on one almighty untruth right there towards the end of the piece.

Claiming that the Book of Mormon is “the instrument to bring about the gathering,” and that it clarifies the connection of the Mormon Church with the biblical house of Israel, Nelson goes on to assert:

“The Book of Mormon contains the fulness (sic) of the gospel. Without the Book of Mormon, we would know little about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

A footnote to this astonishing claim states:

KJV-King-James-Version-Bible-first-edition-title-page-1611.xcf“The word atonement in any of its forms appears in only one verse of the King James Version of the New Testament (see Romans 5:11). It appears in 24 verses of the Book of Mormon.”

You know, I just read that again as I typed it and realise it says, “In any of its forms.”  Its worse than I thought.

Of course, as a Christian, I instinctively react to this claim with disbelief. This can’t be true. Surely the atonement is found throughout the Bible, prophesied in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament. Yet here is a claim that even the language of the atonement is practically absent from our precious Bibles.

Did you answer my questions:

How many times does the word “car” appear in my story? (1)

How many times is a car mentioned in the story?(9)

You can see where this is going already, I am sure, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But lets go through this and see how mendacious this claim actually is, how far this “authority” is prepared to go with his fraudulent claims.

The word Atonement is a Bible word, describing a central Bible teaching. Indeed, it might be said that the theme of the whole Bible is the Atonement and its effect on all those who believe. So, is it true that, “The word atonement in any of its forms appears in only one verse of the King James Version of the New Testament (see Romans 5:11)”?

No! Absolutely not! The problem for Nelson is that phrase, “in any of its forms.” If he hadn’t included that then he would have been (technically) correct but, as usual with Mormon leaders, actually deceptive.

“Atonement” is an Anglo-Saxon word. It means ‘a making of one’ - “at-one-ment,” the bringing together of estranged parties, making them one again. The Greek is katallagē and the better translation is “reconciliation.” In the New Testament it denotes the work of Christ in dealing with the problem of sin and reconciling fallen man with God.

The word atonement appears once in the KJV New Testament, but remember we are looking for that word “in any of its forms.” The better word is reconciliation, another form of the word atonement. In the KJV the word reconciliation, or some form of it, appears four times:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation

                                                                                                                                                                              (2 Corinthians 5:18)

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2Corinthians 5:19)

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

Add to this the example of the word atonement in Romans 5:11 and you have FIVE instances when, “The word atonement in any of its forms appears” in the KJV New Testament. It gets interesting when you start looking at modern translations.Crucifixion Gustave_Doré-Le_Calvaire

In the New International Version Heb.2:17 uses the word atonement but Ro.5:11 uses reconciliation while Ro.3:25 uses atonement where in the same verse the King James Version uses propitiation. The English Standard Version also uses propitiation here but in Ro.5:11, where the King James Version uses atonement, the English Standard Version uses reconciliation. In fact, the English Standard Version doesn’t use atonement, not even once.

Clearly, just as in my car example, it isn’t as simple as counting instances when a word appears. Anyone with a thesaurus, even a dull, disinterested Mormon apostle, can find synonyms for atonement. Anyone with a good reference Bible, even a lazy, agenda-driven Mormon apostle, can find out what I have – if there is a will.

The Book of Mormon not only doesn’t contain “the fulness of the everlasting gospel,” it doesn’t contain the gospel. It merely contains a word for the gospel. The Bible contains the gospel and several different words, phrases, images, similes, parables that all tell the full and unadulterated story of the gospel.

To give the impression that the Bible is so deficient in telling the story of Christ’s Atonement, act of Reconciliation, Propitiation for sin, is to lie plain and simple. If anyone knows this old fox personally and wishes to pass this on I would welcome the opportunity to teach him how to use and understand the Bible. Apostle? Apostate more likely. Shame on you Nelson, shame on you.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Mormonism Misusing Scripture

Miracle of ForgivenessI want to show you, from chapter 9 in Spencer W Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness, how Mormonism misuses the Bible, misapplies its texts, and rips them from their natural context.

I have noted down and counted the relative Mormon and biblical texts in this chapter and discovered that a total of 29 Mormon sources are quoted compared with a total of 13 Bible texts . That is more than twice as many Mormon texts as Bible texts.

(notably, one Bible text is taken from the Joseph Smith ‘Inspired Version’ of the Bible, making that, in some people’s thinking, one less Bible text and another Mormon text)

Mormon Old Testament New Testament
Alma 34:35 Genesis 9:16 1 John 5:16-17
Heleman 13:38 Exodus 21:12 Hebrews 6:4-6
Mormon 2:13 Leviticus 24:7 Mat. 12:31-32 JST*
Ether 15:19   2 Peter 2:20-22
3 Nephi 27:17   John 6:70
Alma 39:6   John 17:12
Mormon 10:5   Acts 1:20
Heleman 14:18   Acts 2:29-34
Heleman 4:24-25   John 20:29
John 12:6
D&C 84:41    
D&C 43:33    
D&C 132:27    
D&C 22:2    
D&C 84:33-41    
D&C 88:24    
D&C 76:31-38    
D&C 76:44-46    
D&C 42:18,19    
D&C 42:79    
Teaching of PJS    
Teachings of PJS    
Teachings of PJS    
Improvement Era    
Improvement Era    
Gospel Doctrine    
Gospel Doctrine    
Gospel Doctrine    
Doc.Hist.of Church    
Ist Pres. Message 1942    


The argument could reasonably be made that of course Mormons quote and cite more Mormon sources; after all, they believe in them. But a careful reading, backed by good Bible knowledge, demonstrates that the argument put cannot be made from the Bible so the Mormon writer has to work from Mormon texts, using badly applied Bible texts to ‘back up’ the argument.

The Bible texts used serve only to back up a Mormon argument, often being wrought from their context to make a point they were never meant to make, supporting a point that cannot be made from the Bible itself.

The chapter concentrates on the “unforgivable sin” seeking to define it and warn against it, but that isn’t going to surprise you, is it? Mormons are frequently preoccupied with what might cause them to, “slip across the line” as Kimball puts it.

I want to look at three things: The peculiar fate of Cain, the curious judgement on King David, and the odd response of Peter to those who repented at Pentecost.

The Case of the Hirsute Murderer

There are two unforgivable sins in this chapter, actually. There is the denial of the truth once you have received it and there is the shedding of innocent blood – murder. The former appears to be difficult to define, even by modern prophets. He says of apostates who commit this sin:

We cannot definitely identify them [as unforgivable] individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before the fall.”

Somehow I am not reassured…

After speculating on this subject he turns to a more easily identifiable sin, that of murder;although, even here, he prevaricates between murder and manslaughter. But, turning to “the first murderer” he seems to be on more solid ground (though you might not agree).

Cain, we are told, was “thoroughly taught the gospel by his parents…” This may come as a surprise to Bible students who know well enough that this gospel of Jesus Christ was a “mystery hidden for long ages past” (Ro.16:25, c.f. 1 Cor.2:6-10)

Kimball is fascinated by this character and can’t help but retell a story he read from The Life of David W Patten, The First Apostolic Martyr, by Lycurgus A Wilson (strangely enough, I thought that title of first apostolic martyr went much further back than the early 19th. Century) Patten was an original member of the quorum of the twelve Mormon apostles.

“As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me…His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wonderer in the earth and traveled (sic) to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ and by virtue of the the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight…”

Several things in this popular tale demonstrate how Mormonism takes familiar Bible stories and bends them to the purpose of validating Mormon claims.

In Genesis the punishment Cain suffered is explained no further than that he was cut off from his livelihood as a farmer/agriculturalist in that he was made a wanderer, and further cut off from God. A mark was placed on Cain to protect him from those who might kill him, the nature of which mark is unknown so we might assume it isn’t important to know. This is not enough for an early Mormon leader who must demonstrate his credentials by knowing more than the Bible.

First, Cain is still alive, though the Bible clearly indicates he should die, since the mark of Cain was to protect him from premature death. There has been a long tradition of believing Cain’s “wanderings” as unending but the Bible says nothing about that. It is a sound principle that where the Bible is silent so should we be.

Secondly, his skin was dark, a dark skin traditionally considered by Mormons to be the mark of Cain and a bar to any dark-skinned male having the priesthood until the doctrine was changed in in 1978.

Thirdly, it was the exercising of Mormon priesthood that rebuked Cain and made him depart. This is the key to understanding this story. It validates Mormon claims to authority.

Thus we see how a fiction is devised to fill tantalising gaps in our knowledge, not to educate and enlighten but to make the Mormon Church the definitive authority, the ones who know, the ones with the power to command.

The Case of the King in Purgatory

King David, we are told, “is still paying for his sin.” Does that surprise you? Do you think a man can pay for his sin?

David, you will recall, committed adultery with Bathseba, the wife of one of his most trusted military leaders, Uriah the Hittite. When she became pregnant David panicked, called Uriah home from the battlefront in the hope he would lay with his wife and think the baby his. Noble Uriah refused, saying:

“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2Samuel 11:11)

Plan B: David has Uriah killed “in battle,” (2 Sam.11:14-16) and marries Bathsheba.

Here is what Joseph Smith said about David:

“A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness.  David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears,  for the murder of Uriah;  but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.” (TPJS p.339)

Where does this thinking come from? Here it is in the Acts of the Apostles (but you must have a Mormon explain it because you would never…well take a look):

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,  he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.' (Acts 2:29-35)

This is evidence, it is claimed, that David remains unforgiven. Kimball explains, “…David is still paying for his sin. He did not receive the resurrection at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter declared that his body was still in the tomb.”

The text that is a clear prophecy of Christ’s resurrection becomes a prediction about David’s ultimate destiny. Mormon prophet Joseph F Smith explains:

“But even David, though guilty of adultery and murder of Uriah, obtained a promise that his soul should not be left in hell, as I understand it, that even he shall escape the second death.” (Gospel Doctrine, p.434)

But this text has nothing to do with the eternal fate of David.

David writes in Psalm 16:

“…you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

When he writes this, Peter insists, he cannot be talking about himself because,

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ…”

Stop for one moment. Read that last again, “Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ…” Could he make any clearer what this is about? Its about the resurrection of Christ.

“…that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Peter goes on to use Psalm 110 to press home his point:

“For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord (God) said to my Lord (the son of David, the Messiah) Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”

The fact of David’s still being in the tomb is used by Peter to explain that the risen and exalted Christ is so much greater than David, who prophetically calls Jesus ‘my Lord.’ This text is about Christ.

Nevertheless, Joseph Smith makes it about the convoluted Mormon priesthood doctrine, insisting that, “though he was a king, David did not receive the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the priesthood…” [which Smith did of course]

You see how it works? You begin with an unbiblical doctrine of priesthood, then you read the Bible looking for opportunities to insinuate that idea into the text, thus you miss the obvious in your pursuit of the ridiculous.

The Case of the Pentecost Penitents

Peter’s Pentecost sermon had a dramatic effect:

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…’”

                                                                                                                                                                                 (Acts 2:37-38)

Kimball quotes Joseph Smith saying,

Peter referred to the same subject on the day of Pentecost, but the multitude did not get the endowment that Peter had; but several days after, the people asked, “What shall we do?”

Peter says, “I would ye had done it ignorantly,” speaking of crucifying the Lord &c. He did not say to them, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins”; but he said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19.)
This is the case with murderers. They could not be baptized for the remission of sins, for they had shed innocent blood.

I know! Isn’t that weird? Take the time to open your Bible as you look at this and read the text for yourself. He is referring to two groups of people met by Peter, one on the day of Pentecost, the other in the days following. He then makes the reply Peter gave in Acts 3:19 answer the question asked in previous days in Acts 2:37, which he had already answered in Acts 2:38.

He then misrepresents what Peter is saying. The KJV has:

“And now brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”

Smith makes this mean, “I would ye had done it ignorantly” (see above quote) clearly saying they did it knowingly. But every translation, even Smith’s own, makes the verse say, “I know that through ignorance ye have done this thing, even also your rulers.” (That is the so-called Joseph Smith Translation: wot means know, see Strongs)

He then makes the strange assertion that the call to repent (3:19) and have their sins blotted out, with no mention of baptism means they are not to be baptised because they are murderers. But in Acts 2 he told those who crucified Jesus (murderers?) they should repent and be baptised!

So what is going on here? The clue, again, is in the word endowment, meaning the peculiar Mormon idea that you can get endowed with secret knowledge and insight in the temple. Murderers cannot receive their endowments.

As with the story of King David, Mormonism has taken a clear to understand text and insinuated into it their peculiar idea of endowments, implying they have insights other churches don’t have. When someone claims to be the sole channel of truth, through whom God speaks, they have to live up to that claim. Where “apostate” churches have no answers the prophets must have answers. This is illustrated with the Mormon doctrine of baptism for the dead.

Based on one Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 15:29, it might have seemed like a great idea back in the day to dunk a few followers in the pool and tell them their ancestors are now Mormons. But it has got completely out of hand with Mormon temples going up at a rate that Joseph Smith couldn’t have begun to imagine. And, of course, it detracts from the chapter’s true and wonderful theme, the assurance of resurrection to eternal life through faith in Christ.

In the same way, Smith has taken a clear enough passage in Acts, about repenting and being baptised in the name of the risen king, and turned it around to make it mean certain people can’t have certain blessings that are available alone through the good offices of the Mormon priesthood.

Whether we are talking about the obscure story of Cain, the eternal fate of King David, or of murderers, the point here is that Scripture is twisted for the sake of making it bow to Mormon authority and to make Mormon leaders look as if they truly are prophets.

Sadly, this too can get out of hand and, finding nothing of their teaching in the Bible, even plain verses are twisted out of shape to look like they are talking about Mormonism.

What makes me so sad is that a whole chapter, a whole book, a whole enterprise is wasted in the service of a lie that has long been forgotten to be a lie. It must be perpetuated because they think its true, even when the plain truth of the Bible says otherwise.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon

This is an article I posted in 2011 on the fascinating subject of Chiasmus. It is found in the Bible and Mormons will argue that its presence in the Book of Mormon is evidence of its authenticity – read on:

Chiasmus is “a figure of speech by which the order of the words in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second” (Oxford companion to English Literature, 1985 ed.). One way of identifying a chiastic quote is to mark the repeated words or phrases with the letters ABBA. To illustrate, one of the most familiar examples of this is the phrase spoken at the foot of the Cross:

“He saved others, himself he cannot save.”

This becomes:

A. He saved

B. others,

B. himself

A. he cannot save.

There is an excellent web site dedicated to the subject, and it’s a lot of fun as well as educational.

Since we are currently looking at the Book of Mormon and “questions of the soul” I thought I should say something about this. Thanks Staci for your timely reminder about this fascinating subject. Mormons claim that examples of chiastic writing in the Book of Mormon help authenticate the book. It is found extensively in the Bible and is also to be found in the Book of Mormon, Ipso facto, etc.

Chiasmus is a sophisticated literary device that ranges from the most simple, as illustrated above, to complex examples. The Bible, Old and New Testaments, abound with examples and it is accepted that it is typical of one form of Hebraic writing.

A good example from the Book of Mormon is found 2 Nephi 29:13

The Jews

shall have the words

of the Nephites

and the Nephites

shall have the words

of the Jews;

and the Nephites and the Jews

shall have the words

of the lost tribes of Israel;

and the lost tribes of Israel

shall have the words of the Nephites and of the Jews.

The example Mormons most like to talk about is chapter 36 of Alma, 30 verses which, verse for verse, sets out parallels, verse 1 with verse 30, verse 2 with verse 29 etc. If you read it yourself it is easy enough to identify the parallels. Does this lend weight to Mormon claims?

Falling over Chiasmus

Contrary to past Mormon claims, Chiasmus was not unknown at the time of Joseph Smith. Today Mormon scholars have recognised that this literary form was known at that time but still insist it is unlikely that Smith was aware of it

The Book of Mormon has many examples and, at first sight, this seems impressive. However, while it is common in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, as well as the Book of Mormon, it is by no means restricted to these. It is a generally used literary style found in many cultures, both in simple and complex forms and people even use it unconsciously. Take for example the famous Mormon couplet

A. As man is

B. God once was

B. As God is

A. Man may become

The person who coined this phrase didn’t think “I will put it in chiasmic form to make it memorable”. It just came out that familiar way we all recognise but don’t know the name of. One of my favourite quotes is by Thomas Fuller:

A. If an ass

B. Goes a travelling

B. He’ll not come back

A. A Horse

An example from a nursery rhyme is:

Hickory, dickory, dock

the mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one

The Mouse ran down

Hickory, dickory, dock.

Even if Smith didn't know the word chiasm he would have had ready access to the distinctive form in his reading of the King James Bible. Indeed, if he copied his style from the Bible it would seem inevitable that his work would contain chiasmus, not just in those parts he plagiarised but even in those parts peculiar to the Book of Mormon. It is so common you practically trip over it at every turn.

Here’s another example, this time in a familiar Christian children’s song:

Whose the king of the jungle

Whose the king of the sea

Whose the king of the universe

and whose the king of me

I tell you J-E-S-U-S Yes!

He’s the king of me

He’s the king of the universe

the jungle and the sea

Chiasmus in the Doctrine and Covenants

To show this you need to realise that chiastic forms are found in the Doctrine and Covenants. It can't be explained, then, simply as an ancient literary form whose presence "proves" the Book of Mormon, and Mormon scholars readily acknowledge the accidental nature of its presence in the D&C. If Smith could draft chiastic forms in the D&C he could have done the same with the Book of Mormon – whether consciously or no. Here is an example from D&C 107:34-38

The Seventy

are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve

or the travelling high council,

in the building up the and regulating all the affairs of the same

in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews;

The Twelve being sent out, holding the keys, to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and first unto the Gentiles and then unto the Jews.

The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion,

form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church,

in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency or to the travelling high council.

The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church,

in all to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.

It is the duty of the travelling high council to call upon the Seventy,

when they need assistance, to fill the several calls for preaching and administering the gospel instead of others.

Other D&C texts include 76:28-30; 76:89-98; 109:24-28.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this a simplistic literary style. It can be very complex and involved. But don’t make the mistake, either, of thinking that its presence in a text is compelling proof of a claim. It is a style both complicated and common that the untutored can easily fall into, the educated unconsciously copy to a degree of complexity, and the trained and determined can reproduce well enough, or offer involved enough comment on to impress the unwary.

Here is one of my own humble making:


is a form

not a proof.

Proof comes

In the form of