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_DorĂ©-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.

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