Just as I was thinking about what to write for this post, I had the privilege of speaking with some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I think we had a very productive time. No one confessed to changing their minds during our talk, but important things were discussed. At the outset, my visitors told me that they believe both the Bible (KJV) and the Book of Mormon.
When I talk with Mormons, I usually begin by asking them a hard question. The hard question is this:
“If I have the Bible, why do I need the Book of Mormon?”
My purpose in asking this is to find out if the Book of Mormon gives me new information about the salvation that Jesus brings, or does it just give the same information.
If the reply is “Just the same information”, then I ask why should I bother with the book of Mormon?
If the reply is “It gives new information”, I refer them to Galatians Chapter 1.
Today I found that, after getting the first answer and giving my follow-up question, I got the second reply in a modified form.
I was told that message of Jesus ceased to be effective after the apostles died. The church messed with the message and important truth was lost. The important truth was restored in the 1830s in the USA when Joseph Smith heard a voice from heaven in answer to his prayer that he might know the truth about God. He received that restored information from an angel.
So I referred them to Galatians Chapter 1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, told the Galatians that they had abandoned the gospel that he and the other apostles preached, and that the Galatians had embraced a false gospel. Paul said they had adopted “another” (heteron) gospel, meaning an entirely different type of gospel, which was not another gospel of the same type (allo).
I suggested to my new friends that we have to make very sure that the gospel that we are trusting is not a ‘heteron’ gospel. We have to test what we believe against the gospel presented in the Bible that the Christian church has had since the days of the apostles. Even if that other ‘gospel’ is brought by an angel from heaven, it still has to be tested against that standard. If it is another (heteron) gospel, Paul says let that angel who brought it be accursed.
My friends then said that Joseph Smith had seen a vision of God the Father and the Son and had heard the Father say of the Son, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” They said that this adds weight to his testimony.
I referred them to the first Chapter of 2 Peter, where Peter spoke of his preparation for death. He was writing things down, so after his death, the church would have a permanent reminder of the gospel. This practice was followed by John, Matthew, Paul, James, Jude and other Gospel writers. Peter then refers to the truth of his witness. He was not making up clever myths, but saw Jesus transfigured and heard God the Father’s voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son…”
But the big thing is: Peter said that we have a more certain prophetic word than a voice from heaven. He was referring to the prophetic scriptures, that is, to the Old and New Testament of the Bible that the Christian Church as possessed since the days of apostles. Peter was saying, and still says, that we don’t need modern-day apostles, or new revelations of the Spirit, because we have the Word of God written in the Bible.
For this reason, when asked if I felt that the book of Mormon was a prophecy from God, I said I’d rather tell what I thought. I said that I have no need for a book of Mormon. I have the Gospel already written down for me by the apostles and prophets in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. As for Joseph Smith, if he really wanted to know what God’s true message was, he had all that he needed in the Bible. He had no need for an angel from heaven to speak with him. The Bible that had already been translated into English for him to read for himself.
We talked about a few other passages that made it clear that truth about Jesus is fully given in the Bible that Church has always possessed. I did agree that the church has not always been careful to believe and act according to that Bible, but that is the fault of church people, not the Bible’s fault.
When we had come to the conclusion that we believed very different things about Jesus and how we might know him, they asked me to pray, which I was happy to do. I prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ would allow us to understand his gospel as we read his Bible, and that we would not follow a different gospel, which is no gospel at all.