© 2002 by Rodger I. Anderson. Used by permission of author.
Table of Contents:
Preface (see below)
I: The Bible
II: Modern-Day Revelation
III Apostasy and Restoration
IV: The Doctrine of God
V: Jesus Christ
VIII: Future Probation
IX: The Book of Mormon
If any man will prove to me, by one
passage of Holy Writ, one item I believe
to be false, I will renounce and disclaim
It as far as I promulg[at]ed it.
(History of the Church 6:57)
The attitude of the Mormon people toward the Bible is nothing if not peculiar. On the one hand, the Bible is extolled as providing the very ground and substance of their faith; on the other, it is condemned as a corrupt and misleading book, inspiring nothing but confusion and dissension among its followers. This ambivalent attitude toward the Bible has attended Mormonism since its very inception. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, declared his faith wholly consistent with the Bible, challenging anyone to convict him of error from its sacred pages. At other times, however, Smith railed against the Bible as a wholly unreliable book, which he frankly admitted was inconsistent with his own revelations.(1)
Smith's attitude, however self-contradictory, was necessitated by the very nature of the faith he proclaimed. From the outset, Mormonism regarded itself not as a new religion but as the fulfillment and final fruition of the faith proclaimed by Adam and established by Christ, encompassing the whole Biblical revelation from Genesis to Revelation. To account for itself, however, Mormonism required another source of truth beyond the Bible, for it soon became apparent that the Bible could not accommodate the doctrines being heaped upon it by Joseph Smith. The conundrum faced by Mormons was essentially this: if they accepted the Biblical narrative as containing the will and word of God, their doctrinal innovations would be exposed as contradictory; if they accepted their revelations as representing the mind of God, they were constrained to either frankly denounce the Bible or else to twist and contort its message until it better fitted their doctrinal requirements. This last is the path Mormons have traditionally sought to tread, though at what expense remains yet to be seen.
The practical result of this approach to the Bible is to effectively stifle it, allowing it to speak only when it can be interpreted as confirming the doctrinal vagaries of Mormonism. The Bible is thus turned into a kind of "happy hunting ground" for proof texts. Ignoring context and every other sound rule of Biblical interpretation, Mormons hack and hew at the Bible until it yields the desired result--namely, a proof text which they then triumphantly parade as an incontestable proof of Mormonism. In this way Mormons have assembled a goodly number of passages which are often impressive to the uninitiated but which are actually worthless as anything but proofs of Mormonism's lack of Biblical foundation. All such passages are either fully explained by their original context, grammar or language, or else belong to that small group of Biblical texts whose interpretation is uncertain. Mormons evidently regard these latter as free for the taking, as if indecision among scholars between two possible meanings justified any interpretation whatsoever.
The purpose of the present book is to examine those texts commonly adduced by Mormons to establish the peculiar tenets of their faith. If in fact these texts do not support the doctrines they are invoked to affirm, then Mormonism is exposed as a wholly non-Biblical faith which its advocates must seek to establish on grounds other than its alleged harmony with the Bible. Should Mormons still proclaim their allegiance to the Bible, then they must confess that their religion is false, renouncing it by virtue of its incompatibility with scripture. Whichever alternative they choose, Mormons can no longer trumpet their faith as in any sense continuous with that contained in the Bible. Mormons have for too long been limping on both legs as regards their attitude toward the Bible: "If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21).
This is not to say that Mormons have no choice except to either embrace or reject the Bible. There are other options available that in theory could allow them to retain some show of respect for the book yet excuse them from conforming to its doctrinal requirements. One is the view, today represented mainly by Swedenborgians and Christian Scientists, that sees the Bible as a figurative rather than a literal revelation, the real meaning of its words being quite different from their evident meaning. Another, much more influential school of thought regards the Bible as an essentially human document written by people attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible in terms understandable to themselves and their age, creating not a revelation of immutable truth but a record of religious experience subject to correction, amplification, and amendment in the light of a larger understanding. There are still other views of the Bible that enable adherents to preserve a measure of deference for the book yet still allow room for theological innovation, but Mormons have rejected these approaches in favor of another, much more arbitrary, view that holds to the Bible as the inerrant word of God when convenient and when not rejects it as unworthy of credit. Such a position cannot be threatened by the Bible or any other religious authority because it recognizes only itself as legitimate, acknowledging no test except that of self-validation.
One final word. Most studies with the phrase "The Bible and ..." in their title are proselytizing in nature, written not just to inform but to convert. This, let it be clearly stated, is not my purpose in writing. I have no personal desire to convert Mormons to anything except a recognition that their faith is not continuous with that proclaimed in the Bible. I am satisfied if this realization only serves in the end to make them better Mormons, more thoughtful about the foundations of their own faith, more aware that Mormonism represents a new religious beginning rather than a continuation of anything that had gone before. Its genesis, whether for good or ill, lies not in the Old or New Testaments but in the fertile mind of its founder.
Click here for I: The Bible
1. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev., 6 vols. (Sa1t Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1951), 5:425; 6:57.