The Book of Mormon Compared with the Bible
TO MEMBERS of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The Book of Mormon is the word of God and is considered to be in complete harmony with the Bible. Their view was concisely expressed by Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses of July 13, 1862: “The Book of Mormon in no case contradicts the Bible. It has many words like those in the Bible, and as a whole is a strong witness to the Bible.” Mormons with this firm confidence in The Book of Mormon should not object when others compare their book with the Bible. Their publicly expressed conviction that it is truthful is an invitation to others to make such a comparison. But first let us briefly compare the backgrounds of these two books.
The writing of the Bible was done over a period of more than 1600 years, and much of its historical narrative has been confirmed by many archaeological findings as well as by secular historians of different periods of time. Thousands of manuscript copies of the Bible in the original languages that date back close to the days of the apostles exist today. These are available for examination by all language scholars.
The claim made for The Book of Mormon is that it covers a period from about 600 B.C. to about A.D. 421. Joseph Smith claimed that he translated it from golden plates that he found in a hiding place revealed to him by an angel. The reason why the plates or copies of the text on them are not available for examination is explained by saying that the angel had forbidden Joseph Smith to show them to anyone except those designated by the angel. After the translating work was done the angel is said to have taken them away.
The mass of archaeological data and the secular records that confirm the accuracy of Biblical history is conspicuously absent with regard to what is claimed to be historical narrative in The Book of Mormon. Nor is the deep secrecy that surrounded the writing of The Book of Mormon characteristic of the production of the Bible. The stone tablets upon which God wrote the Law were neither taken back by an angel nor was Moses forbidden to display them. The same can be said for the other writings that make up the Bible. They were openly displayed and copies distributed far and wide.
THE SUPREME BEING
If The Book of Mormon contains the word of God, its doctrines should be in harmony with the Bible. Let us see if this is so regarding what it says about God. Concerning him Mosiah 3:5 states: “For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles.” Here we find reflected the popular trinity doctrine of the churches of Christendom, which churches Joseph Smith considered to be wrong.
Consider a few more examples and note how The Book of Mormon boldly asserts that God and Christ are one God. Alma 11:38, 39 says: “Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.” Mormon 7:7 speaks about singing praises “unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.” The Book of Mormon has Jesus Christ flatly saying, at 3 Nephi 11:14, “I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”
Nowhere does the Bible make such trinitarian statements. At no time did Jesus Christ claim to be the “God of the whole earth” or the “God of Israel.” On this point The Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible. Instead of saying that the Father and the Son are one God, the Bible reveals the Son to be a creature who was the beginning of the Creator’s creations and who is subject to the Father even after his ascension to heaven. This is shown at 1 Corinthians 15:28, “But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”
Rather than claiming to be God in the flesh, Jesus Christ pointed out his dependence upon the Father and his inferiority to him by saying: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 5:30.
Frequently the Hebrew text of the Bible refers to the great Source of life as Elohim. The trinity doctrine is not proved by the fact that this word is in the plural form. It is applied not only to the true God but also to the pagan god Dagon, as at Judges 16:23, 24. When referring to the Father, who is identified in the Bible by the proper name Jehovah, the definite article ha is often used before Elohim. Instead of indicating a plurality of gods or persons in one God, it means the plural number of majesty or excellence, as with the royal “we.”
A number of books in The Book of Mormon are dated before the coming of Christ, but they repeatedly talk about Jesus Christ, his sin-atoning sacrifice, his resurrection, his baptism in water, the baptism by the holy spirit, the salvation of man through Christ and the need of exercising faith in him in order to be saved. These things are mentioned with the great frequency that marks literary works produced after Jesus was killed and resurrected. Such statements about him become anachronisms in the time setting given them by The Book of Mormon. Being out of time-order, they conflict with the Bible, which places similar statements after Christ, not before his coming.
As might be expected when events are talked about out of time-order, The Book of Mormon occasionally slips and refers to them in the past tense instead of in the future tense. At 2 Nephi 31:6, 8 this is done. Speaking of Jesus Christ, these verses state: “Now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.” These verses are assigned a date between 559 B.C. and 545 B.C. The same thing is done at 2 Nephi 33:6: “I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.” How can a person supposedly living long before Christ made his sacrifice say that Christ had redeemed him?
About 124 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, The Book of Mormon has people crying out: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 4:2) How can a people cry for forgiveness of sins by the atoning blood of Christ long before that blood was shed and at a time when God’s people were required to rely upon the animal sacrifices of the Law for atonement of sins?
Why do none of the Hebrew Bible writers talk about Jesus Christ, his sin-atoning sacrifice and resurrection as The Book of Mormon does? Did God reveal these vitally important things to people living in North America at that time and not to these beloved Hebrew servants of his? Mosiah 3:13 says: “The Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins.” Why, then, did not the prophets living prior to 124 B.C., when Mosiah was supposed to have been written, mention these things in their inspired writings?
It would be wholly incredible to claim that the Bible text as we have it today is so defective because of copyist errors that not one reference to Jesus Christ by name and to his sacrifice was left in the copious writings of the Hebrew Scriptures. If such references had ever existed, surely the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures would have mentioned them. Rather than being grossly defective, the Biblical text as we have it today has been refined by comparison with very old manuscripts to the point where it is very accurate, little different from what the apostles had. What is subject to suspicion is not the accuracy of the Bible but the accuracy of The Book of Mormon.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Greek word biblía, from which we get the word Bible, was not used as a title for the Scriptures until the fifth century after Christ, The Book of Mormon has the term being used more than 500 years before Christ. It says at 2 Nephi 29:3, 10, “Many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words.” The term Bible, or biblía, means “books” or “booklets” and is applied to the collection of inspired writings that are bound in codex form, that is with leaves and covers. No such collection existed when 2 Nephi was supposed to have been written. Here, then, is another inconsistency on the part of The Book of Mormon.
BIBLICAL QUOTES AND EXPRESSIONS
A very striking thing about The Book of Mormon is the frequent quotes or near quotes it makes from the Bible, the Authorized or King James Version. This was the version that was popular during the days of Joseph Smith. The books of the Bible were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek without chapter and verse divisions. These came in the sixteenth century after Christ. But in the numerous direct quotes from the Bible that are made by The Book of Mormon, the very same verse divisions as found in the Authorized Version are generally used. Except for the occasional addition of a few words the quotations are identical with the Authorized Version. For example: 1 Nephi 20 and 21 are the same as Isaiah 48 and 49; 2 Nephi 7 and 8 are the same as Isaiah 50 to 52:2; 2 Nephi 12 to 24 is the same as Isaiah 2 to 14; 2 Nephi 27:25-35 is the same as Isaiah 29:13-24; Mosiah 14 is the same as Isaiah 53; 3 Nephi 24 is the same as Malachi 3; 3 Nephi 25 is the same as Malachi 4 and Moroni 10:9-17 is basically the same as 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. These are only a few of the many practically direct quotations from the Authorized Version of the Bible.
Interestingly enough, The Book of Mormon has men who are supposed to have lived several hundred years before Christ using expressions that are found in the Greek Scriptures of the Bible, which Scriptures were written after the time of Christ. Paul’s expression at Hebrews 13:8 is used at least five times. He said: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (AV) Its first appearance in The Book of Mormon is at 1 Nephi 10:18, which was supposedly written more than 600 years before the days of the apostle Paul. It says: “For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” The other places where it appears are 2 Nephi 27:23, Alma 31:17, Mormon 9:9 and Moroni 10:19. The expression Paul used about the resurrection of Christ’s anointed followers at 1 Corinthians 15:53 is also used in several places. Paul said: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (AV) Notice the similarity to this famous expression of Mosiah 16:10: “Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption.” Variations of it appear at Alma 40:2 and 41:4. Both of these books are dated before Christ.
At Hebrews 3:8, 11 (AV), which quotes from Psalm 95:8, 11, it is written: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” See the similarity of this statement at Alma 12:35, which is dated 82 B.C.: “Whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.” Verses 36 and 37 repeat the expression. A few verses back in this same chapter there is another expression found in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews with a slight variation. Verse 27 says: “It was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment.” The same expression appears at Hebrews 9:27.
Sometimes a verse in The Book of Mormon will contain familiar expressions from more than one place in the Bible. For example, Alma 34:36 states: “This I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell; yea, and he has also said that the righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out; but their garments should be made white through the blood of the Lamb.” The part about God not dwelling in temples is a variation of Stephen’s statement at Acts 7:48. It was Jesus who said the righteous would sit down in the kingdom. His words are recorded at Luke 13:29. The part about the white garments corresponds with Revelation 7:14. Another example is Mormon 9:9: “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” These expressions came from Hebrews 13:8 and James 1:17. Although Mormon is supposed to have said this in North America about 400 years after Christ, it is obvious where the statements originated.
The Book of Mormon has Jesus Christ appearing in the flesh to the people of North America after his resurrection and ascension. Much of what it represents him as saying to the people are expressions written in the Bible. Lengthy quotations from the Authorized Version of what he said in Palestine are put in his mouth as being said in North America. For example, 3 Nephi 12:3-18, 21-28 and 31-45 are practically identical, verse for verse, with Matthew 5:3-18, 21-28 and 31-45 in the Authorized Version. This will also be found true when comparing 3 Nephi 13 with Matthew 6 as well as 3 Nephi 14 with Matthew 7. The type of similarities that comparison of these passages reveals would not have existed if Jesus had truly repeated these things to another people and they were written by different writers in a different language.
Many of Jesus’ statements recorded in the Bible can be found liberally sprinkled throughout The Book of Mormon, from those parts dated nearly 600 years before his birth to those dated over 400 years after his birth. What Jesus said about his sheep at John 10:9, 14, 16 is found, in part, at 1 Nephi 22:25, dated 588 years before Christ. Alma 31:37 uses Jesus’ words at Luke 12:22, although this book is dated 74 years before his birth. Jesus’ well-known expression at Matthew 16:19, where he tells Peter: “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” is found at Helaman 10:7, which says: “Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is dated twenty-three years before the birth of Jesus. It should be of interest to mention here that what Peter said about Jesus at Acts 3:22-25 appears, with the exception of a few alterations, at 3 Nephi 20:23-25, as words that Jesus was supposed to have said A.D. 34 to people in North America, but its close resemblance to the Authorized Version of the Bible identifies its source.
In the liberal use that The Book of Mormon makes of what is written in the Authorized Version it has included the spurious passage that appears in this version at Matthew 6:13, the latter part of which verse is recognized as being an uninspired addition to the original Bible writings. This spurious passage at Matthew 6:13, which says: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen,” appears in identical form at 3 Nephi 13:13. Also, the apparently spurious verses at Mark 16:17, 18 appear almost word for word at Mormon 9:24.
After comparing The Book of Mormon with the Bible, the inevitable conclusions that must be drawn are these: It is not in harmony with the Bible but teaches doctrines that conflict with it. The reason that it has, as Brigham Young said, “many words like those in the Bible,” is that it lifts from the Bible, in great number, expressions used by the Bible writers and weaves them into its own text. What also dresses it up to sound like the popular Authorized Version of the Bible is its constant use of the archaic English of that version.
Measured against the detailed history of the Pentateuch, the sublime beauty of the Psalms, the concisely expressed wisdom of the Proverbs and the upbuilding counsel of the Pauline letters, The Book of Mormon stands as a shabby, uninspiring and painfully wordy imitation of God’s Word.