Biblical Support for LDS doctrine of “Deification”

I have often heard from critics that the doctrine of “deification,” or the idea that faithful followers of Christ will become like God, is blasphemous and the invention of prideful zealots. For many Christians, this is one of the biggest points of contention with the LDS faith. I would like to appeal to the Bible to argue that this doctrine is not unbelievable or blasphemous. The following argument is not meant to provide irrefutable proof of LDS doctrine, but to show that the Bible is often unclear about humankind’s potential, and that the LDS doctrine of deification is not an impossible interpretation of the Bible. Critics and members of the LDS faith have very different understandings of deification. Critics tend to interpret the doctrine of deification as blasphemy against God (because there is only one God, the greatest of all) and that it shows that prideful members of the LDS faith lust for God-like power in the afterlife. LDS members, however, believe than an all-loving God wants us to become like Him, bless us with all that He has, and allow us to experience the joy He experiences. While I agree that the Bible does not clearly or explicitly state that mortal men and women can achieve god-like status (otherwise there would be no debate), I would like to present the following argument based on New Testament scriptures from the KJV Bible to support this LDS doctrine. I will not argue that the Bible says that “we will become gods,” (an oversimplified phrase often used by critics), but that the Bible suggests that we can be like God if we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  1. We must obey all of the commandments of God the Father and Jesus Christ

a) “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” –               Matthew 5:19

b) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” –John 14:15

2.  Jesus commanded that we must be perfect

a) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” –Matthew 5:48

3.   We can be made perfect through Jesus Christ

a) “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ        Jesus.” –Colossians 1:28

b) “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” -1 John 3:3

4.   Those who are perfect will be like the master

a) “The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” –Luke 6:40

b) “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” -1 John 3:2-3

We must obey the commandments. One of these commandments is to be perfect like God. All can be made perfect through Christ. Those who are perfect shall be as God.

Therefore, we can be like God.

Exaggerated Similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews (Part IV)

Similarity #5: The Great White Bearded Leader (Quetzalcoatl)

The similarity here is that VOTH goes into great detail in describing a legend that the Native Americans have about a white, bearded legislature who brought in a golden age of plenty and happiness, and had a somewhat supernatural origin. The BOM makes a similar suggestion, saying that the resurrected Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D. to teach a portion of the Native Americans his gospel.

While there exist generic similarities between the two works, the conclusion that they come to about who the legend is about, when it occurred, and how it occurred are very different. I will give descriptions of the Legend of Quetzalcoatl as described in VOTH and a description of the coming of Jesus Christ to the Americas in the BOM. Quotes are take from the 1825 version of View of the Hebrews (EthanSmith, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf) and from the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

1. The Description of Quetzalcoatl in VOTH:

1. The name Quetzalcoatl means “the serpent of green feathers” (Ethan Smith, p. 83)[p. 204]. This, according to Ethan Smith, refers to Moses and the Brazen serpent. “The name of the serpent of green plumage being given to this legislator, leads the mind to Moses’ brazen serpent in the wilderness.” (pg. 84)[p. 207]

2. He was a white, bearded man who was the leader of a religious sect that would punish themselves physically. “[He] was at the same time (in their own description) “a white and bearded man.” “He was high priest of Tula, legislator, chief of a religious sect who inflicted on themselves the most cruel penance.” (p. 83)[p. 205]

3. He made them pierce their ears and lacerate their bodies, which represent some Mosaic rituals. “Introducing the custom of ‘piercing the ears;’—reminds of the noted law of Moses, of boring the ear of the servant who was unwilling to leave his master. This teaching to lacerate the body with prickles and thorns, is a striking Hebrew figure of the many self-denying services demanded in the Mosaic rituals” (p. 84)[p. 207]

4. He led them to this country and taught them. “Though their ancient ‘legislator’ is called by a name importing the serpent of green feathers; yet he was an ancient man, a white man and bearded; called by Montezuma, a saint, who led them to this country, and taught them many things. Who could this be but Moses, the ancient legislator of Israel?” (p. 83)[p. 206]

5. His reign brought on a golden age of plenty and happiness. “The golden age with spontaneous harvests, naturally suggests the seven years of plenty in Egypt; and may include also and especially) the happy period during the theocracy in Israel.” (p. 84)[p. 208]. This golden age eventually ended. “The close of this golden age strikingly exhibits the expulsion of Israel from that happy land.” (p. 84)[p. 208]

6. He preached peace and offering the first fruits of the harvest as a sacrifice. “He preached peace to men, and would permit no other offerings to the Divinity than the first fruits of the harvests.” (p. 83)[p. 205] “alludes to the preaching of the gospel under the Old Testament; and to the signal institution of the offerings of the first ripe fruits” (p. 84)[p. 208]

7. He retired to a volcano and walked bare foot. “This legislator’s retiring to the place of a volcano, and a speaking mountain, most naturally leads to the mind to Moses retiring, in the land of Midian, to the back side of the wilderness, to the mount of God, where God spake to him in the burning bush, and in after days made the same mountain appear like a tremendous volcano indeed, as well as like a speaking mountain;–when from the midst of the terrible fire, and sound of thetrumpet, God commanded his people in the giving of the law. This legislator’s walking barefoot, naturally alludes to Moses’ ‘putting his shoes from his feet,’ at the divine direction, before the burning bush” (p. 84)[p. 207-208]

8. He disappeared and would return again one day. “He disappeared, after he had declared to the Cholulans that he would return and govern them again, and renew their happiness.”(p. 83)[p. 205-206]

9. The Leader was given a drink by the Great Spirit and gave him the desire to travel and made him immortal. ““The Great Spirit offered Quetzalcotl beverage, which in rendering him immortal,
inspired him with a taste of travelling [sic], and with an irresistible desire of visiting a distant country called Tlapallan.” (p. 83)[p. 205]

10. The figure taught the people in the arts, sciences, and fasting. “He dwelt twenty years among them, taught them to cast metals, ordered fasts, and regulated the intercalations of the Taltic year.” (p. 83)[p. 205]

2. The Description of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon

1. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the Americas in 34 A.D. after a great destruction in the land “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.” (3 Nephi 9:15)

2. He taught that sacrifices should end, and instead offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit. “your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20)

3. He descended out of heaven and was wearing a white robe. “They saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them.” (3 Nephi 11:8)

4. The people felt the prints of the wounds in his nails, feet, and side. “And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet.” (3 Nephi 11:15)

5. He gave the people the power to baptize and commanded them to be baptized. “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.” (3 Nephi 11:21).

6. He preached peace among the people. “And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been…” (3 Nephi 11:28).

7. Jesus quotes Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, Malachi 3-4, and Isaiah 54. (3 Nephi 12-14)

8. Jesus’ coming fulfills the words he spake saying that he would bring other sheep not of the fold in Israel. “And verily, I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” (3 Nephi 15:21).

9. The people no longer followed the law of Moses. “And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God…” (4 Nephi 1:12).

10. The people had a reign of peace that lasted almost 200 years. “And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride…and from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.” (4 Nephi 1:24-25).

Similarities between the two works:

1. This figure taught them peace and gave them laws.

2. He was white (BOM only describes a white robe, VOTH says white skin and white beard)

3. There was a time of great plenty and happiness among the people, or a golden age.

4. This figure would come again in some future day

In summary, the similarities between these two works are very generic. If VOTH never existed, people could still argue that Joseph Smith plagiarized from the well-known legends of Quetzalcoatl, or Messianic prophecies in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianism). The Savior archetype is also found in countless works of literature spanning centuries of human civilization. Such Messianic doctrine of a great ruler who ruled people in peace and then would return at some future date are shared by many different religions and theologies, which makes the generic similarities between these two works inconsequential.

Differences between the two works:

1. VOTH claims that these legends are hearkening back to memories of Moses in ancient Israel. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ visited the Americas after his resurrection.

2. VOTH claims that the golden age was the 7 years of plenty in Egypt and during the theocracy of Israel. The BOM says that the people in the Americas lived in righteousness and had all things in common for 200 years.

3. VOTH claims that the figure told them to offer the first fruits as sacrifices. The BOM claims that Jesus forbade the people to sacrifice anymore.

4. VOTH claims that the figure taught the people to pierce their ears and lacerate their bodies. The BOM makes no such claim.

5. VOTH claims that the figure retired to a volcano. The BOM makes no reference to Jesus retiring to a volcano.

6. VOTH claims that preaching peace and offering the first fruits is a reference to the gospel in the Old Testament. The BOM argues that the Law of Moses was done away and Jesus taught his Gospel instead.

7. The BOM says Christ established baptism, organized a quorum of twelve disciples, gave them the proper name of their church, and granted immortality to three Nephite disciples. The VOTH makes no references to any such events.

8. VOTH claims that the legislator was a man who was granted immortality by the great spirit after drinking a sacred beverage. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ was the resurrected Son of God and offered the sacrament of wine and bread to the people.

9. VOTH argues that the ending of the golden age was the expulsion of Israel from their lands. The BOM argues that their time of peace ended because of pride, the division of the people into classes, and wickedness.

10. The BOM argues that Jesus Christ’s coming to the Americas fulfilled a New Testament prophecy that he would gather in sheep that were not of the people in Israel. VOTH makes no such references to Christ’s New Testament prophecies in this chapter.

11. There is no record of Jesus teaching the people to cast metals or other scientific endeavors.

In summary, the differences between VOTH and the BOM outweigh the similarities. The generic similarities can be found across many sacred texts and religions, and nothing of uniqueness is found in VOTH that cannot be found in some other sacred work, tradition, or savior archetype. The BOM contradicts VOTH on most key points describing the nature and purpose of this sacred figure. This amount and nature of the differences suggests that VOTH was not a source of inspiration in concocting the BOM, but is rather a document that contradicts the claims of the BOM.

Exaggerated Similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews (Part III)

Similarity #3: Both Works Refer to the Urim and Thummim

This parallel between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews is particularly weak because the Book of Mormon never mentions the name Urim and Thummim, neither does it describe an object similar to the one discussed in VOTH. Apparently the term “Urim and Thummim” was never used by Joseph or anyone associated with the translation process until 1833, when W.W. Phelps speculated in “The Evening and the Morning Star” which said ““through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles — (known perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim). Phelps words, “known perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummin” (Jan. 1833, see http://mormonbookshelf.com/wiki/Book_of_Mormon_Translation_Method). This same source and others speculate that the term Urim and Thummim was used to refer to both the Nephite Interpreters and the original Seer Stone found by Joseph years earlier. To avoid further discussion on this blog about the actual translation process used by Joseph Smith, I will now focus on what is contained in both the BOM and VOTH and why there is no parallel between the two works. Here is a list of the differences between the two works with regards to this “similarity:”

Different Descriptions/Different Names/Different Purposes: The Urim and Thummim described in VOTH is not the same as the Nephite Interpreters referenced in the Book of Mormon. VOTH sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel by showing that their priests would wear a breastplate bearing some resemblance to the Urim and Thummim worn by priests in the Bible.

Ethan Smith describes the Native American breastplate as follows: “In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch-shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim,” (Smith, View of the Hebrews, 1825, p.61, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf)

The “Interpreters” in the Book of Mormon are described differently:

a)”and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters,  according to the commandment of the Lord” (Ether 4:5, 1981 edition)

b) “And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer” (Mosiah 8:13, 1981)

c) “And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow. Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages” (Mosiah 28:13,14)

d) “And now, my son, these interpreters [“directors” (1830 edition)] were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying: I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works…” (Alma 37:24,25).

The Book of Mormon makes no mention of a white breastplate, stone embedded in the breastplate, or the fact that the two stones are in similitude of the Urim and Thummim. Ethan Smith does not make any reference to the ability of the Urim and Thummim to interpret languages. It is once again important to note that Joseph Smith never referred to the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim, until W.W. Phelps suggested that the interpreters could be compared to the Biblical Urim and Thummim in 1833. If Joseph Smith had received inspiration to write the BOM from VOTH concerning the Urim and Thummim, why is it not mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon? why do the Urim and Thummim and the Interpreters have different descriptions? Why are the interpreters used for interpreting languages, while the Urim and Thummim was used for religious ceremony? Why did Joseph never refer to the interpreters as the Urim and Thummim? This is powerful evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith did not read VOTH prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, and if he did, it is evidence that he did not use it as a substantial source of inspiration in the Book of Mormon.

Similarity #4: Extensive Quotes of Isaiah

Some argue that the BOM and VOTH are similar because they both quote Isaiah in order to prove the Biblical basis for the literal gathering of Israel in the last days. This is a very broad similarity and does not suggest that Joseph Smith plagiarized VOTH for the following reasons:

1. Only very few of the chapters of Isaiah quoted in the BOM are the same chapters used in VOTH.

2. Both VOTH and the BOM quote a variety of other scriptures, many of them not found in the other source.

3. Only one chapter of Isaiah is quoted in its entirety in VOTH.

4. Isaiah is one of the most important prophets in Jewish and Christian religion. Any religious work which refers to prophecies of the Messiah or the Gathering of Israel would have to quote Isaiah as the definitive source on these subjects.

Which chapters of Isaiah are quoted in VOTH and BOM?

The VOTH quotes or asks the reader to refer to the following from Isaiah (disclaimer: Ethan Smith is difficult to cite because he will often quote passages of scripture without providing the verse number and often quotes verses out of order without letting the reader know. This list is the best I could do in identifying chapters of Isaiah quoted in VOTH):

Isaiah 1:1/  Isaiah 3:18-22/  Isaiah 5:13,26/  Isaiah 7:8,18/  Isaiah 9:13/  Isaiah 10:20-22/  Isaiah 11:11-13/  Isaiah 18:1-7(full chapter)/ Isaiah 26:3,19/   Isaiah 28:1,3,8/   Isaiah 35:1,5/  Isaiah 36:19/  Isaiah 40:3,9/  Isaiah 41:14/  Isaiah 42:19,20/  Isaiah 43: 1,2,4,5,16,19/  Isaiah 44:3,4/  Isaiah 49:1,11-13,18-23/  Isaiah 56:8/  Isaiah 59:3,21/  Isaiah 60:1-3,8,9/   Isaiah 63:1-6/  Isaiah 65:8,9/  Isaiah 66:18-21

It should be noted that the chapters listed here do not appear in this order, and the individual verses cited in each chapter do not always appear in the same order either (for example: Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:11-13, and Isaiah 49:18-23 are all verses from the same chapter of Isaiah but are quoted in different points in VOTH)

The BOM quotes the following from Isaiah (it should be noted that the BOM often makes isolated references Biblical scriptures without any indication in the chapter headings, so I may have missed some references to Isaiah if they are a single verse or phrase found in otherwise original writings from BOM prophets. The following chapters are taken from 1 Nephi 20,21/   2 Nephi 7,8,12-24,27,30/   Mosiah 12/    3 Nephi 20,22):

Isaiah 2-14/   Isaiah 29 (significantly modified)/   Isaiah 48/   Isaiah 49/  Isaiah 50/   Isaiah 51/   Isaiah 52:1-2,7-10,11-15/   Isaiah 53/  Isaiah 54

Chapters found in both BOM and VOTH: 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 49

Chapters in BOM not found in VOTH: 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 29, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54

Chapters in VOTH not found in BOM: 18, 26, 28, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 56, 59, 60, 63, 65, 66

VOTH only quotes one chapter of Isaiah in its entirety, which is Isaiah 18. Ethan Smith quotes this to prove to the reader that Christians in the United States are responsible for gathering the Lost Tribes of Israel (pg. 96-98). This chapter is not found in the BOM. Most of the Isaiah chapters cited in the BOM are cited in their entirety with some grammatical/content changes, while VOTH cites isolated verses and phrases from Isaiah along with other prophets and books such as Jeremiah, Zechariah, Hosea, 2 Samuel, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Romans, and Revelation. There is little reason to believe that Joseph Smith was inspired by VOTH to quote Isaiah because the BOM for the most part cites different chapters and verses of Isaiah, use them for different purposes, and both works cite an abundance of scripture references that are not in common.

Other scriptures quoted in VOTH: Zephaniah 3:6-10,19,20/ Zechariah 2:6,8,10,11,13/   Zechariah 10:6-9/   Zechariah 1:16/ Zechariah 8:7/  Zechariah 9:9/ Zechariah 10:6-9/   Zechariah 11:1/ Joel 3:1,9-17/  Jeremiah 3:14/  Jeremiah 23:6,8/   Jeremiah 24:9/    Jeremiah 16:14,15,16/    Jeremiah 24:9/    Jeremiah 30:3/ Jeremiah 9:17/    Jeremiah 23:6-8/    Jeremiah 31:20,21 (author tells reader to read the whole chapter)/  Hosea 1:10,11/  Hosea 4:16/   Hosea 14:5,6 Ezekiel 30:7/   Ezekiel 36/   Ezekiel 37:1-13,15,24-27/    Ezekiel 38/   Ezekiel 39:17-20/  Ezekiel 47/  2 Kings 17:1/   1 Kings 4:21,22,25,27,40/   Romans 11:15/   Revelation 16:14,19/   Revelation 10:7/ Revelation 19:17-18/  Leviticus 2:14/   Leviticus 23:10-11/ Exodus 12:8/  Exodus 22:29/  Exodus 23:17,19/  Exodus 25:10/ Deuteronomy 16:16/ Genesis 32:25,31,32/ Genesis 15:18/ Genesis 17:8/ Micah 7:16/ Lamentations 3:29/ Proverbs 30:32/ 2 Samuel 23:4/  2 Samuel 11:11/ 1 Samuel 16:40/ 1 Samuel 6:19/ Leviticus 23:27/  Leviticus 6:30/  Amos 8:11,12

Exaggerated Similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews (Part II)

Similarity #1: THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

I will now examine specific similarities that are cited most often by critics. The first supposed similarity is the fact that both View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon reference Jerusalem being destroyed. This is described in the first chapter of VOTH and Lehi is warned of Jerusalem’s destruction in the first chapter of 1 Nephi. As I will show, however, the only similarity between the two works is that they both say that at one point in time Jerusalem has been destroyed. This is not a significant similarity because the destructions referenced in the two works refer to two completely different events. I will be comparing the 1825 Edition of View of the Hebrews (Ethan Smith, http://www.thechristianidentityforum.net/downloads/View-America.pdf) and the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem referenced in VOTH is the destruction that occurred in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
  2. In VOTH, Ethan Smith states the reason that Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. “Here were the city and the temple to be destroyed, for the infidelity, malice, hypocrisy, and persecution of the Lord of glory” (pg. 8).
  3. VOTH goes into explicit detail of Jerusalem being destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D. This is to illustrate that the predictions of Jesus about the future of Jerusalem came true, proving that he was the Son of God. See the first page of the chapter, which states “And the Messiah uttered against them, in consequence of their rejecting him, a new edition of these fatal denunciations, which we find in Matt. 24, Luke 19:41-44, chapter 21, and 23:27-30.” (pg. 7)
  4. The only reference in VOTH to the Babylonian destruction is a single sentence that states “that it [Jerusalem] should be consumed on the same month, on the same day of the month, on which the Babylonians had before destroyed it by fire.”
  5. In the BOM, however, Lehi’s family escaped the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 600 B.C. The Book of Mormon never mentions the destruction of Jerusalem by Romans, nor the prophecies of Jesus concerning its destruction in 70 A.D.
  6. This is not a significant parallel because the destruction referred to in both sources is hundreds of years apart, caused by different invaders, and serves a different purpose in the narrative of the BOM and VOTH.

 

Similarity #2: The Scattering of Israel/The lost ten tribes

This parallel is based on the fact that both the BOM and VOTH argue that Israelites were led to the Americas. However, many differences exist between the two works. The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Native Americans are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, whereas View of the Hebrews states explicitly that the Native Americans are the ten lost tribes of Israel who were preserved by the Lord in an outcast and a savage state.

VOTH:

  1. The Native Americans are the lost ten tribes of Israel. “The ten tribes of Israel must now have, somewhere on earth, a distinct existence in an outcast state.” (pg. 30)
  2. They were expelled from Canaan in 725 B.C., living  in “an outcast state for thousands of years” (pg. 20) after they were carried out by Shalmanezer of Assyria.
  3. Expelled and outcast from the promised land because of their iniquity and idolatry (Amos 8:11,12)
  4. They became a savage people as vindictive Providence punished them for their idolatry in 725 B.C. (pg. 70)

BOM:

  1. This is not a record of the lost ten tribes of Israel. Lehi was a descendant of Joseph and Manasseh. (Alma 10:3)
  2. Two families (Lehi and Ishmael) were led out of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid destruction from the Babylonians as well as the Jews for preaching heresy. Mulek, a son of Zedekiah, was also led out of Jerusalem during its destruction. (1 Nephi 2:1-2/Helaman 8:21)
  3. Lehi’s family was led from Jerusalem because of their righteousness and to avoid death. “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 2:2)
  4. Three separate peoples come to the Americas by way of boats (Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites)
  5. BOM prophets acknowledge that they do not know where the lost ten tribes of Israel are. “But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.” (3 Nephi 17:4)
  6. Lehi’s family was led out of Jerusalem to be preserved as a righteous branch, according to the prophecies of Joseph and Jacob: “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom” (2 Nephi 3:5).
  7. “The words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.” (Alma 46:23)

VOTH: 1. The lost tribes of Israel will be outcast and will travel in a north-east direction, and will cross the frozen ocean to the Americas. They will not have the word of God among them. “There is a prophecy is Amos viii. 11, 12, relative to the ten tribes of Israel while in their state of banishment from the promised land, which appears exactly to accord with the account by Esdras…As an event to be accomplished in their outcast state, the prophet gives this striking descriptive prediction. Verse 11, 12; ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, (or upon the tribes of Israel,) not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water; but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.’…The prediction implies that Israel in their exilement should know that they had been blessed with the word of God, but had wickedly lost it; as a man in a famine knows he has had bread, but now has it not. They shall feel something what they have lost, and shall wander…shall wander in a north-east direction as far as they can wander, from sea to sea…from the northern frozen ocean, to the southern ocean at Cape Horn.” (Ethan Smith, pg. 33)

2. The lost tribes were outcast because of their idolatry: “Amos was a prophet to the ten tribes of Israel…The symbol is thus explained; ‘Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.’ The prophet in this chapter announces that ‘they that swear by the sins of Samaria, and say, Thy God, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall.’ Here is a description of the idolatry of the ten tribes, and their utter banishment then just about to take place; from which they have never been recovered to this day.” (Ethan Smith, p. 33)

VOTH and the BOM refer to separate people’s in separate centuries, being led by different paths to a distant land for different purposes. Critics of the BOM try to overgeneralize this similarity by saying that ‘both works say the Israelites come to Americas for religious reasons,’ and ignore all other details/differences.

Exaggerated Similarities between View of the Hebrews and The Book of Mormon (Part I)

The View of the Hebrews is a rather thin volume written by the minister Ethan Smith, and was first published in 1823, with a subsequent re-release in 1825 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_the_Hebrews). It is written in an essay format and sets out to prove that the Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. He attempts to prove this by making a case for the Ten Tribe’s literal outcast state and subsequent restoration by appealing to the Bible. In addition, the book is comprised of the experiences of several individuals and institutions who had close contact with Native Americans and argue that their traditions are remarkably similar to Hebrew traditions. There are those who claim that because of the extensive similarities between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews, that Joseph Smith must have used View of the Hebrews as inspiration for inventing the story of the Book of Mormon. I will set out to prove that the similarities between the two works are exaggerated and details are often contradictory. For the meantime, I will assume that the reader has a basic understanding of what is contained in both The View of the Hebrews (VOTH) and the Book of Mormon (BOM). For Part I of my study of the similarities between the BOM and VOTH, I would like to provide a summary of several differences between the two works. A more in-depth analysis of each of the supposed similarities between the two works will follow in future posts.

A summary of major differences:

  1. VOTH claims that the Native Americans are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whereas the Book of Mormon claims they are descendants of Joseph living in Jerusalem after the scattering of the ten tribes. (see http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1082&index=10&keyword=view%20of%20the%20hebrews)
  2. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes were taken out of the Land of Canaan by the Assyrians in 725 B.C. and these Ten Tribes are the ancestors of the Native Americans. The BOM claims that those who came to the Americas came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to avoid the destruction caused by the Babylonians. In addition, the Book of Mormon argues that a separate group of people came to the Americas shortly after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  3. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes came to the Americas by way of the Bering Strait, whereas the BOM asserts that they came by boat through the Arabian Sea.
  4. VOTH claims that the Ten Tribes of Israel were led to the Americas for their wickedness, while the BOM says that those who are led to the Americas are led for their righteousness.
  5. VOTH claims that those who came to the Americas traveled in a north-east direction from Canaan. The BOM states that Lehi’s family traveled in a south-east direction from Jerusalem.
  6. VOTH claims that Ten Tribes traveled from a frozen land. The BOM claims that Lehi’s family left from “Bountiful,” a land of wild honey and fruit.
  7. VOTH claims that the legend of Quetzalquatl is based on the Ten Tribes’ early traditions and experiences of Moses as their lawgiver, over 900 years before being taken from Canaan. The BOM claims that Jesus Christ came to the Americas in 34 A.D.
  8. VOTH claims that the tradition of the Urim and Thummim can be found in Native American breastplates made of conch shells, elk beads and straps of otter skin. The BOM never once mentions the name “Urim and Thummim” nor does it describe a breast plate.
  9. VOTH claims that Native Americans kept sacred items in bags or boxes like the Ark of the Covenant. The BOM never mentions the Ark of the Covenant or its likeness.
  10. VOTH claims that the Natives would bring this “ark of the covenant” with them every time they went to war. The peoples in the BOM never do anything like this.
  11. VOTH speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans to show Christ’s prophecies being fulfilled about Jerusalem’s destruction. The BOM speaks of Lehi escaping the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians just after 600 B.C.
  12. VOTH claims that the Native Americans lost the word of God according to the prophecy of Amos 7:11,12. The BOM asserts that Nephites had the Bible and preached the Law of Moses and Christianity.
  13. VOTH claims that there may be evidence of Phylacteries like those used in Jerusalem in the Americas, and they were written in Hebrew. The BOM argues that the Brass Plates and the Golden Plates contained the fullness of the Gospel and were written in “reformed Egyptian.”
  14. VOTH claims that the Native Americans became savage and wicked because Providence was punishing them for the idolatry of the Ten Tribes of Israel. The BOM claims that the savage Native Americans (Lamanites) rebelled against God and were jealous that their younger brother Nephi was a ruler over them. They would serve as a way to stir up the Nephites to remembrance of the Lord.
  15. VOTH claims that the Americas were uninhabited since the great flood. The BOM argues that the Americas were inhabited by the Jaredites after the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel.
  16. VOTH describes animals known to Native Americans, such as the buffalo, deer, porcupine, rattlesnake, bear, otter, beaver, elk, etc. The BOM, instead, references animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, cureloms, cumoms, and elephants.
  17. VOTH claims that the ancient Israelites could have built the pyramids found in the Americas today. The BOM never mentions pyramids.
  18. VOTH claims that the Native Americans commonly use the word “Hallelujah,” a Hebrew word. The BOM uses the word “Hosanna” instead, on three occasions.
  19. VOTH claims that when grieving the Native Americans will touch their hands to their mouths, then their mouths to the ground. “It is well known that laying the hand on the mouth, and the mouth in the dust, is a distinguished Hebraism.” The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  20. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans abstain from matrimonial intercourse three days prior to going to war. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  21. VOTH asserts that several Indian words are similar to Hebrew words, and the comparisons are presented in table format. The BOM never mentions these words or their likeness.
  22. VOTH asserts that like the Hebrews, the Native Americans have cities of refuge where blood cannot be spilt. The BOM never mentions cities of refuge or their likeness.
  23. VOTH asserts that Native Americans hold certain tribes in reverence like the Tribe of Levi. This is not found in the BOM and Levi is only mentioned in 3 Nephi 24:3 when Jesus quotes Malachi 3.
  24. VOTH asserts that the Native Americans believe the name of God is “Yohewah, Aleh, or Yah.” The BOM never mentions these words.
  25. VOTH says that the Native Americans must appear three times annually at the temples. The BOM never mentions this.
  26. VOTH says the Native Americans purified themselves with bitter vegetables. The BOM never mentions this.
  27. VOTH says that the Native Americans separated their women. The BOM never mentions this Hebraism.
  28. VOTH says that an old Jewish Phylactery was written on dark yellow “leaves” of parchment, preserved much like ancient Arabian parchment. The BOM argues that parchment must decay, so they wrote on plates (or leaves, described by Joseph Smith) of gold and brass.
  29. VOTH asserts that the Natives believe they had a book of “the old divine speech” (which was Hebrew). The BOM asserts that the Brass Plates, a sacred book like the Bible, was written in reformed Egyptian and not the “divine speech.”

An Examination of the Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon

The purpose of this post is to show that even though there seems to be a high number of textual changes to the Book of Mormon since its first publication in 1830, most of the changes are minor and do not suggest a sort of conspiracy by the leadership of the church to clean up gross errors in Joseph Smith’s invention of the Book of Mormon. I also will show how the changes to the Book of Mormon can help in strengthening the faith of those who believe the Book of Mormon to be an ancient record translated by Joseph Smith.

First, it is no secret that the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon is structurally different than the version used today. The 1830 version reads in paragraph form and is not broken up into verses. The chapters are also numbered differently than in today’s version. The version I will be comparing the 1830 version (Palmyra, New York 1830, replica versionto is the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Intellectual Reserve, Inc). This is not a complete examination of all of the changes in the Book of Mormon, but they are some of the most common changes. There is a difference between changes in spelling and textual changes. I will not be examining changes in the spelling of individual words, because spelling errors do not challenge the veracity of the Book of Mormon. I will be focusing on textual changes, in which an entire word has been changed. In the end, I am attempting to show that most of the textual changes are grammatical in nature and do not affect the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

Here is a summary of many of the changes found throughout the Book of Mormon:

1. Changing “Saith” to “Said”= Many times the Book of Mormon, when referring to someone speaking in the past tense, says “saith” in the present tense. This is found throughout the Book of Mormon. An example of this is found in Jacob 5, the Parable of the Olive Tree, where the word “saith” has been changed to “said” twenty eight times. The 1830 version, for instance, says “And the Lord of the vineyard saith unto the servant”, while verse 57 in today’s version changes it to “said”.

2. Changing “which” to “who” and “whom”= The 1830 version of the Book of Mormon seems to prefer using “which” rather than using “who” and “whom” to refer to individual or groups of people. Examples of this can be found in 1 Nephi 14:12, with sentences such as “the whore which sat upon the waters” and “which were the saints of God” and “the great whore which I saw.” They have since been changed to “the whore who sat” and “who were the saints” and “whore whom I saw.”

3. Removing “that”= Throughout the 1830 version that are many instances where “that” is used superfluously, at least in modern day english. It usually occurs following the word “after” in phrases such as “For behold, after that they”…Some examples of this include 1 Nephi 4:20 which states “and after that I had done this,” while the 1981 edition removes “that”.

It is also found in verse five “And after that they had hidden themselves,” and “they should do after that I was gone” (1 Nephi 19:4),”And since that they had been led away” (1 Nephi 22:5), and “for after that I had made an abridgment” (Words of Mormon 3).

4. Changing “hath” and “doth” to “has,” “have,” and “do”= The Book of Mormon tries and mimic the English of the King James version of the Bible, but often does so unsuccessfully. This supports the idea that Joseph Smith had his own influence in the translation process, rather than simply receiving the translation from reformed Egyptian directly to English from the Spirit. The 1830 version prefers words like “hath” and “doth”, and these have been changed in the 1981 version to make it more grammatically correct. Some examples of the 1830 version include: “For I, Nephi, hath seen it” (2 Nephi 26:7), “forever and ever and hath no end” (2 Nephi 9:16) to “For I, Nephi, have seen it” and “forever and ever and has no end”

5. Changing “had ought” to just “ought”= (Alma 1:1)

6. Adding “the Son of God”= This is often used by critics of the Book of Mormon to claim that Joseph Smith originally believed that God and Jesus were the same being, just as do traditional Christians, but then he changed his doctrine after the founding of the church. In 1 Nephi 11:18,21,32, the phrase “Son of the” has been added to the original text. In verse 18 it states “the mother of the Son of God,” whereas the 1830 version just says “the mother of God.” In verse 21 it states “the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” whereas the 1830 version says “even the Eternal Father.” In verse 32 it states “yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged.” The phrase has also been added in 1 Nephi 13:40, which reads “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father.” However, neither the original reading nor the changed reading have any effect on the doctrine of the church. The phrase “son of” was added for clarification, not because the doctrine in these passages is inconsistent. There are many instances in the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon where “the Son of God” is used, such as 1 Nephi 10:17 which says “which power he received by faith on the Son of God–and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come.” Another example is 2 Nephi 25:19 which says “according to the words of the prophets, and also according to the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The main problem is that the doctrine of the Godhead is confusing even for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon identifying Jesus as God is consistent with many Biblical passages, showing that the language of the Book of Mormon describing the Godhead is consistent with the Bible. We believe that the Godhead are three separate beings, but both the Bible and the Book of Mormon use the terms “Eternal Father,” “God,” and “Creator” interchangeably for “Jesus Christ” and “God the Father.” In Mosiah 15:3,4 it argues that Jesus Christ the Messiah is “The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son–And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth.” If the leadership of the church had left 1 Nephi 11:18,21,32 unchanged, it would still be consistent with this account in Mosiah. It is only possibly to conclude, then, that the leadership added “Son of” to the passages in 1 Nephi 11,13 in order to clarify the LDS doctrine, and not to change it.

7. Changing “Benjamin” to “Mosiah”= In Mosiah 21:28 it says “And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God.” The 1830 version, however, says “Benjamin” had a gift from God. This is a possible problem because Benjamin would have been dead by the time Ammon had met Limhi. The Book of Mormon was changed, then, in order to make the timeline consistent, having Mosiah as the king. This does not prove that the Book of Mormon is not true, though. According to Mosiah 6 and 7, King Benjamin gave up the throne to his son Mosiah. Benjamin then died three years later. The Book of Mormon then says that Mosiah “had continual peace for the space of three years” (Mosiah 7:1). According to the timeline in the Book of Mormon, these three years were during the time that Benjamin was alive. Benjamin died in “about 121 B.C.” and Mosiah sent “strong men” (v. 2) to go and find the land of “Lehi-Nephi” (v.1). It is possible, therefore, that Ammon and the other strong men had left to find the land of Lehi-Nephi before Benjamin had died. So when Ammon said that Benjamin had the power to translate, it is possible that he was not aware of Benjamin’s passing away. And even if there was some blatant inconsistency with the timeline, the Book of Mormon was written by men, and there may be faults within the record. It is possible that either Joseph Smith or Moroni or Mormon could have accidentally put the name “Benjamin” when they intended to write “Mosiah” (see Mormon 8:17)

8. Changing “is” to “are” and “were” to “was”= In many instances in the Book of Mormon identifying the singular and plural are correctly done. However, sometimes a phrase like “thy seed, which is among thy brethren” is changed to “which are among thy brethren” (1 Nephi 13:30), “mercies of the Lord is over” to “mercies of the Lord are over” (1 Nephi 1:20), and “we are a descendant of Joseph” to “we are descendants of Joseph.” It also has phrases like “all mankind was in a lost” are changed to “all mankind were in a lost”

There are many more changes made to the Book of Mormon. Because of the nature of the grammatical errors, it is possible that these changes may support the argument that Joseph Smith, a relatively uneducated man, had a direct influence on the translation of the Book of Mormon and did not receive the exact, perfect translation word for word. It can also help prove that Joseph Smith to some extent or another was responsible for producing the Book of Mormon, and that it was not first written by someone else like Solomon Spaulding or Sydney Rigdon.

Here is an example of a single chapter in the Book of Mormon, with its total number of changes that are not spelling errors, but actual word changes. There are 33 word changes in this chapter, which sounds like a lot, but they have no real change on the doctrine or meaning of the passages. This is the general pattern found throughout the Book of Mormon. The following is a comparison of the 1830 version to the 1981 version of 2 Nephi 9.

Changing (v. 1) “That he hath covenanted with all…”  to  “That he has covenanted with all”

Changing (v. 2) “That he hath spoken to the Jews” to “That he has spoken unto the Jews” and “until the time cometh” to “until the time comes

Changing (v. 4) “For I know that thou hast searched much” to “For I know that ye have searched much”

Changing (v. 5) “show himself unto them at Jerusalem” to “show himself unto those at Jerusalem”

Changing (v. 8) “subject to that angel which fell” to “subject to that angel who fell”

Changing (v. 12) “death and hell must deliver up its dead” to “death and hell must deliver up their dead”

Changing (v. 16) “they which are righteous” to “they who are righteous”/”they which are filthy” to “they who are filthy”/”torment is a lake of fire” to “torment is as a lake of fire”/”whose flames ascendeth” to “whose flame ascendeth”/”and hath no end” to “and has no end”

Changing (v. 18) “they which have believed” to “they who have believed”/”they which have endured” to “they who have endured”

Changing (v. 20) “save he knoweth it” to “save he knows it”

Changing (v. 24) “hath spoken it” to “has spoken it”

Changing (v. 25) “Wherefore, he hath given a law” to “Wherefore, he has given a law”/”hath claim upon them” to “have claim upon them”

Changing (v. 27) “that hath the law given” to “that has the law given”/”that hath all the commandments” to “that has all the commandments”

Changing (v. 28) “They shall perish” to “And they shall perish”

Changing (v. 29) “is good if that they” to “is good if they”

Changing (v. 30) “which are rich as to” to “who are rich as to”/”For because that they” to “For because they”

Changing (v. 37) “wo unto them that worship” to “wo unto those that worship”

Changing (v. 38) “wo unto all they which die” to “wo unto all those who die”

Changing (v. 40) “righteous fear they not” to “righteous fear them not”

Changing (v. 41) “his paths are righteousness” to “his paths are righteous

Changing (v. 42) “which are puffed up” to “who are puffed up”

Changing (v. 45) “that God which is the rock” to “that God who is the rock”

Changing (v. 53) “he hath promised unto us” to “he has promised unto us”

Rather than harming faith, I believe seeing and understanding these changes can help to increase one’s faith in the Book of Mormon. Many theories exist as to how the Book of Mormon was written. In the early days of the church, few people believed that Joseph Smith could write this book all by himself, so some argued that Joseph had gotten hold of a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding which follows the exact story in the Book of Mormon. This manuscript has never been found, and the Spaulding manuscript that has been found is a completely different story that does not account for explaining the existence of the Book of Mormon. Others proposed that a more educated man like Sydney Rigdon or even Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and Hyrum Smith were involved in writing the Book of Mormon. These grammatical errors suggest to me that Joseph Smith was responsible for the translation of the plates, and no one else. Educated men like Spaulding or Rigdon would not have confused the singular and plural, such as confusing “they was” to “they were” or “they is” to “they are.” Had a more educated man written the Book of Mormon, the first edition would have been a much more polished work grammatically. Many of the grammatical errors point to either an error in the original writing of the Book of Mormon (maybe Nephi or Mormon made grammatical mistakes) or an error in the translation of the Book of Mormon (Joseph Smith translated from an ancient language to the best of his abilities by the power of God). If it is possible that it is a translational error, then it is most likely that the story told by Joseph Smith and the many witnesses about him dictating the Book of Mormon without manuscripts to his scribes is true, and no one else wrote the Book of Mormon for him. Therefore, all that is left to decide is whether or not you believe that Joseph Smith made it all up from his head while dictating to scribes, or that he had the power of God to translate a real ancient record.