Five Questions for your Mormon Visitors
by Dr. Brent Kinman
Editor’s note: far too often, Christian debates with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints revolve around tangential issues. The core issues in this debate involve the nature of God, the validity of LDS scriptures and the authority of LDS leadership as true prophets. The following questions are intended to focus on those issues in conversations with LDS members.
1. I’ve heard that Mormons think Elohim (God the father) and Jehovah are different persons, yet time and again the Old Testament indicates they are the same:
Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God (elohim) created the heavens and the earth.
Gen. 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD (Jehovah) God (elohim) made earth and heaven.
Ex. 3:15 And God (elohim), furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD (Jehovah), the God (elohim) of your fathers, the God (elohim) of Abraham, the God (elohim) of Isaac, and the God (elohim) of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
Is. 42:5 Thus says God (elohim) the LORD (Jehovah), Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it,
Is. 44:6 “Thus says the LORD (Jehovah), the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the LORD (Jehovah) of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God (elohim) besides Me.
How do you conclude from these Scriptures that ‘elohim’ and ‘Jehovah’ are different persons, when clearly they are not?
2. Several Mormon writings suggest that we humans might “become gods” in some way or other. For example,
The following is excerpted from The King Follett Discourse, a sermon preached by Joseph Smith on March 10, 1844. It is recorded in The Journal of Discourses (6:1-11) and in many other pieces of Mormon literature.
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret. If the vail was rent to-day, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,–I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form–like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man; …
These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you,–namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one,–from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.
… they shall rise again, to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more; but they shall be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory, and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost?
Yet the Old Testament indicates there is only one God:
Is. 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. 11 “I, even I, am the LORD; And there is no savior besides Me.
Is. 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.
Is. 45:5 “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
Is. 45:21 “Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. 22 “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.
Do you believe a person can become a god by faithfully practicing the Mormon religion?
3. In various ways and for many years the leaders of your religion declared that black skin was a sign of God’s displeasure.
“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity… wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” (2 Nephi 5:21)
“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression…” (Alma 3:6)
Joseph Smith himself taught that “Negroes” are the “sons of Cain” (History of the Church, Vol. 4, p. 501). Mormon leaders also taught that “As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed with a dark skin; he became the father of the Negroes, and those spirits who are not worthy to receive the priesthood are born through his lineage” (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 102).
Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church, asserted: “Cain slew his brother…. and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is a flat nose and black skin”(Journal of Discourses, Vol 7, p. 290).
Brigham Young also wrote, “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” (Journal of Discourses, Vol 10, p. 110).
On June 9, 1978, the church’s Deseret News carried the announcement by the First Presidency that prophet Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation that blacks could hold the priesthood, marry in the temple and receive the same privileges as any other member of the church.
Do you believe that black skin is or ever was a sign of God’s curse? Do you believe prophet Kimball received this revelation in 1978 or do you believe Brigham Young was right when he said ‘the law of God with respect to the African race’ will “ever be so”? Would a racially mixed marriage be wrong in the eyes of God?
4. For its first decades of existence, the Mormon church encouraged and practiced polygamy. They have long since officially abandoned it — yet the church’s original writings make it sound as if a person’s eternal salvation was affected by taking several wives. For example, …
Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church, once stated: “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 269).
On another occasion Brigham Young emphatically declared: “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives and continue to do so, I promise you will be damned… take this revelation, or any other revelation that the Lord has given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned” (Deseret News, November 14, 1855).
Joseph Smith’s revelation regarding the importance of practicing polygamy still remains in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 132.
How can those Mormons who now refuse polygamy experience the same salvation as those who in years past practiced it? Was Brigham Young correct when he said, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy”?
5. The “Book of Abraham” is part of the larger The Pearl of Great Price. It is said to have been translated by Joseph Smith from papyrii he purchased in about 1835.
On November 27, 1967 the long-presumed lost collection of papyrus manuscripts was presented to the Church. The discovery of the manuscripts allowed Joseph Smith’s ability as a ‘translator’ to be tested (the ‘Rosetta Stone’, containing Greek, demotic and hieroglyphic writing had been discovered in 1799; it was largely unknown at the time of Smith’s ‘translation’).
Various scholars, including Dr. A. H. Sayce, Oxford; James H. Breasted, Ph.D., University of Chicago; Professor John A. Wilson, University of Chicago; and Richard A. Parker, Chairman of the Department of Egyptology, Brown University, consider Smith’s translation to be fraudulent. They say the papyrus does not mention Abraham, and is in fact part of the ‘Egyptian Book of Breathings’, a condensation or summary of the essential parts of the ‘Book of the Dead’, a work largely about magical charms. The experts translate the papyrus with about 87 English words; Joseph Smith used thousands.
How do you explain the scholarly verdict on Smith’s translation? If you think the verdict was an anti-mormon conspiracy, what evidence do you have? Why is it that all Egyptologists have the same view?