A Mormon Apostle’s Evasive Answer

by Sharon Lindbloom
5 October 2017

On 18 September 2017, the LDS Church’s Deseret News reported on LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson’s recent devotional address directed at young Mormon adults. In that address, Mr. Nelson spoke of his appreciation for the Bible and invited his audience to join him in studying that volume of scripture insofar as it speaks to ideas surrounding the Mormon Restoration:

“ ‘I want to know its prophecies about the gathering of Israel,’ he said. ‘I want to find its prophecies about the Restoration of the gospel in its fullness in these latter days.’

“…Sharing an experience he had with a Protestant minister, President Nelson spoke of his answer to the minister’s question if he believes in the Bible, ‘every word of it?’

“ ‘I think he expected me to say, “yes, as far as it is translated correctly,”’ he said. ‘But I did not. I said, “Yes, especially Isaiah 29 and Ezekiel 37.”’”

By disconnecting these Bible passages from their surrounding context, the Mormon Church misinterprets Isaiah 29 and Ezekiel 37 as prophesies about the Book of Mormon. This is why Mr. Nelson states that he “especially” believes these Bible chapters. Yet it’s unlikely that Mr. Nelson’s answer to the Protestant minister was strictly true.

Take Ezekiel 37, for example. Here the prophet Ezekiel speaks of two “sticks” that shall become one. Mormonism teaches that these sticks represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon. According to Deseret News,

“When referencing the combining of the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph, President Nelson said, ‘When the Bible and the triple combination were first bound in one book, we felt that this amazing prophecy had been fulfilled.’”

With this understanding, Mr. Nelson asserts that he especially believes Ezekiel 37. But what about verse 22 of Ezekiel 37? This verse identifies the “sticks” of Ezekiel’s prophecy not as books, but as nations (that is, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah). “…they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Does Mr. Nelson believe “every word” of Ezekiel 37, including verse 22?

I wonder if this Mormon apostle believes Isaiah 43:10, which contradicts Joseph Smith’s teaching that men can, have, and will become true Gods? I wonder if he believes Isaiah 44:6 which contradicts Joseph Smith’s teaching that many true Gods exist? I wonder if he believes Psalm 90:2 which contradicts Joseph Smith’s teaching that people have got to learn how to become Gods as all Gods have had to do?

Does Mr. Nelson believe 1 John 5:11-13 when it says that believers may actually know that they have eternal life? Or John 4:24 and Luke 24:39 that contradict the Mormon teaching that God the Father has a body of flesh and bone? Or 1 Corinthians 15:46 that contradicts the Mormon doctrine of premortality? Or Galatians 2:21 where Paul says that the idea that righteousness comes by the law (a doctrine promoted by Mormonism) “frustrates” the grace of God?

If LDS apostle Russell Nelson really believes “every word” of the Bible, he is a renegade Latter-day Saint. Either that, or his answer to the Protestant minister was disingenuous.

Beginning with Joseph Smith, Mormons have continually been taught that the biblical text has been corrupted. In 1843 the first Mormon Prophet explained,

“There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 310)

A few months later the Prophet taught that “Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests” altered the ancient biblical text (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 327).

More recently, late LDS apostle Bruce McConkie (1915-1985) explained that, “The Bible abounds in errors and mistranslations.” In the November 1996 General Conference, LDS apostle Joseph Wirthlin (1917-2008) pointed out that “multiple transcriptions, translations, and interpretations” resulted in errors in the biblical record. In an October 2011 reprint in Ensign magazine, former LDS president Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) noted that the Bible “passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text.” (See the references for these quotes and more at “What do Mormons believe about the Bible?”)

Even the current prophet and president of the Mormon Church, Thomas Monson, signed his name to an official statement that affirmed,

“The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts… Many versions of the Bible are available today. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible are available for comparison to determine the most accurate version.” (Presidents Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas Monson, “Letter Reaffirms use of King James Version Bible,” Church News, June 20, 1992, 3)

All of this relates to the LDS Article of Faith 1:8 which states that Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” This is the very qualification Mr. Nelson thought was the impetus behind the Protestant minister’s question of whether Mr. Nelson believed “every word” of the Bible — the very qualification Mr. Nelson chose not to express to the minister.

Just last weekend at General Conference, Russell Nelson told his audience that the Book of Mormon “expands and clarifies many of the plain and precious truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible.” Clearly, Mr. Nelson does not believe every word of the Bible without some sort of qualification. Given the fact that he purposely misled the Protestant minister he spoke to, one wonders if he truly believes much of it at all.