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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 9: The Book of Mormon–Keystone of our Religion

Chapter 9: The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 125–35

During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

“Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God? … If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.”

Out of all the prophets in the Mormon Church, probably none was more of an advocate of the primacy of the Book of Mormon than thirteenth president Ezra Taft Benson. And the statement given above is very clearly “Bensonian,” if there was even such a term. If we want to draw near to God, then no other scripture is better for a source than the Book of Mormon, according to this 20th century leader. Let’s see if this unique LDS scripture can deliver the goods.

The following quotations, all from sermons President Benson delivered as President of the Church, provide a sampling of his warnings and promises related to the Book of Mormon:

“Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers: ‘That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion’ [D&C 84:58]. We have felt that scourge and judgment!

To the Christian, the words “Book of Mormon” ought to be replaced with the “Bible.” While we don’t need to say more about the Bible, it is clearly important to Christians all over the world.

“… The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.”

If the Book of Mormon truly is God’s Word, then yes, it would be important to have more personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work come from it. But if it is not…? Honestly, I do wish the Mormon leadership would emphasize pure Bible teaching in this type of way. The Word of God has revolutionized the lives of so many believers today when they took it seriously and pondered its words.

“We have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat falsehoods. … Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are [teaching] with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains. Our Church classes are not as Spirit-filled unless we hold it up as a standard.”

Mormon leaders have talked about the Book of Mormon being the “fullness of the gospel “ many times. In fact, this chapter uses that term five times. We’ll come back to this later.

“I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown—and we will plead to the Lord that He will begin to lift the condemnation—the scourge and judgment. Of this I bear solemn witness.”

These are serious words: condemnation, scourge, and judgment. Obviously Benson thought very highly of this book.

“I do not know fully why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner. You must help with this burden and with this blessing which He has placed on the whole Church, even all the children of Zion.

Again, his sincerity seems genuine.

“Moses never entered the promised land. Joseph Smith never saw Zion redeemed. Some of us may not live long enough to see the day when the Book of Mormon floods the earth and when the Lord lifts His condemnation. (See D&C 84:54–58.) But, God willing, I intend to spend all my remaining days in that glorious effort.”

And needless to say, he did advocate the Book of Mormon to the end of his days.

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

How important is the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith called it “the keystone of our religion.” (History of the Church, 4:461.) “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations,” he said, “and where is our religion? We have none.” (History of the Church, 2:52.) A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.

… Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.

Joseph Smith claimed the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 194). Let’s spend a little time talking about this claim.

Getting nearer to God has been associated in Mormonism with eternal life, which is also called exaltation or godhood. According to Gospel Principles:

These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).

2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).

3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.

4. They will receive a fulness of joy.

5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20).

“Specific ordinances” that must be “received to be exalted” include:

1. We must be baptized.

2. We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.

4. We must receive the temple endowments.

5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to:

1. Love God and our neighbors.

2. Keep the commandments.

3. Repent of our wrongdoings.

4. Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.

5. Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the covenants.

6. Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.

7. Have family and individual prayers every day.

8. Teach the gospel to others by word and example.

9. Study the scriptures.

10. Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.

Numerous requirements never mentioned in the Book of Mormon must be met. In addition, the Book of Mormon does not discuss other important LDS doctrines, including:

  • The Mormon Church organization, on which its leaders place so much emphasis
  • The Melchizedek priesthood order
  • The Aaronic priesthood order
  • A plurality of gods
  • God is an exalted man
  • The potential for humans to attain godhood
  • Three degrees of glory
  • Preexistence
  • Eternal progression
  • Heavenly Mother
  • Temporary hell

In all actuality, there is no evidence to suggest that the Nephites mentioned in the Book of Mormon believed or practiced much of what modern-day Mormons believe and practice today. BYU professor Charles Harrell notes,

It is noteworthy that the doctrines expressed in the Book of Mormon tend to bear closer similarity to those found in early nineteenth-century Protestantism than to those in later Mormonism. (This is My Doctrine, p. 20)

Hence, I must ask, “Which precepts was Joseph Smith talking about?”

The quote from above also says “than any other book.” Just what does the Book of Mormon have that the Bible doesn’t? At this point, many Mormons would immediately say, “Faith. Repentance. Baptism.” The Bible has all of these. What else? The Mormon has a hard time coming up with anything else not already adequately talked about in the Bible. Meanwhile, so many issues (as listed above) are strangely missing in a book that is supposed to epitimize gospel precepts.

In addition, there is an admission that if the Book of Mormon is false, the entire LDS religion goes with it. There are two underbellies of Mormonism that, if the stake goes through their hearts, the result would be fatal. Indeed, the First Vision and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon are crucial to the faith of Latter-day Saints. Historically, if neither of these were historical, then Mormonism is based on fables (fiction), not fact. And the Mormon leadership and their apologists all know it. So, while some may attack the Book of Mormon, these men do all they can to defend it.

As Joseph Smith himself said,

Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none (History of the Church 2:52).

And Apostle Orson Pratt added,

This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that the message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose them­selves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair. The nature of the mes­sage in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possi­bly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it (Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, 1:1, Liverpool, October 15, 1850).

Perhaps there is nothing that testifies more clearly of the importance of this book of scripture than what the Lord Himself has said about it.

By His own mouth He has borne witness (1) that it is true (D&C 17:6), (2) that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26), (3) that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8), (4) that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9; 42:12), (5) that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10), (6) that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11), and (7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).

All of these passages that claim how God is speaking has but sole witness: Joseph Smith. To believe that God said these things is to place full faith in the Mormon founder himself. Isn’t this a bit of circular reasoning? After all, Joseph Smith claimed that Moroni gave him gold plates. We must trust Smith on this. Then, in the Doctrine and Covenants, again there were no witnesses to verify how God communicated with Smith to write down these things. And in these passages, God “tells” Smith how the Book of Mormon can be trusted. Thus, the D&C verifies the BOM, both originating from the pen of the Mormon Church founder. If Smith is not trustworthy, should these be accepted at face value?

The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ and brings us nearer to God.

The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page, is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

Consider the descriptions used to support Joseph Smith’s statement of the major mission of the Book of Mormon:

  1. Jesus is the Christ: Christ means Messiah, and certainly Christians believe that this is who Jesus is.
  2. The eternal God: Consider the idea of what this means. Eternal means with no beginning and no end. Jesus is not even the top god of this world, let alone all previous worlds. He is a creation of God the Father in the preexistence and humanity’s brother. When the Book of Mormon was compiled, Joseph Smith’s ideas had not yet been evolved. At this time, Smith apparently believed that Jesus was God in the flesh and not just “a” god. (A little later, we’ll take a closer look at the Book of Mormon’s teaching that God is “unchangeable.”)
  3. Manifesting himself unto all nations: Mormons often point out that if there were people in the Americas, wouldn’t Jesus come to them? After all, the Nephites and Lamanites are part of the ethnos (nations). But if Jesus appeared in the Americas, why not Austrailia? Papua New Guinea? Alaska? New Zealand? Or any other place where people existed?

The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon.

According to Mormonism, praying about the Book of Mormon is the key to determining truth. One of the most common approaches Mormon missionaries may take with prospective new converts involves opening the Book of Mormon to Moroni 10:4. It reads,

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

An LDS missionary resource explains,

In order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read, ponder, and pray about it. The honest seeker of truth will soon come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, p. 38)

Another church manual says,

A sincere reader may not immediately gain a testimony when reading the Book of Mormon. Further, some people may not recognize the testimony that is growing as they study and pray over this tremendous text. But the promise of Moroni will come. (Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 8)

Yet there are problems with this challenge. First of all, the test is skewed. A person who “prays” but doesn’t get the same answer as the missionary is viewed as not getting it right. If prayer is the correct means of testing the book’s authenticity, why is a negative outcome immediately rejected as a plausible response? Though the Mormons may not say so, it is likely that they would question whether or not such a person had a “sincere heart” or “real intent.” It could also imply that the person lacked a necessary “faith in Christ.” However, Jeremiah 17:9 says a feeling one has can be disastrously wrong because “the heart is desperately wicked.” Praying about a religious book, especially if it is fictional and not historical, is hardly an objective test.

If the Book of Mormon is just one of four LDS scriptures, why should it be prayed over and not the other three scriptures? For that matter, why shouldn’t a seeker after truth pray about the Qu’ran (Islam), the Vedas (Hinduism), or the Tripitaka (Buddhism)? Where does praying about a particular religion’s scripture stop? If praying about a book is a way to determine truth, then why have many Mormons never even thought about expanding their prayers to more than just one religion’s scripture?

While Christians believe in prayer, they don’t believe it is appropriate to approach communication with God in such a cavalier manner. First Thessalonians 5:21 tells believers to “test everything.”  The Bereans were considered to be more righteous than the Thessalonians in Acts 17:11 because they searched the Scriptures (Old Testament) to see if what Paul taught was consistent. While the Mormon missionaries may want potential converts to obtain a subjective feeling that the Book of Mormon (and ultimately, Mormonism) is true, they should instead request their audience to read the Bible for itself—not in light of “modern-day revelation”—and see if what Mormonism teaches is consistent with the special revelation already given.

Do we remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon? In the Bible we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament is the English rendering of a Greek word that can also be translated as covenant. Is this what the Lord meant when He called the Book of Mormon the “new covenant”? It is indeed another testament or witness of Jesus. This is one of the reasons why we have recently added the words “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon. …

Mormon leaders can call this book “another testament of Jesus Christ,” but if what is talked about in this book is not historical, does it really matter? What kind of witness of the historical Jesus would it be able to offer?

The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text,

Let’s stop in midsentence. As in, “Whoa Nellie.” This assessment is completely inaccurate. As the eighth LDS Article of Faith says, the Bible can be trusted only “as far as it is translated correctly.” What does this mean? Translation means to take words from one language and put them into the words of another. If the Bible were true only as far as it is translated correctly, we would certainly agree. Unfortunately, those who mistakenly think the Bible cannot be trusted apparently do not understand how the Bible has been transmitted since the post-New Testament times.

The Bible was written primarily in Hebrew and Koine Greek. Anytime the words from one language are put into another—whether it is Spanish into English or French into Arabic—there is always the risk of losing something in the translation. It is doubtful that our many modern-day translations were produced by unprincipled people who wanted to keep God’s truths hidden. In actuality, quite the opposite is true. The motivation behind a new translation is, in most cases, to give a clearer understanding of what God wants to reveal to His people. Granted, some translations do a better job at achieving this goal than others. However, does Article Eight correctly state the problem the LDS Church has with the Bible? Some Mormons have recognized that the word translated as used in the Articles of Faith is not entirely correct. Knowledgeable Mormons who have studied the methods of translating languages admit that the transmission, not the translation, of the biblical texts concerns them.

Transmission refers to how the manuscripts were copied and handed down through the centuries. A number of Mormons contend that the manuscripts were corrupted, claiming that unscrupulous people had purposely left out “many plain and precious truths” and inserted their own erroneous philosophies. However, this is an argument from silence, since these same detractors cannot produce any untainted manuscripts against which to measure the “tainted” ones.

Although translations will differ, a good translation will go back to the most accurate manuscripts and then attempt to put the words of the Bible into an understandable language for the audience it addresses. Two translators of any written piece will differ in the choice of words, verb tense, and style. But if two good Spanish translators independently translate this morning’s paper, most likely the basic message would be the same despite their numerous differences. There is no such thing as a perfect translation.

The LDS Church leaders must certainly be aware of this, since their translators have often had to revise not only their English edition of the Book of Mormon but several foreign editions as well. When it comes to the transmission of the text, the Bible has much going for it. For example, consider the wealth of manuscript evidence for the New Testament:

There are complete Greek texts of the NT from the fourth century, and many earlier papyri of parts of it have survived, some from as early as the middle of the second century. In all, we have over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the NT, though the majority of these are later and of lesser value. There is also a wide variety of manuscript evidence for the early versions in Latin, Syriac, and Coptic, as well as numerous citations from the NT books by early Christian writers whose works are preserved. The NT is thus vastly better attested than any other ancient literature. The works of Tacitus, by contrast, survive in only two incomplete manuscripts written many centuries after his time, between them covering only about half of what he is known to have written. (The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World, p. 179)

Christian theologian Ron Rhodes lists some of the incredible statistics of the manuscript support for the Bible, including:

There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament. . . . There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity). . . . The Dead Sea Scrolls prove the accuracy of the transmission of the (Old Testament). In fact, in those scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947, we have Old Testament manuscripts that date about a thousand years earlier (150 B.C.) than the other Old Testament manuscripts then in our possession (which dated to A.D. 900). The significant thing is that when one compares the two sets of manuscripts, it is clear that they are essentially the same, with very few changes. The fact that manuscripts separated by a thousand years are essentially the same indicates the incredible accuracy of the Old Testament’s manuscript transmission. Source

As far as the reliability of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that we have today, biblical scholar Bruce Metzger said:

The earlier copies are generally closer to the wording of the originals. The translators of the 1611 King James Bible, for instance, used Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Today Bible translators have access to Greek manuscripts from the third and fourth centuries and Hebrew manuscripts from the era of Jesus. We even have the Ryland’s Papyrus, just a torn page with a few verses from John 18, that we can date between A.D. 100 and 150. So today we have access to a text of the Old and New Testaments that is more basic, more fundamental, less open to charges of scribal error or change. Source

Responding to a question about most surviving New Testament manuscripts hailing from a century or two after the originals were written, Metzger said:

By contrast, our copies of other ancient writings, like those of Virgil or Homer, are often many hundreds of years later than their originals. In some of those writings, we have only one copy! The New Testament, on the other hand, has many copies. No key doctrine of the Christian faith has been invalidated by textual uncertainty. On the other hand, some passages have been affected. For example, take Mark 9:29. Jesus is explaining how he was able to cast out a demon, and in the earliest manuscripts, he is quoted as saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” In the Greek manuscripts the KJV translators used, the two words “and fasting” are tacked on. I do not think that is an earth-shaking difference, but it is typical of the kind of changes we are talking about.

Finally, if the Bible cannot be trusted because so many evil middlemen got their hands on it, then we must ask how it is possible to trust:

  • James 1:5, the verse used by Joseph Smith that led him to pray about seeking truth?
  • 1 Corinthians 15:29, which is used to support baptism for the dead as a necessary work in the LDS temples
  • John 10:16, that the American people were referenced as the “other sheep”
  • James 2:20, 26, that faith without works is dead

The list could go on and on. The point is that no Mormon should be able to quote from the Bible to support his or her points if this collection of 66 books is not trustworthy. Perhaps the Mormon would want to utilize the Joseph Smith Translation.

the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation.

This is also not true. Just as we do not have the autographs (original) of any book of the Bible, so we do not have the autographs of any book of the Book of Mormon. This is because the angel supposedly took the plates back after Smith was finished. His scribes wrote down the translation onto paper. Then the printer made a copy. Since that time, almost 4,000 changes have been made to “correct” the errors that are said to have emanated from the printer’s copy. While Benson makes it sound so smooth and convenient, the fact is that there was more than just one “step.” While it should seem simpler because there is only one “translator,” there are still many problems, causing a rational person to doubt if what was written is actually what was supposed to have been said.

Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.

Historically, the Christian church teaches in the divinity of Jesus. Heretics deny this. Much of what is written about Jesus was merely cribbed from the four biblical gospel accounts. Actually, little to nothing about Jesus can be learned that isn’t talked about in the Bible, which on its own clearly bears witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.

In the Book of Mormon, the testimony of Jesus Christ is “clear, undiluted, and full of power.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith … said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” [History of the Church, 4:461]. … Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book. …

We referenced this quote at the beginning of the review, establishing that there is so much taught today in Mormonism that is never even mentioned in the Book of Mormon. For example, the Book of Mormon seems to even contradict LDS teaching. One doctrine would be the possibility of receiving salvation after death. Consider Alma 34:35, which offers this stern warning to the “wicked” who put off repentance:

For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

What is this final state of the wicked? It seems very clear that this includes the Lord’s Spirit being withdrawn from them so that the devil has all power over them and the ability to claim them as his own. Nowhere does this passage imply that this situation ever changes since it is considered “final.” Or how about the doctrine of eternal hell, denied today in Mormonism? Second Nephi 28:21–22 provides a warning:

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, … who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

Substitute the word “Bible” for the “Book of Mormon” and millions of Christians could give a similar testimony.

These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God.

Mormons are told to draw near to a God who is much different in nature than the God as defined by their leaders. Let me take a moment to describe what I mean. According to the Book of Mormon, God doesn’t change His nature. Consider these passages:

3 Nephi 24:6 (quoting Mal. 3:6): “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

Mormon 9:9-10: (quoting Heb. 13:8): “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? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.”

 Mormon 9:19: “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”

Moroni 7:22: “For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting. . .”

Moroni 8:18:  “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

These verses sound biblical, don’t they? Yet it didn’t take long before Joseph Smith corrupted this version of God. Consider how, in his famous King Follett Discourse discourse, he taught,

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret… [Y]ou 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…

In a later sermon Smith boldly preached:

If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.

To the contrary, God says in Isaiah 43:10, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” Psalm 90:2 says of him, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” This is the God Christians worship. Of him we can say, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:34-36)

For an interesting look at this topic, visit here.

The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine, confounds false doctrine, and exposes the enemies of Christ.

If this is true, then the God of Mormonism as described above by Joseph Smith is false and should be adamently rejected. Should we consider Smith’s take as “false doctrine” and Smith an “enemy of Christ”?

The Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation. The Book of Mormon offers so much that broadens our understandings of the doctrines of salvation. Without it, much of what is taught in other scriptures would not be nearly so plain and precious.

Notice the equivocation. The fullness of the gospel of Jesus does not “contain every teaching,” as Kimball puts it. It would seem that fullness ought to contain the basic teachings of the gospel, including temple work, marriage for eternity, work for the dead, etc. Also, we have just shown how the doctrine of God of Mormonism (as taught by Smith) is contrary to the teachings of the Book of Mormon. Has God always been God? Is He really from everlasting to everlasting? Or could Joseph Smith (and today’s Mormon Church) be wrong about this issue?

As far as preaching the gospel is concerned, the Book of Mormon contains the clearest, most concise, and complete explanation.

Moroni 8:18: “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”

Historic Mormonism:  “As man is God once was, as God is man may be.” (Lorenzo Snow couplet, as approved by Joseph Smith in 1840)

Was God a human, as taught in the Snow couplet, who became “a” god somewhere in his progression? Or was God always God? Which is the “clearest, most concise, and complete explanation” for a verse like Moroni 8:18?

There is no other record to compare with it. In what record do you get such a complete understanding of the nature of the Fall, the nature of physical and spiritual death, the doctrine of the Atonement, the doctrine of justice and mercy as it relates to the Atonement, and the principles and ordinances of the gospel?

Answer to thsi question: The Bible!  Here are just a few verses (2 or 3) for explanation for each of the points provided by Benson:

Nature of the Fall:

Genesis 2:17: “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 5:18-21: “For then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Nature of physical and spiritual death:

Romans 5:12-14: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Doctrine of the Atonement:

Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

1 John 3:5: “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

Doctrine of justice and mercy (in relation to Atonement):

Ephesians 2:4-10: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

Hebrews 13:12: “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”

Principles and ordinances of the gospel

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Romans 10:9-10: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

These are just a few of the passages that can be used to show how the Book of Mormon is not needed to give fulness to the teachings provided. Nothing more is needed.

The Book of Mormon contains the most comprehensive account of these fundamental doctrines.

I think the Bible already has a handle on these teachings and doesn’t need any help.

The Book of Mormon … verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things. We testify that when used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines, lay down contentions, and establish peace. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.)18

Which stumbling blocks? Certainly there are people who misinterpret the Bible—I would even say Mormon leaders do this. However, when rightly interpreted, the words of the Bible give life and provide true doctrine.

We … should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we really do our homework and approach the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we can expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men.

If someone studied the Book of Mormon in a doctrinally sound way and had no other resources upon which to study, would he come to the same conclusion as Joseph Smith when it came to the nature of God?

I have noted within the Church a difference in discernment, insight, conviction, and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter.

The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

We could certainly delve into other doctrines like the idea there is only one God; that God is a Spirit and can not be a glorified man; that grace, faith and belief on God’s name is needed, not our works (as the works of man merit nothing, according to Alma 22:14); that a person must be born again; that work for the dead “availeth nothing”; that there is an eternal hell; and that polygamy is an abomination. (For the last one, Alma 41:8 does say that the decrees of God are unalterable yet for almost half a century this doctrine was advocated by LDS leaders.)

As explained above, doctrines that are missing in the Book of Mormon include preexistence, the validity of genealogies, baptism for the dead, celestial marriage, three levels of glory, godhood potential for humankind, a temporary hell, eternal progression, temple work, and Mother God.

Should the Book of Mormon really be classified as the “most correct book on earth” and touted as helping “a man get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book”?

The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the Restoration.

To accept the Doctrine and Covenants, we are again beholden to Joseph Smith who was allowed to write down the words of God with no accountability. In essence, he had freedom to say whatever he wanted in the name of God.

I would like to speak particularly about the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. These two great books of latter-day scripture are bound together as revelations from Israel’s God for the purpose of gathering and preparing His people for the second coming of the Lord. …

To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said, “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:10). The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are part of the fulfillment of that promise. Together these two great works of scripture bring great blessings to this generation. 

Or, if they are not from God, to bring great curses to those who accept these teachings as valid.

Each of these two great latter-day scriptures bears powerful and eloquent witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Virtually every page of both the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon teaches about the Master—His great love for His children and His atoning sacrifice—and teaches us how to live so that we can return to Him and our Heavenly Father.

It is simply not the case that “virtually every page” of these two unique LDS scriptures is about Jesus. To run a comparison between the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants would show great differences in the fundamental matters of faith.

Each of these two great latter-day books of scripture contains the knowledge and the power to help us live better lives in a time of great wickedness and evil. Those who carefully and prayerfully search the pages of these books will find comfort, counsel, guidance, and the quiet power to improve their lives.

The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn of temple work, eternal families, the degrees of glory, Church organization, and many other great truths of the Restoration. …

But wait, these are things either not taught or contradicted in the Book of Mormon. Did the so-called ancient Nephites and Lamanites believe in temple work, eternal families, degrees of glory, Church organization, etc.? The answer is no.

The Book of Mormon is the “keystone” of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone.

At the same time, you would think that the keystone and capstone would be on the same page and not contradict each other. Yet the view of God in the Doctrine and Covenants is different than the God of the Book of Mormon. Is he Spirit (as Alma 18:2-5, 24-28; 22:9-11) says? Or does God have “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s”?

The Doctrine and Covenants is a glorious book of scripture given directly to our generation. It contains the will of the Lord for us in these last days that precede the second coming of Christ. It contains many truths and doctrines not fully revealed in other scripture. Like the Book of Mormon, it will strengthen those who carefully and prayerfully study from its pages.

Do we, as Saints of the Most High God, treasure the word He has preserved for us at so great a cost? Are we using these books of latter-day revelation to bless our lives and resist the powers of the evil one? This is the purpose for which they were given. How can we not stand condemned before the Lord if we treat them lightly by letting them do no more than gather dust on our shelves?

My beloved brothers and sisters, I bear my solemn witness that these books contain the mind and the will of the Lord for us in these days of trial and tribulation. They stand with the Bible to give witness of the Lord and His work. These books contain the voice of the Lord to us in these latter days. May we turn to them with full purpose of heart and use them in the way the Lord wishes them to be used.

In these paragraphs, Benson advocates the study of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, both of which depend solidly on the testimony of Joseph Smith. I wish Benson had spent more time speaking about the importance of studying the Bible, which is a much more trustworthy book. In fact, if you are willing, I challenge you to read the book of Romans and see if its teachings are the same as what is taught by LDS leaders. May the Lord bless you as you challenge your preconceived notions with what is written in God’s Holy Word.

For more reviews on the Ezra Taft Benson manual, click here.

For more articles on the Book of Mormon, click here.

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