“The Book of Mormon is false because…”

A photograph of the 1841 First European (London) edition of the Book of Mormon, at the Springs Preserve museum, Las Vegas, Nevada.The Book of Mormon is false because of the several “major” changes between printings.

That was the gist of a comment that caught my attention today on YouTube under this video:

Book of Mormon Evidence by an Archaeologist

The following was my response.  I felt it worth sharing wider:


To apply your point more generally, I can paraphrase it with this question: If God is real, why would He let scripture regarding Him become corrupted by man?  This is always an excellent question.  To be fair, however, we have to put our fears and biases of the truth away and apply all questions to all sides equally — something very hard for any man to do and pretty much impossible for anyone with a contentious agenda to do.  Losing my fear of finding truth in strange places is something I am continuously working on myself while seeking out all sides to all arguments.  The hardest part is putting contention away in order to simply listen.  That kind of pride is a truly evil beast that is in even the best of us.

Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon suffer from changes and/or mistakes made by man over time.  The mistakes made by man in the BOM are known by the LDS church and, apparently, they are not concerned… more or less because they believe the true word comes through the spirit and not any book alone.  Their god is complex and cannot be represented by our imperfect languages.  Anyone who really, truly, honestly, wants to know more about the different versions of the BOM should seek out the exhaustive study on all versions done by Royal Skousen.  Perhaps, the biggest mistake he uncovered is that the book of Mosiah appears to likely be missing the first two chapters.  (And I’m not talking about the lost book of Lehi.)  One would be hard pressed, however, to prove that any of these “major” changes were intentional or that they change the overall message significantly.

The Bible, on the other hand, is undergoing rapid and significant changes nowadays — one person or group claiming they have a better understanding of this or that ancient text than some other person or group.  Even among ancient texts, such as the early codices, there are differences.  Thus, to hold the Bible and the BOM to two different standards would be the way of foolishness in my world.  Today, one will find far more difference in meaning between the different modern English versions of the Bible than one will between the different English versions of the BOM.

To take either one absolutely literally in all things, knowing there are mistakes of men in those words, is also foolishness.  Even the prophets themselves, the one’s who recorded the words given to them from God, likely added their own imperfections to the words they spoke to the people and to what was recorded.  Moses knew he was not eloquent and, apparently, God did not force him to be so when speaking as a prophet, allowing his brother to be his spokesperson instead.  God teaching a prophet what to say does not mean verbatim dictation as far as I understand it.

Anyhow, back to my introductory question as to why God lets us make these mistakes to His scriptures, I can’t say I have a definitive answer (of course).  I believe in a complex god who lets us make mistakes on all levels and who works in mysterious ways.  The only perfect man on this planet was Jesus and, even he, was human enough to probably stub his toe once in a while.  Jesus wrote no scriptures himself that I am aware of and this just adds further doubt to such a concept as perfect scripture, let alone, complete scripture.  Just because the works of God are perfect doesn’t mean that everything is recorded perfectly once run through the human filter.

Therefore, the story behind the different versions of BOM looks to be something like this: Royal Skousen does a pretty good job of showing evidence that the first transcript of the BOM in English was curiously detailed and thus, possibly, if you care to believe it, a perfect translation of the original text (which is not to say the original text was perfectly recorded either).  Then, however, came a second manuscript, copied from the first, to be sent to the printer.  That copy was a work of men and introduced many errors.  Some of those errors were caught and corrected but even some of the corrections had errors.  Little of the first manuscript remains so the accuracy and origins of the corrections to the printer’s manuscript is difficult to prove.  Anyhow, the printer then introduced more errors when typesetting it.  Some of those were caught and fixed (maybe incorrectly so).  And so on and so forth.  Joseph Smith was not a perfect man — the LDS church has never claimed so — and, apparently, his proofreading skills were not perfect either.  I fail to see, however, how this proves that he was not a prophet when applying all things equally to all probable prophets of God.

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5 comments on ““The Book of Mormon is false because…”

  1. Bonsai says:

    Have you read the Mormon Mirage? It is the quintessential criticism of the sect.

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    • Matt says:

      Thanks. I have not read it. Admittedly, I do not usually find time for whole books and instead do targeted research on various topics. Still, I looked into it, and by all outward appearances, it appeared to be a fair and well-cited criticism of Mormonism. Digging into the pages viewable on Amazon, however, showed a much different book than how it first appeared. It starts off with a quote that pretty directly suggests that smart people would ask only non-Mormons about Mormonism. Then, in the second paragraph, it basically demonizes LDS apologists and, according to several pages I read here and there, it continues this discouraging tone towards LDS apologists — making it read as if the primary ulterior motive of the book is to get people to not read the work of LDS apologists and only read anti-Mormon stuff.

      This is directly contrary to the first point I was trying to make in this post: that if one is seeking the truth (academically), they need to be truly curious about all sides of the debate. Curiosity of one side and vengeful of the other does not work. It is easy to find support for hate if one is looking for hate. One must drop the hate for all sides and look deeper. One can read a book such as Mormon Mirage and say “yes, Mormonism is all foolishness and poppycock” and declare their research done. But, then, that person has only fallen victim to one side’s propaganda and truth has not been sought. Instead, someone was just suckered into believing someone else’s version of the truth. I am not interested in talking to such one-sided people. They are not interested in the quest for absolute truth as I am. I find the work of apologists from all religions to be useful.

      Thus, Mormon Mirage appears to be a useful book for studying anti-Mormon arguments but the spin of it really turns me off. Even though the book has tons of citations, it failed to cite any of the claims I was most curious about in the pages I read. Terribly frustrating. In fact, you don’t even get into the heart of the cited material until chapter 2. Which means, you are deep into the heart of the spin zone before the citations start coming. Even in the midst of the citations, there is still a generous amount of spin and other claims added by the author that appears to have no foundation other than opinion. Opinion is fine, we all have our agendas to varying degrees of contention, but I would try harder to separate the opinion from the cited material and look to prove my claims more. In general, I am somewhat confused by the author’s agenda. If she loved the church and the loving and caring people it helps create, why try so hard to dismantle it and pull people away from it? It seems illogical to dismantle things that produce a good product, regardless of how you feel about the process personally.

      That said, from what I understand (again, I have not read either one) these books are a fair criticism and defense of the LDS church: No Man Knows My History; and Joseph Smith: Rough Rolling Stone. The second one written as a direct defense against the first one.

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      • Bonsai says:

        I agree with you on the aspect of presenting both sides fairly. The author was Mormon and I worked with her several months on my manuscript. She is a lively woman actually and I know she has recently updated her book. She gets quite a bit of hate mail for the original although that is not why she is updating. In my case, I have a certain position on aspects of the Japanese culture that affected our lives. Even so, I read all opinions and have been swayed a little on a few points.

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      • Matt says:

        Shortly after your first comment here, I read your post on the lost boy in Japan. That story has been of curious interest to me but I have heard so many versions of it that it has been become a Rashomon story already. I don’t feel I am close enough to the events or the culture to form any opinion on the story so I have been only watching it curiously. Your post was a small but interesting insight into shame in the culture. I have studied a few Japanese topics quite a bit but claim no expertise in the things I have studied. Regarding shame, I would say that America has lost much of it recently… and not for the better. There seems to be no shame nowadays in being on welfare, or jobless, or a dead-beat dad, and I fail to see how these new values and entitlements make America better. These modern entitlements make raising children here much more difficult today. I’m probably preaching to the choir at this point but that’s my two-cents on that intriguing subject.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bonsai says:

        That’s a good point and I agree with you on a group (society) and subject matter (behavior) basis vs. individual attacks. . . as the latter becomes barbaric. If a society raises children by guilt, as the same children are grown they expect shaming (public and private) to keep things in order. Thank you so much for you deep thoughts on this matter!

        Liked by 1 person

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