I read the entire Book of Mormon to test it and find out if it is really God’s book!
Who are the Latter-day Saints? Who was Joseph Smith? Want to know a history of the Book of Mormon? What do you do when you get that knock at your door? Is it possible that the Book of Mormon is in harmony with the Bible? Find out all this and more as we put the Book of Mormon to the test.
One day I was watching a movie with my wife and I heard a knock at the door. “I’ll be right back,” I told her. She should have gotten comfortable, as I was going to be away for a long time. I opened the door and was greeted by some nice young men wanting to talk to me about the restored church of Jesus Christ.
Although I perceived them to be about 18 or 19 years old, their name tags gave them the title “Elder.” They said they were from the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Turns out, to be a Latter-day Saint, you need to do more than just go to the evening assembly of the church. 😏
Anyway, these nice guys wanted to talk about Jesus, their prophet Joseph Smith, the “restored” church of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon, which they called “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
I had lots of questions about all these subjects, but that last one really intrigued me. I knew about the testament Jesus had made by His death (Hebrews 9:15–17), yet these guys were offering me “another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
Alright, look, I know what the Bible says. At this point, I had been a Christian for for many years and had been teaching the Scriptures for quite some time. Yet I assumed the position of student in this moment. Why? Why didn’t I try to prove them wrong on the spot? Why didn’t I quote a passage of Scripture that would cripple their entire system of belief in a second? These guys were extremely sincere. They were likely raised in a family who believed with all their hearts that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church of Jesus Christ. They believed with all their hearts that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And they believed I was missing all of this in my life.
Now, how many of you take your faith this seriously? Are you willing to move to another country for a couple of years, go door-to-door every day, and try to convert a bunch of apathetic or hostile people?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.Matthew 7:121
It was probably clear to these guys right away that I was both skeptical of what they were saying and prepared with some retorts. Why didn’t I quote Galatians 1 or Revelation 22 to them? I had a chance to be a breath of fresh air for these guys who likely had doors slammed in their faces and dogs chasing them all day long.
I invited them in, gave them some water (not coffee and tea—if you know, you know), and started asking questions. They asked me if I had ever read the Book of Mormon before. I admitted I had not.
“What about you guys?” I asked. Of course, they had. So I asked, “What has convinced you that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is true?”
They then turned toward the back of the Book of Mormon and read for me:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would a 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 d real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.Moroni 10:4–5
“And you’ve done this?” I asked. They both agreed. So I asked, borrowing from the language of this passage, “How is it that the Eternal Father manifested to you that the Book of Mormon is true?”
One of the guys described how immediately after asking God if the Book of Mormon is true, his feet felt like they were on fire. They were so hot that he couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked down, and there were no flames.
The other gentleman said he had a warm feeling in his heart after the prayer, and he knew at that moment that God was confirming the Book of Mormon to be true.
They encouraged me to read the Book of Mormon and experience the same thing. So I agreed. In this lesson, you’ll see some of the things I encountered when I read the Book of Mormon in its entirety.
So far, every Latter-day Saint I have personally spoken to has had their beliefs supposedly “confirmed” to them by their feelings. They’ve said things like, “I know the Book of Mormon is true, because I can feel it in my heart.” And this is in line with what M. Russell Ballard, the acting president of the Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said while speaking in an interview on behalf of the Latter-day Saints. He said, “Religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel.”2
It’s interesting to me that practically every sincere religious person feels good about what they believe, which is not bad by itself, but it does present a problem if you believe religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel. I’ve met Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and Protestants who all feel good about what they believe in their religion. They could all claim the same thing: “I know my religion is true, because religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel.” I hope you see the issue here. How could God confirm two (or more) religions that teach the opposite about Him? How could two contradictory statements both be true at the same time? I don’t know of a single Latter-day Saint who would agree that God confirms Catholicism (for instance) every time a Catholic feels good when he prays.
So, what do we do with the Bible, our hearts, and conflicting teachings? Stick around to find out. Before we get into all of that, here are a few important things to mention:
First, you should know that the Book of Mormon is not the only supposed additional source of revelation from God that the Latter-day Saints accept. They also have Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. So, they have four books they consider inspired and holy. And many Latter-day Saints members are open to the idea of future revelation. Therefore, that number may grow.
Second, you may have also noticed that I have refrained from calling the gentlemen who came to my door “Mormon missionaries.” Although the religion has accepted the title of Mormon for its adherents in the past, they have recently asked folks to no longer refer to them this way. Instead, they prefer to be called members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or simply Latter-day Saints.
And third, the eighth article of faith of the of Latter-day Saints states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” This is an important article for you to be aware of. When I have asked my Latter-day Saints friends to expand on the first part, they have claimed that the Bible has not been translated correctly.
My response is to ask “Where?” in two different ways. Where, as in which parts, of the Bible have been inaccurately translated? And where in place and time did this take place? Who is the one responsible for tampering with the translation? Not once have I received an answer back. (And this would be the case for my skeptic and atheistic friends, too, who claim the same thing.) You see, the moment you claim the Bible has been inaccurately translated, you must also claim to have access to either the original or a better translation. Otherwise, how would you know we don’t have an accurate translation? And if you have access to the original, then you would learn that what we have access to today is just fine. (We hope to produce lessons in the future on textual criticism, so be sure to sign up if you’re not already.) If you had access to a better translation, then you’d supply that. But since the Latter-day Saints uses the King James Version, then they must believe it is accurately translated. So there should be no need for the “as far as it is translated correctly” part of their article of faith.
However, this phrase has been very convenient for my Latter-day Saints friends when discussing doctrine with them. If I have ever asked them about a contradiction between the Bible and their faith or the Book of Mormon, they have claimed that that part of the Bible was incorrectly translated, and the Book of Mormon remains truly the word of God.
For example, Titus 1 says that elders of the church must be married. When I have asked my Latter-day Saints friends why every elder who has been sent to my door has been unmarried, they first admitted to having never noticed that in the Bible before (every one of them) and then said, “Well that part of the Bible must not have been translated correctly.” Now, I don’t think that’s the official Latter-day Saints position on this passage. I don’t know what is. It’s just that the individual Latter-day Saints members I have asked did not know how to respond, so they simply resorted to that convenient phrase in their eighth article of faith.
The Introduction of the Book of Mormon claims to be a keystone of the Latter-day Saints religion, and Joseph Smith claims the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth.” So the Book of Mormon is superior to the Bible in most Latter-day Saints members’ eyes. And they believe Joseph Smith was a great prophet. The moment either of these is criticized, most conversations can no longer be civil.
So if you are reading this article as a Latter-day Saint, please know I have great respect for you. I am not criticizing you personally, or anyone specific in the Latter-day Saints movement. I am trying to be discerning and do exactly what God has instructed us to do:
The Bible says we are to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). If you want to criticize any of my teachings, I believe you can do that without attacking me personally. So when I put the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon to the test, understand I am not attacking anyone personally. I want to believe something after it has been tested and proven. Don’t you? So, let’s go on a journey and pursue God’s truth together.
If the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and if it is another testament of Jesus Christ, then it should be able to pass three tests: The test of time (that is, the test against the Bible), the test of archaeology (that is, the test of history), and the test of inspiration (that is, the test of inerrancy). Just like in school, these tests are going to get harder and harder as we move on, but likely easier for you to follow. In my reading of the Book of Mormon, it fails all three tests.
In this test, we will see multiple timeline discrepancies between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
The introduction of the Book of Mormon claims that it is comparable to, superior to, and in harmony with the Bible. Mapping out a simple timeline of the Bible shows that ever since the first sin on earth, God has been promising the coming of the Christ (see Genesis 3:15). Then, Jesus the Christ finally came, marking what we know as the beginning of the first century AD. While Jesus was on earth, He ministered to those in need and taught the word of God. He promised He would build His church in the future. About a year later, He died, shedding His blood for the remission of sins. He was buried, and He was resurrected. A few weeks later, in Acts 2, He established His church. A few years after that, the Bible says, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
If the Book of Mormon is in harmony with the Bible as it claims, then its timeline should reflect the Bible’s timeline. But it doesn’t.
The first timeline discrepancy is two in one, and it has to do with the establishment of the church. In Matthew 16:18, we find the very first usage of the word “church” in the English Bible. Jesus said to Peter, “upon this rock I will build My church.” He said this around AD 30—about a year before His crucifixion. Notice, Jesus promised to establish His church in the future—“I will build my church.”
According to the the Book of Mormon, in about 147 before Christ, the people of Alma’s audience “were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church” (Mosiah 18:17).
The Bible says that during Jesus’ earthly ministry, the church didn’t even exist yet. It wouldn’t exist until after His resurrection. The Book of Mormon claims that even before Christ came to earth, people were being added to the church by baptism. Which one is it?
Secondly, did you notice the people in the Book of Mormon were being baptized in 147 before Christ? The first person in the Bible to teach about baptism was John in the gospel accounts of the New Testament. And even then, the baptism that adds someone to the church was not taught until after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That’s because baptism in the new covenant unites someone with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:4–7). In the Bible, only those who lived after Jesus’ death were expected to be baptized into His death. No one in the Old Testament was ever baptized into Jesus, and that’s even confirmed in Hebrews 11, which is often referred to as “The Hall of Faith.” The Book of Mormon goes against these facts and tries to enforce baptism on those who lived over a century before Christ.
Another timeline discrepancy is when and where the disciples were called Christians. The first time the Bible refers to the church in the present tense is Acts 2. According to the Bible, the first time disciples were ever called Christians was about AD 42 in Antioch.
The Book of Mormon has a different story. Alma 46:15, which supposedly took place in 73 B.C., says, “And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.” Again, we have to ask, which one is telling the truth—the Bible or the Book of Mormon? They can’t both be true. Either people were first called Christians in Antioch in about AD 42, or they have been called Christians in the Americas since 73 before Christ.
The Book of Mormon claims to be congruent with the Bible. When put to the test, does this hold true? Absolutely not.
The Book of Mormon is full of supposed history—civilizations that lived in and populated cities in what is now known as the Americas. Although the Bible was not written as a history book, it also contains much history. When we read of great cities and battles in the Bible, history and archaeology continue to prove the Bible is an accurate representation of what actually happened.
In the Book of Mormon, we can read of great battles, where many were supposedly slain. One notable battle is found in Ether 15, where, supposedly, millions of the Jaredites were slain in battle. In this battle, “men, women and children [were] armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates” (Ether 15:15).
The previous chapter claims, “so swift and speedy was the war that there was none left to bury the dead, but they did march forth from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood, leaving the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land, to become a prey to the worms of the flesh” (Ether 14:22).
The people of the Book of Mormon were supposedly also skilled “to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15). In Alma 11, we also read of how the people of the Book of Mormon had their own monetary system, including unique coins or measurements of gold and silver. All of this allegedly happened in the Americas.
Considering the cities and millions upon millions of people who had metal weapons, armor, and money, one would expect the Americas to be littered with archaeological confirmation. As of today, there is zero evidence of any of the cities, metals, or heaps of bodies and armor and weapons mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Many members of the Latter-day Saints have been told that there is evidence in the archeological record; however, the major issue with that is the consensus from professional archaeologists that there has not been found in the ground a single confirmation of the Book of Mormon.
Likewise, if the Book of Mormon were indeed historical, there is still a gaping hole where the evidence should be for the fifteen distinct people groups mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
On the other hand, the Bible is full of confirmed civilizations, wars, relics, kingdoms, architecture, and rulers. For a single example among hundreds, see Luke 3:1–3 in the Bible, where the inspired author mentions a date and multiple regions and rulers, all of which have been confirmed in history.
We could spend even more time talking about how the animals, like the horse and the donkey, of the Book of Mormon are missing from the archeological record. However, every year, archaeology on the other side of the world finds weapons, coins, animals, and civilizations mentioned in the Bible.
Related, we ask the question, “Where are the manuscripts?” As far as archaeology goes, the Bible is the most attested book of all antiquity. Part of that has to do with the abundance of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts we have. Having access to these manuscripts helps us place the Bible in history, check and update translations, and show that, even though the Bible is thousands of years old, we have every reason to believe what we have now is what the first Christians had access to in the first and second centuries.
How many manuscripts do we have of the Book of Mormon? Zero.
Here is a very brief history of the Book of Mormon, all of which can be found in the introduction pages of the book: Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter-day Saints, in the 1800s was rightly confused about the many different denominations of his time. While trying to find the truth in religion, an angel named Moroni allegedly appeared to Joseph, informing him that God had a task for him to find and deliver the message of what would be known as the Book of Mormon. He would find the message of the book on hidden golden plates in his own land, the land of the United States of America. After discovering these secret golden plates, Smith then supposedly translated them from a language he called Reformed Egyptian to English, supposedly “by the gift and power of God.” He then referred to the Book of Mormon as “the most correct of any book on earth.”
Later, three men signed a document pledging that they were witnesses to the voice of God and had seen an angel of God and the secret golden plates with their own eyes. Smith also obtained testimony from eight other supposed witnesses who claimed to have also seen the plates. Then, according to Mr. Smith, the angel took the plates back to heaven, so humans would not fight over them, leaving us with only Joseph Smith, Jr’s English translation of the Book of Mormon.
Now, according to the Bible, Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He commissioned His apostles to go everywhere, preaching the gospel. They did, and they paid for it with their lives. This is evidence of the New Testament’s authenticity. The men who witnessed the life, miracles, death, and resurrection of Christ were willing to preach about Him, even when it meant they would lose their lives. Under threat of execution, not a single witness of Christ’s miracles was willing to renounce Him. What would it do to your faith in the authenticity of the New Testament if you learned that one or more of the apostles caved under pressure? What if, to save his life, Peter said, “Ok, ok, we made it up”? None of them did. We are left with mounds of testimonies, as well as manuscript, historical, and archaeological evidence for the reliability of the New Testament.
Is it too much to ask for just a fraction of that for the Book of Mormon? How do we know Mr. Smith was telling the truth about the angel and the golden plates? What evidence is there that the golden plates ever existed? We have the word of Joseph Smith and his witnesses, right? No. Before their deaths, all three of the signed witnesses—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—changed their stories. Martin Harris and David Whitmer said they never saw the plates or angel literally. Instead, they simply saw the plates “by the eye of faith.”3 Whitmer was vocal in denying the Latter-day Saints in his “An Address to All Believers.” Harris switched religions (several times) after leaving the Latter-day Saints, thereby certainly denying his witness by his actions and professions of another faith. The same applies to Cowdery, who left the Latter-day Saints and became a Methodist. All three were at one point excommunicated from the Latter-day Saints, although many believe one or two of them came back to the Latter-day Saint faith before they died.
What would it do to Christianity if we said, “We believe in everything Peter, John, Paul, and Matthew witnessed, but since they denied everything before they died, we do not accept them as members of the Christian faith. Mr. Smith, we have no golden plates, no manuscripts, and no witnesses to the Book of Mormon. What we are left with is a recommendation to pray to God and ask if it’s true, and if your feelings point you to the Book of Mormon, then you can believe it is true. Please be patient with us if we are unwilling to have faith without a shred of evidence.
The Bible says:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1
If I am going to have faith in the existence of Moroni, the golden plates, or the Book of Mormon, what evidence is there? Please don’t repeat what Mr. Ballard said, that religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel. Right now, I’m a sincere person, and I don’t feel good about the Book of Mormon. But that doesn’t tell me anything—that doesn’t confirm or deny any truth of the matter. Why? Because, all the while, the Bible has been warning:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9
We can all point to moments in our lives when our hearts lead us down the wrong path. The heart certainly has a place in Christianity. We cannot truly worship God without the heart (see Mark 7:6–7). However, when we teach that the heart should be the deciding factor in our religion, we worship ourselves, and not God.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be deliveredProverbs 28:26
It is within wisdom to ask for evidence before believing religious claims.
The Bible says we should first take the time to hear and investigate. Second, believe the truth that the evidence points to, even if it is unseen. Third, feel good and confident that we have tested all things and are holding fast to that which is good. While the Book of Mormon and Latter-day Saints teach to first take the time to hear, second feel good about what you’ve heard, and then trust it to be true based on your feelings.
This sounds like, “Trust in your heart with all your heart.” But the Bible instructs:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart.Proverbs 3:5
The Book of Mormon claims to have originally been written in “Reformed Egyptian.” That language does not exist and never has. Historians and linguists are insulted at such a suggestion that Reformed Egyptian did exist, except, of course, linguists within the Latter-day Saints. The only linguists who claim this language is historical are members of the Latter-day Saints. The only evidence I’ve ever heard of that was provided for the existence of this language is the Anthon Transcript, a piece of paper originating with Joseph Smith and shrouded in conspiracy and secrecy. And similar to the golden plates, we do not have access to the original transcript, leaving us with no evidence this language ever existed.
Joseph Smith, Jr., claimed to have had the power of God to translate the Book of Mormon from Reformed Egyptian to English as the most perfect book on earth right before the golden plates—the only manuscripts available—were supposedly taken back to heaven. Why would God allow us to find thousands of manuscripts for the Bible, but then claim the manuscripts for the Book of Mormon are too precious to be kept on earth? Christians are happy for historians to put the Bible on trial. In fact, the more that happens, the more the Bible is proven. However, every second that historians put the Book of Mormon to the test, the more it fails.
As with our first test, if the Book of Mormon is in harmony with the Bible, the words of the Book of Mormon should only confirm what the Bible says, not go against it. Is that the case?
We begin by examining easy-to-check facts. The Bible teaches that Jesus was “born in Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:1). In the Book of Mormon, Alma supposedly prophesied about 83 B.C. that Christ would be born in Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are close to each other, but Bible prophets knew the difference, and that difference has played a key role in identifying the Christ since the first century. Matthew’s goal in writing his gospel account in the Bible was to convince people—especially the Jewish people—that Jesus was indeed the Christ.
And when he [Herod] had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet…Matthew 2:4–5
Then, Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 of the Old Testament. If the Book of Mormon is correct, and Jesus was born in Jerusalem, then Matthew is wrong, and Jesus did not fulfill this prophecy about the coming Christ in the book of Micah.
Concerning Jesus’ time on the cross, the Bible says, “When the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33). That was three hours of darkness. On the other hand, in the Book of Mormon, Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that the earth would be dark the entire time Jesus was dead, that is three days, not three hours (Heleman 14:20). 3 Nephi 8 in the Book of Mormon claims that these three days of darkness happened around AD 33, and even people living on the other side of the world experienced it. This is a clear contradiction. Did the darkness last three hours or three days?
Another clear contradiction is on Melchizedek’s priesthood. The Bible says that Melchizedek reigned as priest and king “Without father, without mother, without descent” (Hebrews 7:3). To contradict the Bible, the Book of Mormon claims Melchizedek “did reign under his father” (Alma 13:18).
The Book of Mormon is also not concerned with accurately representing the Law of Moses. According to Numbers 3:6–7, only those from the tribe of Levi were permitted to serve in the Aaronic Priesthood. However, the Book of Mormon claims that people descended from Manasseh offered “sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses” (Mosiah 2:3). Additionally, the Latter-day Saints claim to have reinstated the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. However, the Bible reminds us that those priesthoods were shadows of things to come. Now that Jesus has established His priesthood, all other priesthoods are irrelevant.
But this man [Jesus], because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:24–25
Which priesthood offers eternal value to you—the Aaronic priesthood, or the priesthood of King Jesus?
This is just a sample of the scores and scores of contradictions the Book of Mormon makes with the Bible. With so many, we can conclude that either the author of these two books was not perfect, or the one true God is not the author of both books. Are you going to conveniently say in the cases of these contradictions that the Bible simply wasn’t translated correctly, or will you investigate and realize how uninspired the Book of Mormon really is? Don’t be afraid to test it yourself. Read the Book of Mormon. Investigate. Follow the evidence.
The Bible is pure, coherent, and truthful.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.2 Timothy 3:16–17
As far as inspiration goes, is the Book of Mormon “the most correct of any book on earth,” as Joseph Smith claimed it to be? Not a chance. After reading the Book of Mormon, I had to tell those kind gentlemen the next time they came over to my house that the Book of Mormon fails the tests. Therefore, it should not be used for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, or any good work.
Where will the evidence lead you?