“That Ye Might Believe That Jesus Is the Christ” by Nancy W. Jensen
Isaiah 61:1-3; JST Luke 3:4-11; John 1:1-14; 20:31
THE MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST
Isaiah 61:1-3 is such a beautiful scripture, it begs to be read aloud over and over! These verses, understood, can change one’s understanding of the Atonement, and are a great passage to read and ponder during the sacrament. Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote a wonderful treatise on it entitled “Beauty for Ashes” which you can read here.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our god; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty [to replace] ashes, the oil of joy [to replace] mourning, the garment of praise [to replace] the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Christ read this scripture in the synagogue to proclaim himself the Messiah, “but stopped short so that he could say, ‘Today as you heard it read, this passage of [Scripture] (up to but not including the day of vengeance) was fulfilled,’ for at his first coming he healed and brought Good News of the Kingdom and salvation; it was not his time to take vengeance or judge” (Stern). “And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:20-21)
Notice each of the things Christ has been anointed to do, each marked by the word “to.” Which of these things do you need in your life?
1. to preach good tidings unto the meek
2. to bind up the broken-hearted
3. to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound
4. to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
5. and [to proclaim] the day of vengeance of our God
6. to comfort all they that mourn
7. to give [or exchange] to [those that mourn in Zion] beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
The next part of the reading assignment is JST Luke 3:4-11, and it also contains a long list of gifts that Christ has brought, each also marked by the word “to:”
1. to take away the sins of the world
2. to bring salvation unto the heathen nations
3. to gather together those who are lost, who are of the sheepfold of Israel
4. to prepare the way, and make possible the preaching of the gospel unto the Gentiles
5. to be a light unto all who sit in darkness, unto the uttermost parts of the earth
6. to bring to pass the resurrection from the dead
7. to ascend up on high, to dwell on the right hand of the Father
8. to administer justice unto all
9. to come down in judgment upon all
10. to convince all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds.
The Atonement is for the washing away of sins, clearly, and for the resurrection of the dead, obviously, but these scriptures show that it is so much more than that, and very applicable and helpful to our everyday problems and challenges.
The third scripture in the reading assignment is John 1:1-14. I always had trouble understanding why Christ was called “The Word” here. The JST makes the meaning of that term clear:
“In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God” (v. 1). In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men” (v. 4).
(When reading the JST in the LDS Bible Appendix, it is helpful to notice that the changes from the King James Version have been italicized.)
OVERVIEW OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
As we look at the Table of Contents of the New Testament we can see that the book can be easily divided up into four sections:
1. The Gospels (testimonies of Christ)
2. Acts (work of the apostles, especially Peter’s work among the Jews and Paul’s work among the Gentiles)
3. Epistles (letters from Church leaders to the saints)
4. Revelation (revelation received by John on the isle of Patmos)
Why are there four gospels, four different tellings of the life of Christ? Sure, there is the reason that all truth is established by God in the mouth of two or three witnesses, and here we have even more than that, but couldn’t they have collaborated and put together one story that would have been a comprehensive, all-inclusive, chronological biography of Christ, with four witnesses to it? Then there wouldn’t have been any contradictions, and everything would have been covered. Right?
Well, the gospels are not just biographies, but testimonies of Christ (Bible Dictionary, p. 683). Each author came from a different walk of life, and was writing to a specific audience. The study of the authorship, audience, and angle of each of the gospels is fascinating and instructive.
OVERVIEW OF THE FOUR GOSPELS
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are quite similar in phraseology and content, and for that reason they are called “The Synoptic Gospels” (Bible Dictionary, p. 683). The Gospel of John is quite different, and we will discover the reason for that later.
The Gospel of Mark
Scholars agree that Mark was probably written first, and that the other writers had access to it when writing their gospels. Mark was not one of the apostles. He was younger. He likely was alive when Christ was alive, but he would have been a child. After his conversion, he became the younger missionary companion of Paul, and later of Peter, serving mainly among the Gentiles. Therefore, he wrote his gospel from his missionary perspective: a Jew writing to Gentiles. One can see that hee assumed that the reader would be unfamiliar with Jewish customs and terms and with Palestinian geography, because he explained and described those things. One can also see that he assumed that the reader was familiar with Latin terms and customs.
“[Mark’s] object is to describe our Lord as the incarnate Son of God, living and acting among men. The gospel contains a living picture of a living Man. Energy and humility are the characteristics of his portrait. It is full of descriptive touches that help us to realize the impression made upon the bystanders” (BD, p. 728). It is “fast moving, emphasizing the doings more than the sayings of the Lord” (BD, p. 683). Note how many times Mark uses the words “immediately, “straightway,” “anon”–all translations of the same word. (Fronk) This one word is used eight times in chapter one alone, in verses 10, 12, 18, 20, 21, and 28. Reading Mark leaves one breathless. The intensity of the ministry is emphasized: No time to rest, no time to eat. Mark is full of miracles. An interesting experiment: Camille Fronk recommends reading it all in one sitting, to catch the energy in the telling.
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew was a Jew. He was a publican, and so he was not popular by profession. He was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, and he was alive when these things were happening, although he certainly wasn’t eyewitness to all of them. “Matthew was probably a thorough Jew with a wide knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, and able to see in every detail of the Lord’s life the fulfillment of prophecy” (BD, p. 729). His book was written to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. For this reason, he highlighted the number 14 in Christ’s genealogy and he noted 14 prophecies from the Jewish scriptures that were fulfilled by Christ. (See “The Importance of the Number 14” in a previous lesson.) He knew that the number 14 was significant to his readers, who were Hebrew. He knew that they knew that 14 meant “salvation.”
Matthew picked and chose who to represent in the genealogy, as there were actually more than 14 generations between each important individual (and this was acceptable to the Jews, because the symbolic number was the most important thing, not the literal number), but in that picking and choosing, he referenced five women. Besides Mary (1:16), he listed Thamar or Tamar (1:3), Rachab or Rahab, Ruth (1:5), and Bathsheba (1:6). Every one of these women had questionable pasts, particularly in relation to their conception and child-bearing, but produced great results for the House of Israel, making themselves ancestral heroines.
1) Tamar conceived while masquerading as a prostitute! The father of her child was her own father-in-law. The reason she committed this grossly immoral deception was that, in opposition to Jewish law, Judah and his sons had cheated her out of progeny, sent her back to her father’s house, and consigned her to life as a childless widow (twice widowed, actually), a state that would undoubtedly lead to devastating poverty in her old age. (See “Opposites” in a previous lesson.)
2) Rahab was an idolatrous prostitute in Jericho. With no gospel training, no missionaries, no “members” living nearby, and in the most wicked environment in the world, she gained a testimony of Jehovah. After her conversion, and after saving the spies of Israel, she raised her son, Boaz, to be a great, kind, wise, and faithful man, the man who married Ruth! (See a previous lesson for more on Rahab.)
3) The next woman mentioned, Ruth, was Rahab’s daughter-in-law, a convert from idolatry as well, a Moabitess. She was married to a Hebrew, and then widowed, which dropped her to the bottom of Jewish society. From this low point, she sought her own marriage, contrary to custom, and was most likely not the first wife. (See OT Lesson #20.)
4) Last mentioned was Bathsheba, who conceived as a result of an extra-marital date-rape, or at least an event beyond her control, since the perpetrator happened to be the all-powerful king David. (See a previous lesson for more on this.)
5) By including these particular women, revered by the Jews but with imperfect and even abhorrent family situations, Matthew presented the perfect defense for Mary’s unusual circumstance of conception. (Bokovoy)
A little parable recorded in Matthew is especially applicable to the Jews. “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52). The “scribe” would be a man knowledgeable in the Jewish religion. “Things old” would be the Law of Moses, and “things new” the Gospel of Christ. Matthew included a lot of anti-Pharisee comments to show that the Law was not an end in itself, as the Pharisees seemed to think. Chapters 5-7 give the higher law. “The Kingdom of Heaven” would be important to the Jews, and many of the parables in Matthew liken something to the Kingdom of Heaven. The parables describe trees growing or bread rising, showing that the Kingdom of Heaven is a process, not an event. (Fronk)
Matthew’s is the only gospel that includes the story of the wise men. Jews would have been most impressed by wealthy, learned men who had studied the scriptures in far away lands (they might possibly have been displaced Jews) and recognized the signs of the Messiah’s coming.
Matthew included five major discourses given by Jesus Christ. He highlighted these in a way similar to the way he highlighted the 14 prophecies, using a key phrase at the end of each. The phrase is “When Jesus had finished these sayings…” Is there a reason he chose five sermons? Of course! There is a reason for every number used by a Jew in the Bible! In this case, Matthew was adding a sequel to five writings that were very near and dear to every Jew, and were in fact, a foundation of their religion: The five books of Moses, the Torah. By doing this, he was showing the Jews that Christ was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, and that His counsel superseded or added to that Law. (Bokovoy)
1. 5:1-7:27 The Sermon on the Mount, given to the multitude. The tag is found in 7:28.
2. 10:5-42 The instruction for the ministry of the 12 apostles. The tag is 11:1.
3. 13:1-52 The Sermon from the Ship, given to great multitudes. The tag is 13:53.
4. 18:1-35 “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God?” spoken to the apostles. The tag is 19:1.
5. 24:3-25:46 The Olivet Discourse, given to the 12 apostles. The tag is 26:1.
The Gospel of Luke
Luke’s gospel is the one with the beautiful Christmas story, told from a woman’s perspective. (Matthew tells it from a man’s.) Luke was a Gentile convert, likely converted through the labors of Paul (see BD, p. 726), writing to Gentiles and to minorities, and to those looked down upon by the Jews: women, lepers, Samaritans, sinners (prostitutes). Luke was a physician, and therefore had close contact with and compassion for all types and both genders of people, a unique position. Most male professions in that day involved dealings with other men only, but a physician dealt with all, even the “unclean.”
As a missionary, Luke ministered to the Gentiles with Paul. Like Matthew, Luke gives a genealogy of Christ, but it differs from Matthew’s. Matthew introduced Christ as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). This is what was important to the Jews: that Christ was one of the chosen people, and was in the kingly and priestly line. It was the first thing Matthew said in his testimony. Luke, on the other hand, gives a genealogy of Christ that identifies him as “the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23) (even though Luke testifies of the divinity of Christ) and takes Christ’s ancestry all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:38), making everyone, Jew and Gentile, a relative of Christ. (Fronk)
Luke had a special understanding of women as a result of his medical ministry among them. He wa the only one who wrote of the annunciation of Mary, and of her visit to Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother. He knew that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). He knew of Simeon’s personal prophecy to Mary that “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35). How did he know of these things? Very likely he was a close personal acquaintance of Mary’s in the Church, and he heard these stories from her own mouth. Luke gives what little information we have about the childhood of Christ. He was the one who told of Mary’s terror when she realized her 12-year-old was not with the caravan. (See Luke 2:51).
Where is the parable of the Good Samaritan found? Only in Luke. What about Christ’s visit to Mary and Martha? Only in Luke. Many of the most treasured parables are found only in Luke: The woman with the lost coin, the shepherd with the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. The cleansing of the ten lepers is recorded only in Luke. Luke wrote to the underdog, to tell him (and her!) that Christ was come for them as well as for anyone.
The Gospel of John
John is the gospel that is not like the others. Like Matthew and Mark, John was a Jew converted to Christianity. Like Matthew he was one of the apostles. But unlike Matthew, he was not writing to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, and unlike Mark, he was not writing to convince the Gentiles that Jesus was the Christ. He was not writing to convince anyone that Jesus was the Christ: he was writing to those who already knew. He was writing to the Christians. This makes his gospel very different. Near the conclusion of his book, we read, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). The Harper-Collins Study Bible translates the intention of that passage to be slightly different: “But these are written, that ye might continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ…” “The Gospel of John,” wrote Bruce R. McConkie, “is the account for the saints” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 336).
John was in the Church from the very beginning. A follower of John the Baptist, he then became one of the first disciples of Christ. John was one of the “inner circle of three who were with the Lord at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in Gethsemane” (BD, p. 715). So he was like a member of the First Presidency, one of the “three pillars of the Christian Church”. John wrote not only his gospel, but also three of the epistles, and the amazing book of Revelation. He identified himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the one who wanted to continue to minister upon the earth until the Second Coming. His testament was the last one written, and contains unique contributions, and many more of Christ’s teachings than do the others. He had a deep understanding of the Savior and his gospel by the time he wrote his book. (Ludlow)
Only John tells how Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Only John records the cleansing of the temple. In John, Christ explains his death to the apostles. Only in John do we read of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and his commandment to them to be an example of love for each other. In John, the apostles are warned that the world will hate them and try to kill them. In John the gift of the Comforter is explained. The Intercessory prayer for the disciples is found in John. Only in John is Peter told three times, “Feed my sheep.” More of the resurrected Christ’s visit back to his disciples is recorded in John than in the other gospels. (Fronk)
John records seven miraculous signs of the divinity of Christ, five of which are only found in his gospel. (To see this list, see Victor Ludow’s article, “John: The Once and Future Witness”.)
The Gospel of John is a college text, where the other gospels are elementary school primers. The other three gospels are like sacrament meeting, and the Gospel of John is like a temple. In fact, John is better understood in relation to the temple ceremony. It is deep and rich and symbolic, and it builds upon what the other gospels give us and raises our understanding to a higher level. It is for the increased edification of those who are already saints.
Only John records the descriptions Christ gave of himself, many of which hearken back to the term used in the Old Testament to identify Jehovah: “I AM.” (Ludlow) Seven of them are especially noted, possibly symbolic of the meaning of the number seven: godly perfection. These are marked with a tag, similar to Matthew’s tags; they all begin with some form of the phrase “Jesus said unto them.”
1. When the multitude asked Christ to show them a sign, like the manna in the wilderness, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (6:35).
2. After saving the adulterous woman from stoning, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (8:12).
3. Later in that same conversation, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am” (8:58), identical with the term used in Exodus 3:14, and after which they tried to stone him, but he spirited himself away.
4. After telling the parable of the sheepfold to the Pharisees, “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep…by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (10:7, 9).
5. To Martha, before raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (11:25-26).
6. When Thomas asked how they would know the way, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (14:6).
7. When Judas was betraying him, (I’m removing the King James translators’ additions, which are in italics in the scriptures) “Jesus saith unto them, I am. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am, they went backward and fell to the ground” (18:5-8) and Jesus repeated the statement.
“John’s witness of the Lord is unique. His Gospel and epistles record some of the Savior’s noblest feelings and doctrines, especially His message of love” (Ludlow).
Bible Dictionary entries for Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 114.
Camille Fronk [Olson], “The Four Gospels,” Know Your Religion Lecture, January 1998, Logan, Utah
David Bokovoy, “A Literary Analysis of the Four Gospels,” BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2002
Victor Ludlow, “John: The Once and Future Witness,” Ensign, December 1991, p. 51-52
Thomas Mumford, Horizontal Harmony of the Gospels
Original Article Here
The Baptist Version of The Book of Mormon
Protestant Doctrines within the Book of Mormon
by Lynn Ridenhour, Southern Baptist Minister
I’m a licensed Southern Baptist minister and I embrace the Book of Mormon.
That is, I believe the truths recorded in it. No, I’m not a convert to the Mormon faith, nor am I a member of any particular “spin-off” restoration group such as the RLDS (Reorganized Latter-day Saints), Hedrikites, or Strangites. I’m still a Baptist minister. To be exact, I’m “charismatic Baptist.” That is, I still embrace the “born again” experience. I still believe you’re saved by grace. By the shed blood of Christ. Salvation is by faith alone in His finished work on Calvary. I still believe in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. I believe and embrace those cardinal doctrines of Protestantism.
And you know what?…
I still believe the Book of Mormon too!
I know. I can hear you now. “…A charismatic Baptist minister who believes the Book of Mormon?! Impossible. That’s like a Protestant Pope…” No, it’s not. It’s not a contradiction.
The two go hand in hand, really–Protestant doctrine and the Book of Mormon. They’re not at odds. The Book of Mormon is filled with Protestant cardinal doctrines, believe it or not. In fact, I discovered, the Book of Mormon is more “Baptist” than the Baptist hymnal in places. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s so. I read the Book from cover to cover and found as a Baptist minister, there is absolutely nothing in it that contradicts the Bible.
For example, the book uplifts the blood of Christ (Mosiah 1:118), declares that salvation is only by God’s grace (2 Nephi 7:42), defends the grand theme of salvation (Mosiah 1:108), and proclaims that salvation comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9). Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ’s blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4). Thus, our “tongue ‘n’ cheek” title, The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon. I’m telling you, the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through. From cover to cover.
A Word About My Background…
Reared in a small conservative Baptist church back in the hills of the Ozarks, I was taught with strong convictions that Mormons were no different from Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists, or Armstrong followers. They all sooner or later knocked on your door. We were instructed by our parents to “…let none of them in the house. And don’t buy their materials…” All were cults. Certainly the Mormons were not within mainstream Christianity.
I was taught that the Book of Mormon was a lie. We have the Bible and no man was to add to the scriptures lest his soul be damned. And I was taught that the rapture could occur any minute. Establishing a literal kingdom on this earth was pure nonsense. And I believe my convictions were typical. Most protestant/pentecostal Christians today share similar sentiments.
So what are we faced with concerning the Book of Mormon? Is it…
Adding to the Bible or Duped by the Canon
“…You don’t really believe in that book, do you?” Or “…you surely don’t believe the Book of Mormon is equal with the Bible, do you?…”
These are questions my friends now ask me, wondering if I haven’t erred from the truth.
What’s my response?…
I have chosen to follow the style of the Master. When asked a probing question, He often responded with one. The Pharisees once asked Him about John the Baptist, and…
“…Jesus responded, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you…’” –Matt.21:24
When my friends ask, “…do you believe in the Book of Mormon?” I respond, “I will answer that, but first I would like for you to answer my question, ‘Why do you believe in the canon of scripture? Would you give me your reasons?’”
Most can’t. They’ve never thought it through.
That’s really the issue, you know—not whether or not I believe in the Book of Mormon, but whether or not we as Christians are to embrace the concept of canonization. For that’s the perception here—that by embracing the Book of Mormon I’ve violated scripture’s canon. My friends are convinced I’ve added to the Word of God. I’m convinced we’ve been duped by the canon.
To get to the point—not many evangelical Christians realize (I didn’t), the concept of canonization became popular with the Church around the time of Constantine, a period when the Church became infiltrated with nationalism and worldly teachings. Closing the canon to 66 books was the outcome of man’s wisdom and man’s heresy. Canonization has its origin in worldly tradition, is not found in the Bible, and was not practiced by the early Church. And I’m aware—that’s a shocker.
A bit of trivia–God would not end His book with the numbers ’66.’ That’s one “six” short of 666—the number of the Anti-Christ. God’s number has always been “seven,” not “six.”
I have discovered, there are two extra-biblical teachings propagated by Protestantism that must be dealt with before most of us will take the Book of Mormon seriously: 1) the doctrine of canonization, and 2) the teaching of the rapture. Both are cardinal doctrines of Protestantism and both are extra-biblical teachings. That is, neither is supported by the Word of God.
The other Protestant myth…
“…Joseph Smith can’t be taken too seriously because he believed in a literal city of Zion.” I must say, that doesn’t sound so strange these days. Many evangelical Christians no longer embrace the rapture.
What about the rapture? Where did the doctrine come from? Did the early saints believe in it?
For eighteen hundred years the saints did not believe in the rapture, pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, or mid-tribulation. The teaching is new. In the light of church history, it’s new. Again, perhaps that’s a shock to some of us.
I find it very interesting—both the rapture theory and the restoration of the gospel came forth in the same year: 1830! When the Lord moves in the earth, the Devil usually attempts his imitation of the real.
For instance, which does the Bible teach: removal or restoration?
Joseph Smith, Jr. was called to restore primitive Christianity to the Church in 1830 and Margaret MacDonald, a fourteen year-old Scottish girl, went into a trance that same year. She described a vision where she saw the saints leaving the earth at the return of the Lord. Her “revelation” occurred while living in Port Glasgow, Scotland. The vision was recorded in two books written by R.N. Norton, M.D., and printed in London, England in 1861. Two Brethren ministers, Edward Irving and John Darby, popularized her vision. The Plymouth Brethren accepted the vision as valid and the rapture doctrine “took off” during prophetic meetings at Powerscourt House in Ireland.
Irving’s views influenced C.I. Scofield, whose Bible notes popularized the new theory among fundamentalist/evangelical Christians in the West. The rest is history. However, as I said, many fundamentalist/evangelical Christians today have second thoughts about the doctrine, having re-evaluated their position. They no longer believe Christians will be “raptured out” of the tribulation.
There they are—two Protestant myths that must be dealt with before one is likely to take the Book of Mormon seriously: the doctrines of canonization and the rapture.
…that God still speaks today—that the canon is still open—and that there’s not going to be a removal of the saints but a restoration of His creation (which includes His people), then perhaps the message of the Book of Mormon is not so “far fetched” after all.
Speaking of the message of the Book of Mormon, what exactly is its message? What is its central theme? Restoration of the covenants in these latter days. That surprised me, blessed me, and witnessed to me.
No, the book is not meant to be used as a tool to proselyte you into some weird sect or cult. No, it’s not meant to be used to “make a Mormon” out of you. The Book of Mormon is the most nonsectarian book I’ve ever read! It’s meant for Catholics, for Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Charismatics, Seventh Day Adventists, for Baptists, Pentecostals…you name it. It speaks to all.
I’ll say it again. The central message of the Book of Mormon is—restoration of the covenants in these latter days! And that message is meant for all God’s children.
“…For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have been taken away…” –I Nephi 3:168,169
Its Central Theme
Let’s explore the central theme of the Book of Mormon—restoration of the covenants. Somehow our generation has overlooked the obvious: the Bible is a covenant document!
And what’s a covenant?
It’s the missing revelation among God’s children, among the church at large. That’s what it is. And how sad. Like Mephibisheth, the majority of today’s Christians do not know they have a covenant with the King. And as believers we don’t miss the covenant because we don’t know we have one. We have no idea—we were destined to sit at the table with the King.
Like in King Josiah’s time (II Kings 23), “covenant” has been forgotten among us. I would say—since the early 1800s we’ve lost the revelation. We’re a generation without a covenant, without a mandate, without dominion. Yes, today’s Church, by and large, has taken away “…many covenants of the Lord…”, has taken away from the gospel “…many parts…”
Let me give a brief prophetic history of the church age. John speaks of different ages in his book of Revelation. Seven churches represent seven approximate time periods. For example, Ephesus represents that period approximately 29 AD to 100 AD. Smyrna represents 100 AD to 300 AD. Pergamus, 300 to 350 AD. Thyatira, 350 to 500 AD. Sardis, 500 to 1500 AD, the dark ages. Philadelphia, 1500 to 1830 AD, the Reformation. And the Church at Laodicea, 1830 to present—the age of the lost and forgotten covenants of the Lord.
Please consider that last point—we’re living in an age of “…the lost and forgotten covenants of the Lord.”
Selah—ponder that for a moment.
The Laodicean age—no real commitment to covenants and contracts. The fruit of the Reformation (sectarianism) changed the concept of biblical salvation “oh so” subtle among the majority of Protestants. And in the process, the covenants were lost. Protestantism for the past 150 years has preached salvation by decision-making, not covenant-keeping. That’s a caricature of the real thing. “…Invite Jesus into your heart,” “…Make a decision for Christ,” are buzz words of the modern Protestant movement. The problem is—you don’t make a “…decision for Christ.” You enter into a covenant with Him. You make a covenant with the King of the universe that begins in time but lasts throughout eternity. There’s a world of difference between entering into a covenant and making a decision. One is binding throughout eternity; the other, more times than not, is mere mental gymnastics.
You say, “Ridenhour, you’re just playing with words…semantics.” No, I’m not. The implications are far deeper than a mere play on words.
The Book of Mormon is a revelation of the covenants being restored among His people in these latter days. When a people sign a contract they act differently (especially if the contract is with God!). They weigh the consequences. In these latter days we will again begin to know what it means to sign a contract with the Lord of Hosts, and act accordingly. A revelation of biblical salvation will return to his people. Praise His name.
In other words, the central message of the Book of Mormon is—to repent and come unto Christ, which means to establish a covenant with Him. And that message is coming to light in these latter days. And that’s why I embrace the Book of Mormon. Our generation knows very little, if anything, about establishing a covenant with Christ. Protestantism doesn’t teach it. Unfortunately, most of us are products of “cheap grace” and “decision-making” Sunday School preaching. Hosea described a people who were “…half baked” (Hosea 7:8). Like a cake not turned. Sadly, my generation fits the bill.
Listen to the words of the ancient prophet.
“…Behold, I [the Christ] have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin; therefore whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive; for of such is the kingdom of God.” –3 Nephi 4:51
To make sure we understand…
Scriptural salvation is entering into a personal covenant with Him; thereby coming unto Christ for all our temporal and eternal needs and wants. The contract is binding throughout eternity while effectual in time.
Let’s go on…
Back to the title of our pamphlet, “The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon.” Setting aside the title’s “tongue ‘n’ cheek” tendency, there is an element of truth I’m getting at. As I said earlier, having read the Book of Mormon through as a Baptist minister, I was astonished at how often I kept running into Protestant themes. Themes such as: the plan of salvation, salvation by faith in Christ, salvation by grace alone, repentance, the gifts of the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, sanctification, justification by faith, forgiveness and redemption. I could go on.
I kept thinking as I was reading, “…wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some piece of writing available that listed all these themes from the Book of Mormon.” I searched and searched for such a work and never found it. (I’ve noticed, since becoming a part of this wonderful restoration movement, there are very little, if any, writings concerning the restoration written to “non-restoration” saints.) So I decided, I would write to non-restoration believers. Make available materials on the restoration to our Protestant, Pentecostal, Catholic brethren. Hence, another booklet.
What I’m going to do for the remainder of this booklet is list various Protestant themes taken from Book of Mormon scriptures. If I seem a bit repetitious, it’s deliberate. I want you to get the full impact of the spirit of the wording. And my prayer is—may the Spirit of God bear witness to your spirit as you read.
First, Book of Mormon scriptures on the…
Born Again Experience
I was delightfully surprised to find so many “born again” scriptures in the Book of Mormon. For example…
“…For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold, I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me, Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men, and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; Yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God…” –Mosiah 11:186-188 (all scriptures quoted from RLDS 1908 version)
That verse, I must say, sounds so “Baptist.” And I believe every word of it.
“…And now I say unto you, that this is the order after which I am called; yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren; yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; Yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you, the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again; Yea, thus saith the Spirit, Repent all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand; yea, the Son of God cometh in his glory, in his might, majesty, power and dominion…” –Alma 3:85-87
“…Now I say unto you, that ye must repent, and be born again: for the Spirit saith, If ye are not born again, ye can not inherit the kingdom of heaven…” –Alma 5:24
“…after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God…” –Mosiah 11:190
“…Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? ..” –Alma 13:49
“…Yea, and from that time, even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost…” –Alma 17:22
“…my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God…” –Alma 17:21
“…and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceeding great joy in the fruit of my labors; for because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God…” –Alma 17:23
“…Now my son, I would not that ye should think that I know these things of myself, but it is the Spirit of God which is in me, which maketh these things known unto me: for if I had not been born of God, I should not have known these things…” Alma 18:6
One of my favorite hymns of the early restoration saints is: YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN.
A ruler once came to Jesus by night,
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain
“Ye must be born again.”
“Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again,
I verily, verily say unto thee
Ye must be born again.”
One other thing. I discovered, Joseph Smith meant exactly what I meant when he used the phrase “born again.” He wasn’t saying one thing and meaning another; that is, he wasn’t playing with semantics. I found the above scriptures to be so comforting to my spirit. So believable. So “…plain and precious” to the soul.
Here’s another Protestant theme…
Plan of Salvation
“…he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations. O how merciful is our God!…” –Alma 14:38
“…For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation?…” –Jarom 1:3,4
“…if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partook of the tree of life, he would have lived for ever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; Yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated…” –Alma 19:85,86
Plan of Redemption
“…Now if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead…–Alma 9:42
“…if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life, they would have been for ever miserable, having no preparatory state; And thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated…” –Alma 9:44,45
“…And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world…–Alma 9:49
“…God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; For on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God…” –Alma 9:52,53
What blessed scriptures. What a blessed theme—the plan of redemption!
“…But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid,) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine only begotten Son…” –Alma 9: 54
“…he expounded unto them the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world…” –Alma 12:119
“…And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures, from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state, and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name…” –Alma13:45
“…I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance, and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might be no more sorrow upon all the face of the earth…” –Alma 15:53
“…therefore, only unto him that has faith unto repentance, is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption. Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save…” –Alma 16:217,218
What a verse!
“…I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time, and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God…” –Alma 16:227,228
“…Is it not as necessary that the plan of redemption should be made known unto this people, as well as unto their children?..” –Alma 19:26
“…And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside,) as soon as they were dead, their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord…” –Alma 19:92
And now we turn our attention to one of the most central and cardinal Protestant doctrines of all…
“…And then at that day, will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation?..” –I Nephi 4:20
“…And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand, Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation? And he answered and said, Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught. And Alma said, If thou believest in the redemption of Christ, thou canst be healed. And he said, Yea, I believe according to thy words. And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying, O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk…” –Alma 10:95-100
What a powerful passage!
“…Yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness; and we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds, is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ. And ye also beheld that my brother has proven unto you, in many instances that the word is in Christ, unto salvation…” –Alma 16:203,204
“…these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles by the gift and power of the Lamb; And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation…” –I Nephi 3:185,186
“…And then at that day, will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation?…” –I Nephi 4:20
“…Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet…–I Nephi 5:256
“…I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer: for thou hast beheld, that in the fullness of time, he cometh to bring salvation unto men…” –II Nephi 1:63
“…For the Spirit is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free…” –II Nephi 1:65,66
“…Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say, O Lord, I will praise thee for ever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation…” –II Nephi 3:50
“…Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord, JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation…” –II Nephi 9:133,134
Sure sounds like Isaiah!
“…For there is nothing which is good, save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil, cometh from the devil. And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth, ye will be saved…” –Omni 1:45-47
“…For behold as in Adam, or by nature they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given, nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent…” –Mosiah 1:115,116
“…But men drink damnation to their own souls, except they humble themselves, and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been, from the fall of Adam, and will be, for ever and ever; But if he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man, and becometh a saint, through the atonement of Christ, the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come, when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people…” –Mosiah 1:118-121
Sounds like some good ole Baptist preaching to me!
“…For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time, has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state; I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long suffering towards the children of men, And also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord…And there is none other salvation, save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved…” –Mosiah2:8-9,12
“…There is no other name given, whereby salvation cometh, therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God…” –Mosiah 3:11
“…And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand, Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation? And he answered and said, Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught. And Alma said, If thou believest in the redemption of Christ, thou canst be healed. And he said, Yea, I believe according to thy words. And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying, O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk…” –Alma 10:95-100
Again, what a powerful passage!
“…Yea, behold, I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven, save it be this Jesus Christ of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved…” –II Nephi 11:39
“…And I pray the Father in the name of Christ, that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom, at that great and last day…” –II Nephi 15:15
The Lord Jesus Christ
Like the Bible, the central theme of the Book of Mormon is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are over 160 passages in the Book of Mormon that speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were 22 men named in the Book of Mormon who saw Christ. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned on an average of every 1.7 verses. The New Testament mentions a form of Christ’s name on an average of every 2.1 verses. The name of the Savior appears nearly 25 percent more frequently in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament. When we realize that a verse usually consists of one sentence, we cannot on the average read two sentences in the Book of Mormon without seeing some form of Christ’s name.
“He is Lord” rings loud and clear from its pages like a London cathedral choir harmonizing on a Sunday morning. The sound is resonant throughout the book’s pages. The Spirit’s witness is there. That same Jesus I discovered in the Bible is also present in the pages of the Book of Mormon. Praise be to His holy name!
I mention but a few of the many passages that speak of our blessed Savior.
“…And according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” –II Nephi 11:36
“…Yea, behold, I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven, save it be this Jesus Christ of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved…” –II Nephi 11:39
“…And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also, that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; and that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost…” –II Nephi 11:78
What a blessed verse.
“…And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers. And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God…” –II Nephi 12:82,83
“…I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell…” –II Nephi 15:7
I have always liked this verse. One of my favorites, for sure.
“…Wherefore, we search the prophets; and we have many revelations, and the spirit of prophecy, and having all these witnesses, we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus, and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea…” –Jacob 3:7
“…And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men, even through faith, on his name…” –Mosiah 1:102,103
“…We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things, who shall come down among the children of men…” –Mosiah 2:4
“…And I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come; yea, the Son, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world; yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name…” –Alma 3:83,84
“…And according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins…” –Alma 4:10
“…And it came to pass that there were many who died, firmly believing that their souls were redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ; thus they went out of the world rejoicing…” –Alma 21:74
“…O remember, remember, my sons, the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world…” –Helaman 2:71
“…I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ…that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls…” –III Nephi 2:103
“…And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” –III Nephi 2:109
“…As many as were converted, did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed…” –III Nephi 3:63
“…Behold I am Jesus Christ, the son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name…” –III Nephi 4:44,45
That name which is above every name, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is found throughout the pages of this blessed book—the Book of Mormon.
On to another central Protestant doctrine…
“…And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they can not be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, hath spoken it…” –II Nephi 6:48-50
“…For behold, I say unto you, That as many of the Gentiles as will repent, are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent, shall be cast off; For the Lord covenanteth with none, save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel…” –II Nephi 12:77,78
“…And the Father said, Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my beloved Son…” –II Nephi 13:14
“…Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you…” –Mosiah 2:16
“…Except they repent, and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies…” –Mosiah 7:32
“…The time is at hand that he must repent, or he can not be saved…” –Alma 3:55
“…Preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you, the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again…” –Alma 3:86
“…Thus saith the Spirit, Repent all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand; yea, the Son of God cometh in his glory, in his might, majesty, power and dominion…” –Alma 3:87
“…The Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying, Go forth and say unto this people, Repent, for except ye repent, ye can in no wise inherit the kingdom of heaven…” –Alma 3:89
“…Now I say unto you, that ye must repent, and be born again: for the Spirit saith, If ye are not born again, ye can not inherit the kingdom of heaven…” –Alma 5:24
Sounds like Nicodemus and Jesus in John chapter three, doesn’t it?
“…Melchisedec having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood, according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchisedec did establish peace in the land in his days…” –Alma 10:12,13
“…And now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words unto them, he stretched forth his hand unto them and cried with a mighty voice, saying, Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh…” –Alma 10:18
“…And we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name…” –Alma 12:180
“…And also, what is this that Ammon said: If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day?…” –Alma 13:37
“…There was a time granted unto man, to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God…” –Alma 19:84
“…And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent, they did begin to prosper…” –Helaman 2:49
“…Blessed are they who will repent, and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved…” –Helaman 4:70
“…O all ye that are spared, because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, If ye will come unto me, ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. Behold I am Jesus Christ, the son of God…” –III Nephi 4:41-45
On to another central Protestant doctrine…
“…And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father concerning the things which he saw in a vision; And also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost; which power he received by faith on the Son of God; And the Son of God was the Messiah who should come…” –I Nephi 3:23-25
“…Behold they are righteous for ever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God, their garments are made white in his blood…” –I Nephi 3:117
“…We are made alive in Christ, because of our faith…” –II Nephi 11:46
“…Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far, save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save; Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men…” –II Nephi 13:28,29
“…I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ, that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment seat…” –II Nephi 15:8
“…Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions…” –Jacob 2:49
“…Beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him, through the atonement of Christ, his only begotten Son. That ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first fruits of Christ, unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him, before he manifesteth himself in the flesh…” –Jacob 3:16,17
“…For he had said unto me, Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it. And I had faith, and I did cry unto God, that he would preserve the records; And he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth…” –Enos 1:24-26
“…And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites. And it came to pass, that after I had prayed, and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me, I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith…” –Enos 1:17,18
“…There are many among us who have many revelations: for they are not all stiff-necked. And as many are not stiff-necked, and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith…” –Jarom 1:8,9
“…Wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God; for salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ…” –Mosiah 2:4-6
“…We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things, who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come…” –Mosiah 2:4-6
“…Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things both in heaven and in earth; Believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; Believe that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend. And again: Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you: And now, if you believe all these things, see that ye do them. And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness, and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceeding great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long suffering towards you unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily…” –Mosiah 2:13-21
“…This day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him, and have become his sons and his daughters…” –Mosiah 3:9
“…And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God, to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body? I say unto you, Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day, Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth…” –Alma 3:27-32
“…And now as I said concerning faith: Faith, is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. And now, behold, I say unto you; and I would that ye should remember that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth, in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word…” Alma 16:143,144
“…If ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith; yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Now we will compare the word unto a seed…” –Alma 16:151,152
Truly, one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon.
“…Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith, for it was by faith that Christ shewed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead…” –Ether 5:7
And now, perhaps the keystone doctrine of the Protestant reformation…
“…Redemption cometh in and through the holy Messiah: for he is full of grace and truth…” –II Nephi 1:71
“…How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men…” –II Nephi 1:73-76
“…O the wisdom of God! his mercy and grace! –II Nephi 6:19
“…And remember after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved…” –II Nephi 7:14
The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, teaches that salvation is by grace through faith.
“…My soul delighteth in his grace, and his justice, and power, and mercy, in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death. And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people, that save Christ should come, all men must perish…” –II Nephi 8:11,12
“…I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come; yea, the Son, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world; yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name…” –Alma 3:83,84
“…I have come, having great hopes and much desire that I should find that ye had humbled yourselves before God, and that ye had continued in the supplicating of his grace, that I should find that ye were blameless before him…” –Alma 5:4
“…not many days hence, the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people, and to answer their prayers…” –Alma 7:40
“…Blessed are they who will repent, and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. And may God grant, in his great fullness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace, for grace according to their works. And I would that all men might be saved…” –Helaman 4:70-72
“…The Lord spake unto me, saying, Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; and if men come unto me, I will shew unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness, that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak thing become strong unto them…” –Ether 5:27,28
…May the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you for ever…” –Moroni 9:28
“…Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in no wise deny the power of God. And again, if ye, by the grace of God, are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father, unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy without spot. And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.” –Moroni 10:29-31 The end.
I find it both uplifting and somewhat unique that the Book of Mormon ends by focusing on the themes of: coming unto Christ, God’s grace, the shed blood of Christ, the power of God, sanctified in Christ, the covenant, and the remission of our sins.
There you have it—The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon: Protestant Doctrines within the Book of Mormon.
…Born Again Experience
…Plan of Salvation
…Plan of Redemption
…The Lord Jesus Christ
What a book!
Perhaps the late John Henry Evans (1872-1947) said it best when he penned an overview of the Prophet’s life with typical nineteenth century eloquence:
“…Here is a man,” says Evan, “who was born in the stark hills of Vermont; who was reared in the backwoods of New York; who never looked inside a college or high school; who lived in six States, no one of which would own him during his lifetime; who spent months in the vile prisons of the period; who, even when he has his freedom, was hounded like a fugitive; who was covered once with a coat of tar and feathers, and left for dead; who, with his following, was driven by irate neighbors from New York to Ohio, from Ohio to Missouri, and from Missouri to Illinois; and who, at the unripe age of thirty-eight, was shot to death by a mob with painted faces.
Yet this man became mayor of the biggest town in Illinois and the state’s most prominent citizen, the commander of the largest body of trained soldiers in the nation outside the Federal army, the founder of cities and of a university, and aspired to become President of the United States.
He wrote a book which has baffled the literary critics for a hundred years and which is today more widely read than any other volume save the Bible…”
–Joseph Smith, An American Prophet, 1933 preface
Joseph Smith “…wrote a book which has baffled the literary critics…” So true.
One other quote. Hear Henry A. Wallace, one of our late Vice Presidents:
“…Of all the American religious books of the nineteenth century, it seems probable that the Book of Mormon was the most powerful. It reached perhaps only one percent of the United States, but affected this one percent so powerfully and lastingly, that all the people of the United States have been affected.” –New York Times, Nov.5, 1937
Let’s focus briefly on the man, Joseph Smith. What kind of man was he? The man whom God used to commence the restoration in these latter days. What did he have to say concerning truth and doctrine?
Well, first of all, Joseph was extremely tolerant of sects, of those not sharing his Christian point of view. This is a side of Joseph that’s not well known even by those inside the restoration movement, let alone by those outside it.
On one occasion, in a sermon, he said, “…If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear down on them? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better. I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by force or reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship. I am just as ready to die defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination.” –Sermon, 1843
That last statement especially was quite a statement; “…I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian…”
“…Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other…” is also quite a statement.
While mayor of Nauvoo, Joseph passed an ordinance “…that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals…and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free tolerance and equal privileges in this city…”
It was “against the law” not to show charity and tolerance toward those of other sects in the city of Nauvoo, the city Joseph built.
Again, what kind of man was he?…
One Sunday morning—among a group of prominent politicians, Attorney Butterfield, Judge Douglas, Senator Gillispie, and others—these gentlemen wanted to know about Joseph’s Christian beliefs. Butterfield asked what the main difference was between his faith and that of other Christians.
“…The most prominent difference is this: Sectarians all circumscribe by a peculiar creed, which deprives them of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein. The Latter-day Saints, on the contrary, have no creed, but stand ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.”
I thought that was well put. In other words, truth remains dynamic. Revelation of truth continues throughout our lifetime. Creeds, on the other hand, tend to become static and inflexible with time.
One last anecdote…
The Prophet is appealing to the President of the United States on behalf of his people. Terrible atrocities have occurred back in Missouri. He had obtained a meeting with President Van Buren. While at the capital, the Prophet preached the gospel to bureacrats. One of the representatives, a certain Matthew S. Davis from New York state, tells about one of the meetings held in the capital by Joseph.
This United States representative, who met Joseph Smith face to face, I believe answers our concerns (better than I could ever address them) in a letter he sent to his wife back home. The congressman writes…
“…I went last evening to hear ‘Joe smith,’ the celebrated Mormon, expound his doctrine. I, with several others, had a desire to understand his tenants as explained by himself.
He is not an educated man; but he is a plain, sensible, strong-minded man. Everything he says, is said in a manner to leave an impression that he is sincere. There is no levity, no fanaticism, no want of dignity in his deportment. In his garb there are no peculiarities; his dress being that of a plain, unpretending citizen. He is by profession a farmer, but is evidently well read.
During the whole of his address, and it occupied more than two hours, there was no opinion or belief that he expressed, that was calculated, in the least degree, to impair the morals of society, or in any manner to degrade and brutalize the human species. There was much in his precepts, if they were followed, that would soften the asperities of man towards man, and that would tend to make him a more rational being than he is generally found to be. There was no violence, no fury, no denunciation. His religion appears to be a religion of meekness, lowliness, and mild persuasion.
Towards the close of his address, he remarked that he had been represented to be a Savior. All this was false. He made no such pretensions. He was but a man, he said: a plain, untutored man, seeking what he should do to be saved.
Throughout his whole address, he displayed strongly a spirit of charity and forbearance. I have taken some pains to explain this man’s belief, as he himself explained it. I have changed my opinion of the Mormons. They are an injured and much-abused people.”
“…I have changed my opinion…” said the U.S. representative.
Concerning the Book of Mormon and the man, Joseph Smith, it is my prayer—so have you.r
About the Author:
Lynn Ridenhour grew up in the heart of Missouri near the Ozarks. A licensed Baptist minister for over 38 years, Lynn read the Book of Mormon and had a marvelous conversion experience to the restoration gospel as proclaimed by Joseph Smith.
Dr. Ridenhour has a Ph.D in literature with a specialty degree in composition theory from the University of Iowa. He has taught creative writing in both Christian and secular universities. Dr. Ridenhour has also pastored Baptist churches for years, has taught at Jerry Falwell’s university, and has been involved in the charismatic renewal since 1972.
Lynn is the founder of WinePress Publishing Co., and has a heart for evangelism. Paperback copies of Dr. Ridenhour’s booklets may be purchased for $3 per copy.
WinePress Publishing Co.
3601 S. Noland Rd., PMB 230
Independence, MO 64055
Dr. Ridenhour’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Should you want Dr. Ridenhour to come and speak in your church, or organization, simply email him, giving him the details. Lynn travels extensively for speaking engagements, sharing his testimony and conversion.
Lynn, his lovely wife, Linda, and their teenage daughter, Lori, make their home in Independence, Missouri.
ORIGINAL POST: http://centerplace.org/library/bofm/baptistversionofbofm.htm
Depiction of the Tree of Life vision from the Book of Mormon
The God Makers
How much truth is there in the movie The God Makers? This page provides resources that explain the truth behind the claims made in the movie.
A MORMON CHALLENGES “THE GOD MAKERS” MOVIE
(formerly called “Errors, Distortions And Untruths In The Movie “The God makers”)
–by Robert Starling Revised January 10, 1995
The movie “The God makers” is described by a multi-denominational group, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, as “making extensive use of ‘half-truth’, faulty generalizations, erroneous interpretations, and sensationalism. It is not reflective of the genuine spirit of the Mormon faith.”
Unable to accept this assessment, the supporters of the film have demanded specific examples of the above-mentioned faults. The following is a partial list of such specifics in the approximate order that they are found in the film.
1. LDS temple services are said to be “reserved for an elite few”. In actuality, great efforts are made to assist all members to align their lives with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they may enter the temples. They are not “reserved” for the “elite”. If not all members worship there, it is by their own choice, and represents a fulfillment of the Biblical truth, “many are called, but few are chosen”, for “strait is the gate and narrow the way, and few there be that find it.”
2. After LDS mission president Harold R. Goodman described the interview for receiving a temple recommend, a misleading film edit was made so that he seemed to say, “that is the only way we can be with our Heavenly Father”. While it is true that certain of the highest heavenly rewards are contingent on making covenants with God in the temple (and living up to them), this is not required for salvation and entrance into the Celestial Kingdom where we will be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Anyone familiar with LDS doctrine knows this, and the film was edited in such a way as to create a deliberate deception.
3. It was said that “many Mormons came thousands of miles and stood in the rain” to tour the Seattle temple before its dedication because “this may be the only time they may be allowed to enter a Mormon temple” as one of the “select few”. In view of #1 above, any LDS member who cared enough about the temple to make that kind of a journey would certainly find it easier to obtain a recommend and attend a temple nearer home. The statement was absurd and unfounded.
4. The Mormon “gods” were said to have “worked their way up” to become gods. This is alien to LDS theology. While we believe that we are the “offspring of God”, (Heb. 12:9, Acts 17:29, Ps.82:6) and “joint heirs with Christ”, (Rom.8:17, 1 Jn.3:2, Rev. 3:21) we can no more “work ourselves up” to godhood than a piece of coal can “work itself up” to become a diamond or a caterpillar can “work itself up” to be a butterfly. In each case the potential is there, but it is God who must work the miracle. He is the only “God maker”!
LDS strive to follow the Savior’s admonition to “Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”(Matt.5:48) And yet we know that “we have all sinned and come short” of that perfection. In fact, we know that we won’t achieve it in this life, and that we must all rely on the Grace of Christ to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. But “we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him”(1 John 3:2).
Following the admonition of Paul, we as Latter-day Saints “let this mind be in (us) which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:5,6) We do not apologize for believing the Bible. Most Christians consider themselves “a child of the King”, yet they don’t know what that really means. Latter-day Saints believe the Bible when it says the faithful children of our Heavenly Father are to inherit the kingdom, receive a throne, and sit at the right hand of God. (Rev. 3:21)
5. The quote “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become” was credited to James E. Talmage. It was Lorenzo Snow who said this. This is a small thing, but it’s evidence of poor research and a disregard for accuracy. Almost any LDS high school seminary student could give the correct attribution for this quote.
6. To demean God’s Biblical command to “be fruitful and multiply” by referring to “endless Celestial sex” is an example of the tasteless sensationalism decried by the National Council of Christians and Jews in their report which totally discredited this film.
7. The principles of Celestial Marriage and Eternal Progression were said to be “secrets” that “Mormons don’t talk about”. This is untrue. While the principle of man’s becoming like our Heavenly Father is not discussed in our church meetings nearly as much as one would believe from reading anti-Mormon literature, it is certainly not a secret.
8. Mormonism is described as being far removed from “orthodox” Christianity. It must be remembered that orthodoxy is often subjective in its definition. Christ himself flew in the face of the religious “orthodoxy” of His time. But who was right? Our Lord, or the Scribes and Pharisees? In reality the LDS church is much closer to the “orthodoxy” of the original first century Christians than other churches in the world today. (The popular Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone is itself far removed from the historic Catholic theology by which “orthodoxy” was defined for over 1,000 years!)
9. A story is shown in animation of Elohim growing up as a mortal on a planet and later becoming God, our Heavenly Father. Somehow this is implied to be a fantastic and un-Christian doctrine. Yet this is exactly like the story told in the four Gospels of the mortal existence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who later rose from the dead and received the fullness of His glory as God the Son, equal in power and dominion with His Father. Jesus said that he did nothing that he had not seen the Father do. (John 5:19) If Jesus is God, yet lived as a mortal, then why could not His Father have done the same?
10. Blacks are described as being “neutral” in the war that was fought in heaven against Lucifer and the spirits who followed him. This is incorrect. LDS are taught that there were no neutrals in that conflict.
The implication in the film that the LDS church is racist is unjustified. Many blacks and other minorities hold responsible positions of leadership in our Church, and our Indian Placement Program (where LDS members open their homes to assist in the education of Native American children) is unequaled by any other Christian denomination.
11. God the Father (Elohim) is pictured “returning to Earth in human form from the ‘star base Kolob’ to have sex with the Virgin Mary in order to provide Jesus with a physical body”. The caricature of the Lord of the Universe knocking on the door of a home in Nazareth in the middle of the night is a total perversion of LDS beliefs and has rightly been called “religious pornography” by many Christians who have more taste than the people who produced this film.
Two marvelous events happened on that wondrous night (or day) when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. According to the Bible, (1) the Holy Ghost came upon her, and (2) the power of the Highest “overshadowed” her. The first was necessary because no mortal can endure the presence of God the Father without the protection of the Holy Ghost. But Jesus is not the son of the Holy Ghost. God the Father is “the Highest”, and it is He who is the father of Jesus. To say otherwise is to “wrest the scriptures”.
12. A few speculative remarks from early LDS leaders regarding Jesus having married and fathered children is implied to be official Church doctrine, which it is not. However such a doctrine would not be un-Christian, since the Bible is silent on the subject. (In fact a Presbyterian minister in West Virginia has written a book giving Biblical reasons why he believes that Jesus was indeed married!)
13. Joseph Smith is described as “a young treasure seeker”. Although he did once hire out as a laborer for a man looking for treasure, this derogatory term is a definite “half truth” and in no way accurately describes his usual occupation or character. It is also highly questionable whether it can be substantiated that he was “known for his tall tales”, or if this is merely an invention of the film’s authors. His mother said he shared stories from the Book of Mormon history with family members, but these are no more “tall tales” than telling about Moses parting the Red Sea.
14. Statement from the film: “The Mormons thank God for Joseph Smith, who claimed that he had done more for us than any other man, including Jesus Christ.” This is patently false. The original quote from D & C 135:3 said Joseph Smith had done more for the salvation of men”save Jesus only” than any other man who had lived in the world. There is a world of difference in the two statements, and difference is the truth of what was said versus the deception of those who have deliberately misquoted Joseph Smith.
Defenders of the film have confused this misquote with another reference in LDS Church history (taken from the book also titled The God makers, not the movie, which is what I am dealing with here) where Joseph Smith said of “keeping a whole church together” that “neither Paul, John, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I!” (Let the reader compare the three quotes to see where the deception lies!) Here, Joseph did not say that he was greater than Jesus as the anti-Mormons have claimed, but rather that he had done a greater work than Jesus. Was this blasphemy? Or fulfillment of a prophecy made by Jesus himself? In John 14:12, the Lord said of whoever believed on Him; “the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…”
Perhaps Joseph did get a little carried away in his boasting of what happened to be a true fact of history. But this is a human fallibility that Joseph shared with many other Biblical prophets (see Paul in 2 Cor. 11:16-33).In no way does this negate his prophetic calling nor invalidate the truthfulness of the church he restored. To even mention it shows how desperately the critics of the LDS church are grasping at straws. A quick reading of Joseph’s speeches or writings would show immediately that neither he nor his followers have ever considered him to be greater than Jesus Christ.
15. It is stated that “the Mormon church pressures individuals into divorcing their spouses when they are not measuring up to the Church’s standards.” This is totally untrue. Several ex-Mormons interviewed in the film said they were counseled by their Bishops to divorce. A quick look at handbooks for Bishops will reveal that the official Church policy is quite the contrary. LDS couples are counseled to make every effort to strengthen and preserve their marriages and families. If Ed Decker knows “literally hundreds of families with stories like this” (being advised to divorce), then why did he have to hire actors to portray 2 of the “estranged husbands” in the film? (These were in addition to two other actors playing attorneys.)
16. One of the major allegations of the film is that “there is a whole area of psychiatric care dealing with depression in the Mormon woman”. Much has been made of a 1983 TV documentary produced by KSL television in Salt Lake City called “Mormon Women and Depression”. (I watched it and have it on videocassette.) It is never mentioned, however, that this was only one part of a series of programs on depression in various segments of the Utah population. Its importance has been blown out of proportion… another example of the “half truths” in this film which were condemned by the investigators from the NCCJ.
It should also be noted that in the last few years there has been a rise in the awareness of depression in women in general (some think it’s brought on by the feminist movement), and a recognition of illnesses like Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, etc. If one is to believe the multitude of commercials heard on Christian radio stations (at least in the LA area) which advertise counseling and PMS treatment centers, it could more legitimately be said that “there is a whole area of psychiatric care dealing with depression in CHRISTIAN women”. To single out Mormonism as a cause of depression is at best false and misleading. I have no doubt that virtually 100 percent of LDS women who feel depressed would say if asked that their faith in Christ which they’re taught in the Mormon church is their greatest help in OVERCOMING that depression.
17. According to Ed Decker in the film, “Heaven to the Mormon woman is being pregnant for all eternity, one spirit baby after the next”. A mental picture is thus drawn which is supposed to be repugnant to today’s “liberated” women and somehow un-Christian. In reality, God has not yet completely revealed the process by which spirit children are added to His eternal family (of which we are all a part). But surely the process is more sophisticated than the nine-month gestation period and pregnancy through which mortal women suffer to give birth. It was only after the Fall that God said to the woman Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”. Therefore “pregnant” is a term which in all likelihood is applicable only to the post-Fall mortal condition.
18. Sandra Tanner is described as “considered to be one of the greatest living authorities on Mormonism”. Considered by whom? Anti-Mormons? Being an “expert” on only one side of an issue doesn’t make one an “authority”. Dr. Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon professor at Indiana University At Indianapolis is a much more believable “expert”. Her book entitled Mormonism, A New Religious Tradition is acclaimed as an objective alternative to Tanner’s polemic tome.
19. Mrs. Tanner says Utah (67% LDS) has a higher rate of divorce and suicide than the national average. Teen suicide is supposedly much higher than nationally. “This is partly due to the fact the Mormons emphasize perfection”, she says. (For more details on the questionable statistics, see #44 below)
Is it un-Christian to strive for perfection? Was it not Christ himself who said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”? (Matt.5:48) And though we, like Paul, have not “already attained” perfection, but “follow after” as we “press toward the mark”(Philip 3:12), is not the purpose of the church “for the perfecting of the saints”(Eph. 4:12)?
A truly heart-rending and tragic case is presented of 16-year old Kip Eliason who committed suicide in 1982. When he approached LDS counselors regarding his “sexual feelings that were in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church”, they lovingly reinforced those teachings and standards. This is implied to have led to the boy’s death, and therefore is supposedly another proof that the LDS Church is not Christian.
Ironically, an almost identical case of a teen’s suicide after receiving counseling from a religious leader has led to a landmark lawsuit filed by the second boy’s parents. Except in this case the defendant is not a Mormon but a leading figure in the Evangelical Christian community who is also an ardent supporter of “The God makers”. Did not Jesus say that we should cast out the beam in our own eye before worrying about the mote in the eye of our neighbor? Clearly, this kind of tragedy can happen in any church. Such exploitation of the Eliason family’s grief by the film makers is unforgivable!
20. Ed Decker charges that the Book of Mormon calls the “Christian body” the “whore of Babylon”. Actually two churches are mentioned in 1 Nephi 14:10–the “church of the Lamb of God” and the “church of the devil”. It is the latter which is described as “whore of all the earth”. However this church is further described in 1 Nephi 22:23 as actually a collection of “all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world”…etc. Only those churches which fit this description need worry. (and according to the complaints of many Christians, there unfortunately seems to be quite a few of them)
21. Ed Decker also charges in the film that the LDS temple ceremony “mocks the Christian pastor and calls him a hireling of Satan”. The depicting of a nameless clergyman in the temple instruction is simply a teaching device where he recites the traditional creeds regarding the nature of God, which we believe to be in error. No disrespect or “mocking” of any Christian pastor or any denomination is intended. In fact, the minister’s integrity is demonstrated when he repents and changes his ways after he learns the truth from the apostles Peter, James, and John. (Note: Recent changes in the temple films have deleted the above altogether.)
22. The film’s narrator states that: “Mormons are instructed to use Christian terminology when talking to potential converts. Words such as ‘God’, ‘Jesus’, and ‘salvation’ all have different Mormon meanings which the outsider may not be aware of…”
LDS members use no different terminology when talking to non-LDS than when talking to each other. The sort of sinister deception that is implied simply does not exist. Any deviation from the Biblical usage and definition of the above words lies with the film’s authors, not with the Latter-day Saints.
23. Reference is made to “nine versions” told of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, “each of which contradicts the other”. These “unpublished” accounts are supposedly “deliberately kept from you by Mormon leaders” to conceal the truth. As a point of fact, the different versions were published in a feature article by James B. Allen in the official LDS church magazine The Improvement Era (April 1970) with the express approval of the “Mormon leaders”, for all to see. An in-depth article on this subject by Dean Jesse was also published in BYU Studies (Spring 1969).
A careful comparison will show that there is no more “contradiction” among the accounts than one will find in comparing the four descriptions of the life of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In each case, different aspects of the events were emphasized or highlighted according to the needs of the intended audience at the time of the writing.
Similarly in Acts 9,22,&26 we find three different accounts of Saul’s “first vision”, with discrepancies as to who fell down and whether those with Saul saw the light or heard the voice, etc. Yet both Saul’s and Joseph’s visions did take place. (They are actually quite similar.)
24. The film points out that there have been many changes in the LDS scriptures in their various editions. This is implied to be a fatal flaw. If so, then the rest of Christianity must share the same deficiency considering the thousands of changes made in the Bible in the hundreds of translations and editions that have been printed. Usually changes in LDS scripture have been made to correct typographical or punctuation errors, or to make the text either (1) agree more closely with the earliest editions, (2) seem more grammatically palatable to the modern reader, or (3) express under inspiration a clearer meaning of the original intent. (see #28 below)
25. Statements said to be made by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young regarding the possible inhabitants of the sun and moon were reported from journal entries or from third-hand memory, and are suspect. To imply that those quotes really represent LDS doctrine is another in a long list of distortions in this propaganda film.
But the real issue is, can a prophet believe something which is found to be in error by the science of a later age? If the Bible is true, the answer is yes. Leviticus 11 and Deut. 14 list the hare as an animal that chews the cud, which science has disproved. And Gen.30:35–43 says that placing striped sticks in view of mating animals results in striped offspring. …Moon men? These examples sound equally absurd in light of modern day scientific knowledge. The Rev. J.R. Dummelow in his One Volume Bible Commentary said something about the author of Genesis which could equally be applied to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young: “His scientific knowledge may be bounded by the horizon of the age in which he lived, but the religious truths he teaches are irrefutable and eternal.”
26. Decker says: “The true doctrine (of the LDS church) teaches that there is no eternal life without a polygamous relationship”. This is blatantly untrue. The church teaches that the highest heavenly rewards are reserved for those who enter the “new and everlasting covenant” of eternal marriage, but they can be married to just one person and receive the same rewards as anyone in a “polygamous relationship”.
On polygamy:(the practice of which was officially ended by the LDS church in 1890) –if Joseph Smith seemed reticent to tell his wife Emma about this law of God at first, it is an understandable human foible. (Especially if you knew Emma!) But this no more disqualifies him from the office of prophet than the similar frailties seen in Abraham’s lie to Pharaoh about Sara being his sister, or in Moses’s boast to the Children of Israel that he would give them water from a rock in the desert. (Num. 20:7–12. His failure to acknowledge God on that occasion kept him out of the Promised Land as punishment, but did not negate his prophetic calling or nullify the scriptures he wrote.)
In addition, it should be noted that these same ancient prophets –and their followers– also practiced polygamy… with the approval and sanction of God.
27. Sandra Tanner charges that LDS church historical records are hidden from the members in some sort of dark cover-up. Obviously the rare and valuable documents must be protected from public access, just like the closed stacks in many libraries and museums. Nor would the Church see the need to admit a known anti-Mormon like Mrs. Tanner.
Incidentally, Mrs. Tanner and her husband have made a substantial business of publishing those same LDS church historical records that are supposedly “hidden”. They must not be too hard to get hold of!
28. Decker says that Christian scholars are “always refining” the scriptures in the quest to “improve and validate the authenticity of the Holy Scripture”. Then he says, “In Mormonism it’s completely opposite”. And yet when LDS efforts are made to “refine” scripture, resulting in changes, he decries these changes as proof of the non-validity of LDS scriptures. (see #24 above)
Come on, Ed… you can’t have it both ways!
29. Dr. Charles Crane is presented as an “expert on Mormon archaeology”. He is actually a Church of Christ minister with advanced degrees in “Ministry”, “Divinity” and Psychology, (not archaeology) who in correspondence with me says he has “sought to study the archaeology of the Book of Mormon”. He revealed no details on the extent of his study, so I must question his “expert” status.
30. Both Crane and Tanner claim that because the cities of the Book of Mormon are not found on modern maps, “there is no evidence for the book, any yet it’s supposed to be a historical record”. Dr. Richard Fales (“author, lecturer, archaeologist”– what are his credentials?) says “not one single artifact has been found that even remotely relates to the (Book of Mormon) civilizations”. He calls the book a “fairy tale”.
Point of fact: Many books have been written detailing dozens of archaeological parallels between the Book of Mormon and the history of ancient America. The Book of Mormon’s claims regarding wheeled vehicles, great walled cities with prayer towers, baptismal fonts, the use of cement, the presence of horses and elephants, etc. seemed absurd in 1830 when it was published. Yet these claims have been vindicated by archaeological discoveries since that time.
In addition, one particular artifact (Stela 5 Izapa from Chiapas, Mexico) contains a large and detailed drawing of the Tree of Life which appears to be a direct connection with the Book of Mormon. Competent scholars have found over 50 elements in Stela 5 which correspond to parts of a long and involved vision given by God to the prophet Lehi in the 8th chapter of 1st Nephi. This artifact was discovered by a Smithsonian dig in 1941, and to date no non-LDS scholar has offered a viable alternative interpretation of the inscription. –Not bad for a “fairy tale”! (see the Ensign June 1985 pp.54–55.)
A note on the film’s statement that “archaeology has been able to prove the existence of all great civilizations”: It was only in the 1800’s after many years of struggle against the archaeological “establishment” that the explorer Heinrich Schliemann finally found proof that unearthed the ancient city of Troy described in Homer’s epic poems. Until that time they were considered to be in the realm of “fairy tales”. Who’s to say that in a year or two the great Book of Mormon cities of Bountiful or Zarahemla will not be uncovered and make news around the world? What will the anti-Mormons say then?
Anyone sincerely wishing to study scientific evidences of the Book of Mormon should contact the Foundation for Archaeological Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) for a catalog of scholarly papers on a wide range of topics.
Their address is P.O. Box 7113 University Station, Provo, Utah 84602.
31. The film states that: “Mormon missionaries are converting people throughout the world by explaining to them that archaeology has “proven” the Book of Mormon to be true.” This is false. Sometimes archaeological evidences are shared with people to pique their interest and get them to seriously consider the book, but LDS missionaries are trained to teach people that the ultimate test of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is through an answer to prayer and a personal witness from the Holy Ghost, as described in James 1:5,6. It is only through the Spirit of God that true conversion takes place.
32. Regarding the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, which was revealed to Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God: The film says, “Several famous Egyptologists have now translated it (the Egyptian Papyri associated with the Book of Abraham) and have found that it doesn’t have anything to do with the time of Abraham at all”.
At least one of these “famous Egyptologists” –Dee Jay Nelson– made false claims about his academic background and his alleged employment as a translator for the LDS church. How many other holes are there in “The God makers” story?
The sincere investigator on this topic will find a wealth of information in Dr. Hugh Nibley’s articles in BYU Studies (1968 and 1971) as well as those in the Improvement Era almost every issue from Jan. 1968 to May 1970, plus one in the Ensign, March 1976. Also see Michael Rhodes’s study in BYU Studies 17 (1977). Also Nibley’s book, “The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri” (1975)
33. The 1978 revelation to President Kimball to give the LDS priesthood to blacks was said to have come because of “social pressure”. This is wrong. The greatest period of pressure of this nature came in 1971. By 1978 it was hardly an issue because the civil rights movement was at a comparative ebb. The revelation came as an answer to prayer from God’s prophet and mouthpiece on Earth, at a time when increasing numbers of blacks were beginning to join the LDS Church. Church leaders desired to extend all blessings of membership to these people, and after much supplication God heard their prayers.
34. The film says that “the finality of Mormon theology is not based on evaluation by scriptural evidence”, and that LDS missionaries do not encourage the people they’re teaching to read from the Bible, only the Book of Mormon. This is untrue. In the Uniform System for Teaching Families, (the basic lessons that LDS missionaries use all over the world) they are expressly instructed to: “use only Biblical references with investigators”. Nothing is taught in LDS doctrine that is in conflict with the Bible, and every opportunity is taken to point this out by studying the relevant Bible verses. (LDS prefer the King James Version)
35. The witness of truth by the Holy Ghost in the heart of the individual person –described as a “burning in the bosom”– is said to be a “totally subjective” process. This is incorrect, as many Christians will testify. There are many times when one is walking in the Spirit that “the heart will be told what the mind cannot know.” And yet the reliance by LDS on the Spirit for guidance and inspiration is implied to be somehow un-Christian! The makers of “The God makers” would prefer to gamble their Eternal Salvation on someone’s (usually theirs) subjective interpretation of this Bible verse or that. (My Baptist friends tell me that when you get any three Baptists together on a Bible verse you’ll get at least five opinions!)
Latter-day Saints rely heavily on the Scriptures, both the Bible and our own. But we believe that “no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation”(2 Pet. 1:20) “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God…. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”(1 Cor.2:10–13) This is the real test.
The Saints in the days of Paul relied on the witness of the Spirit instead of hermeneutics. The Saints of these latter-days believe that true Christians must still do the same. It is the “rock” of revelation from God to man (as the Christian singer Sandi Patti so eloquently puts it in her wonderful song) on which the true church of Jesus Christ is built; not someone’s Biblical interpretation, however learned. The “Born Again” experience itself necessitates the Holy Spirit witnessing to a person that Jesus is indeed their personal savior, Lord, and Christ. It cannot come by Bible study alone.
36. The “re-enactment” (so-called) of LDS temple ceremonies is perhaps the most disappointing and offensive part of this film. An utter disregard is shown by the film makers for the sensitivities of other human beings. Ceremonies that are considered sacred by millions of people are trampled upon, ridiculed, and distorted, with definite purpose and malice aforethought. A great many right-thinking Christians have expressed revulsion at this kind of propagandistic approach.
The producers of the film have admitted their use of deception to obtain stock footage of temple interiors from the LDS church information services, and to arrange interviews with church officials who appear in the film. These despicable tactics speak for themselves.
The LDS temple ceremonies are said to be “Mason-like” and “occultic”. There is nothing “occultic” about the covenants that LDS people make with our Heavenly Father in the temples, nor about the work done there for the dead. In fact one of these ceremonies –baptisms for the dead– was mentioned as a practice of the early Christians by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor.15:29. This is merely a way in which these necessary ordinances can be performed as a vicarious service for those who have died without the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior through baptism. (Most Christian denominations have a hard time explaining what happens to these people.)
What is described as a “fanatical program to evangelize the dead” is simply the fulfillment of prophecy in the last verse of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:6) that in the last days God will “turn the hearts of the children to their fathers”. What is so “fanatical” or sinister or “occultic” about that?
If there is anything “Mason-like” about the LDS temple ordinances, it might be explained by the fact that the Masonic order began among workers on the great Temple of Solomon. If God is “the same yesterday, today and forever”, then the same ceremonies were performed by God’s righteous believers in the Temple of their day. If God then revealed the ordinances to the prophet Joseph Smith in our day, a corrupted version handed down through the centuries by the Masons might still bear some resemblance to the original.
37. The sacred undergarment worn by LDS who have made special covenants with God in the temples is said to be “unattractive” and “de-humanizing”. (Why should it be attractive since it is not meant to be seen? It’s an undergarment!) These garments are patterned after the garments of skins that God made for Adam and Eve when He cast them out of the Garden of Eden. (Gen.3:21) Perhaps the film makers should take up their complaints with the original Tailor!
A parallel to the LDS temple garment can be seen in a similar item of under-apparel worn by the most orthodox Jewish sects– a holdover from Israel’s righteous days when they performed temple worship thousands of years ago. It should also be noted that a similar item is mentioned in the earliest Jewish and Christian writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi codices.
The extreme measures referred to in the film that are supposedly taken by LDS to avoid ever losing physical contact with the temple garment are totally incorrect. There are many occasions such as visits to a doctor, swimming or playing basketball, etc. when “temple Mormons” rightly do not wear the garment. The film portrayed a caricature that does not exist.
38. Another caricature is built up of Joseph Smith as a “treasure seeker” who was “involved in the occult”. This description does not fit the man as all, as revealed in many accounts regarding him written by his contemporaries. (See #13 above) The mistake is also made of trying to judge Joseph, who lived in the mid-1800’s, by the culture and practices of the 1980’s. Similarly a person in the next century might say that having a Jack o’lantern on Halloween is a sure sign of being “involved in the occult”, and the hobbyist with a metal detector is a “treasure seeker”!
39. An avowed Satanist’s book is used as an authoritative source to come up with a mythical god “Mormo” whose followers are allegedly called “Mormons”. Obviously if the same book were to have reference to a god “Metho” whose followers were called “Methodists”, they would give it no credence or notice, except perhaps for a good horse laugh. To stoop to such antics in a supposedly serious “documentary” is inexcusable.
40. Likewise, the claim that the Chinese word “Mormon” means “gates of Hell” relies on an extremely tortured translation and is meaningless. It’s just another example of sensationalism. The National Enquirer would win a Pulitzer Prize in comparison to the writers of this film!
41. Some sort of sinister implication (complete with evil-sounding music to match) is made in speaking of the “wealth” of the LDS church and great land holdings. The narrator fails to mention that virtually all of the Church’s real estate is identified as meetinghouses for LDS members (built with as little as 4% of the cost paid by the local congregations), schools, and farms where food is raised to feed the needy in the model LDS welfare program.
The LDS church does have some stock in the parent corporation that owns the LA Times, but can hardly be considered a “major stockholder”(especially in view of some of the articles unfavorable to the Church which have appeared in that paper and its sister publication in Denver).
42. Money is said to be “extracted” form LDS church members in a “mandatory” tithing program. These buzz words are by now quite tiresome, and again they are totally false! Tithes and offerings are no more “mandatory” for Mormons than for other Christians. As with any principle of the Gospel there are certain rewards (both temporally and spiritually) for obedience. But to show the picture of the young Deacon gathering Fast Offerings and imply that he was “shaking down” the Mormon mother for tithing… come on now! (The Fast offering is a separate contribution where members fast for two meals on the first Sunday of every month and give the cost of the meals into a special fund to feed the needy. This practice is now being picked up by some other Christian churches.)
43. Mormons are said to “own a substantial portion of Hawaii”. It is not indicated whether they are referring to individual LDS members or to the Church. In either case the truth is probably stretched quite a bit.
44. Utah (identified as 75% Mormon–actually it’s closer to 50%) is said to “rank among the highest” of the states in divorce, suicide, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, and bigamy.
Utah (according to Atlanta’s Communicable Disease Center) is 47th among the states in venereal disease. This is hardly “among the highest”. In view of this kind of error, the rest of the statistics cited are highly suspect. The following, however, might explain any unexpectedly high figures for the state of Utah if they proved to be correct:
Utah is among the lowest states in abortions, which accounts for more teenage pregnancies carried to term. And since most young LDS people don’t plan to be “sexually active” as do teens in other states, they are more likely to become pregnant when they do make mistakes. And since they try harder to “do the right thing” by getting married when they get pregnant, there are more teen marriages and hence more divorces. And since Utah has some of the most strict child abuse reporting laws in the nation, (you must legally report even any SUSPECTED abuse) there is perhaps more reported child abuse than in other states. (Not necessarily more abuse.)
Therefore it can be seen that the supposedly damning statistics reveal in actuality the good “fruits” of the LDS church. The film makers failed to mention that of active LDS church members married in the temple, the number of divorces is only ONE-FIFTH the national average.
45. The film says that “Mormonism undercuts the Bible”, which is definitely false. Our 8th Article of Faith states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.” We believe it to be “verbally inspired” as do other Christians. That is, that it was “inerrant” as it flowed from the mind of God through the pens of the original writers. However we believe (along with most Christians) that copying and translation errors do occur. No Christian would accept as God’s word any verse of the Bible which scholarship proves to be mistranslated, and neither to Mormons.
The film also says that Mormonism “undercuts all the other churches”, which is misleading. Although we believe that the complete fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found only in our church, we believe that almost all religions contain some of God’s truth and are beneficial to mankind.
It is not the Latter-day Saints who brand another faith as a “cult” and seek to exclude its members from fellowship with other Christians. We leave that activity to the anti-Mormons.
46. It is said in the film that many LDS church members only remain in the church because “Mormonism is a nice place to raise your family…it’s the easy road”. That description may be true in Utah, but it does not account for the rapid growth of the LDS church in other parts of the world like Latin America and Japan, where becoming a “Mormon” is anything but “the easy road”. Many millions of people have decided to follow Christ as the Holy Ghost has led them by joining the LDS church, and in doing so have lost their jobs, families, –everything. Sometimes even their lives.
47. “I learned that the God of Mormonism was not the God of the Bible.” This statement near the end of the film shows that the person who uttered it has an incomplete knowledge of both Mormonism and the Bible. The God of Mormonism is not the God of the Nicene Creed, but He definitely IS the God of the Bible.
48. “But there’s fraud…deliberate misrepresentation”. This quote from Dick Baer aimed at the LDS church applies more aptly to his propaganda film “The God makers”, as has been pointed out herein.
The foregoing 48 specific points constitutes a partial list of the errors, distortions, and untruths in the film. These comments will also apply equally to the same problems found in the book of the same name, written by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. A more complete response to the book has been written, but the major points of emphasis will probably not vary a great deal from those of the film which have been dealt with here. The book is called “The Truth About The God makers”, and it is available at almost any LDS book store. Or more information on the book response may be obtained from the author, Gilbert Scharffs, 2898 Mill Creek Rd., Salt Lake City, Utah 84109.
It is unfortunate that the authors and producers of the “God makers” film and book have felt it necessary to expend such great amounts of money, time and energy to persecute the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is equally unfortunate that so many good Christians and pastors have unknowingly “aided and abetted” in this persecution by opening their churches and their pulpits to those who have been perpetuating it. Hopefully, this response will shed some light and lead to a better understanding between Latter-day Saints and their fellow disciples in the Body of Christ.
In his brilliant essay on “What it Means to Be a Mormon Christian”, BYU English professor Eugene England shared a quote from the great reformer Martin Luther: “The kingdom of God is like a besieged city surrounded on all sides by death. Each man has his place on the wall to defend and no one can stand where another stands, but nothing prevents us from calling encouragement to one another.” England then goes on to say, “It would be tragic if we Christians, standing each in our different places, were to desert our place on the wall…to turn on each other.”
Intolerance has no place among Christians. Jesus himself taught that lesson when his apostles came to him saying they had forbidden one casting out devils in His name because “he followeth not with us”. The Savior said: “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”(Luke 50:49). Likewise in Acts 5:27-39 we find: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” This is a commandment from Jesus that the producers of “The God makers” and those who assist them need to learn and obey.
The foregoing is my own work and does not represent any official statement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Robert D. Starling
12242 S. 1740 W.
Riverton, UT 84065
Note: These concepts and others will soon be presented in an expanded form, in a book the author is currently writing entitled Inside Mormonism; Confessions of a Latter-day Christian. This essay is considered to be in draft form until publication, and your comments, corrections and suggestions are welcomed.
I especially welcome the opportunity for clarification or dialogue with non-LDS readers.
Copyright 1986–1995 Robert D. Starling All Rights Reserved
Permission is hereby granted for this work to be duplicated without cost and distributed by any means including electronic or computer transmission, provided it is done in its entirety and without alteration.