Countercult ministries/Tower to Truth Ministries/50 Questions to Ask Mormons
Answers to "50 Questions to Ask Mormons"
Anti-Mormon literature tends to recycle the same themes. Some ministries are using a series of fifty questions, which they believe will help "cultists" like the Mormons. One ministry seems to suggest that such questions are a good way to deceive Latter-day Saints, since the questions "give...them hope that you are genuinely interested in learning more about their religion."
This ministry tells its readers what their real intent should be with their Mormon friend: "to get them thinking about things they may have never thought about and researching into the false teachings of their church." Thus, the questions are not sincere attempts to understand what the Latter-day Saints believe, but are a smokescreen or diversionary tactic to introduce anti-Mormon material.
The questions are not difficult to answer, nor are they new. This page provides links to answers to the questions. It should be noted that the questions virtually all do at least one of the following:
- misunderstand or misread LDS doctrine or scripture;
- give unofficial material the status of official belief;
- assume that Mormons must have inerrantist ideas about scripture or prophets like conservative evangelical Protestants do;
- apply a strict standard to LDS ideas, but use a double standard to avoid condemning the Bible or their own beliefs if the standard was applied fairly to both.
NOTE: It should be remembered that this particular list of questions was put together by an Evangelical Christian ministry. The answers provided here by FAIR are directed to Christians of any denomination who might use such a list or to Mormon Christians who might be bothered by such a list. There are also secular critics of the Church who would not be bothered by or have any use for many of the questions on this list. We recognize that the answers provided here may not be satisfactory to such individuals; that is fine. If anyone knows of such critical lists produced by secularists or secular organizations, we would be interested to know about them and might consider them for similar treatment.
Questions About LDS Prophets
1. Why does the Mormon church still teach that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God after he made a false prophecy about a temple built in Missouri in his generation (DC 84:1-5)
- This was not a prophecy, but a command from God to build the temple. There's a difference. Jesus said people should repent; just because many didn't doesn't make Him a false messenger, simply a messenger that fallible people didn't heed.
- Learn more here: Independence temple to be built "in this generation"
2. Since the time when Brigham Young taught that both the moon and the sun were inhabited by people, has the Mormon church ever found scientific evidence of that to be true? (Journal of Discourses (1870), 13:271)
- In Brigham (and Joseph's) day, there had been newspaper articles reporting that a famous astronomer had reported that there were men on the moon and elsewhere. This was published in LDS areas; the retraction of this famous hoax never was publicized, and so they may not have even heard about it.
- Brigham and others were most likely repeating what had been told them by the science of the day. (Lots of Biblical prophets talked about the earth being flat, the sky being a dome, etc.—it is inconsistent for conservative Protestants to complain that a false belief about the physical world shared by others in their culture condemns Brigham and Joseph, but does not condemn Bible prophets.)
- In any case, Brigham made it clear that he was expressing his opinion: "Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is." Prophets are entitled to their opinions; in fact, the point of Brigham's discourse is that the only fanatic is one who insists upon clinging to a false idea.
- Learn more here: Brigham Young and moonmen
- Learn more here: Joseph Smith and moonmen
3. Why did Brigham Young teach that Adam is "our Father and our God" when both the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Mormon 9:12) say that Adam is a creation of God? (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:50.)
- The problem with "Adam-God" is that we don't understand what Brigham meant. All of his statements cannot be reconciled with each other. In any case, Latter-day Saints are not inerrantists—they believe prophets can have their own opinions. Only the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve can establish official LDS doctrine. That never happened with any variety of "Adam-God" doctrine. Since Brigham seemed to also agree with statements like Mormon 9:12, and the Biblical record, it seems likely that we do not entirely understand how he fit all of these ideas together.
- Learn more here: Adam-God
4. If Brigham Young was a true prophet, how come one of your later prophets overturned his declaration which stated that the black man could never hold the priesthood in the LDS Church until after the resurrection of all other races (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:142-143.)
- Peter and the other apostles likewise misunderstood the timing of gospel blessings to non-Israelites. Even following a revelation to Peter, many members of the early Christian Church continued to fight about this point and how to implement it—even Peter and Paul had disagreements. Yet, Bible-believing Christians, such as the Latter-day Saints, continue to consider both as prophets. Critics should be careful that they do not have a double standard, or they will condemn Bible prophets as well.
- The Latter-day Saints are not scriptural or prophetic inerrantists. They are not troubled when prophets have personal opinions which turn out to be incorrect. In the case of the priesthood ban, members of the modern Church accepted the change with more joy and obedience than many first century members accepted the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles without the need for keeping the Mosaic Law.
5. Since the Bible's test of determine whether someone is a true prophet of God is 100% accuracy in all his prophecies (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), has the LDS Church ever reconsidered its teaching that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets?
- Believing Christians should be careful. Unless they want to be guilty of a double standard, they will end up condemning many Biblical prophets by this standard.
- Learn more here: Joseph Smith and prophetic test in Deuteronomy 18
6. Since the current LDS prophets sometimes contradict the former ones, how do you decide which one is correct?
- Most "contradictions" are actually misunderstandings or misrepresentations of LDS doctrine and teachings by critics. The LDS standard for doctrine is the scriptures, and united statements of the First Presidency and the Twelve.
- The Saints believe they must be led by revelation, adapted to the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Noah was told to build an ark, but not all people required that message. Moses told them to put the Passover lamb’s blood on their door; that was changed with the coming of Christ, etc.
- No member is expected to follow prophetic advice "just because the prophet said so." Each member is to receive his or her own revelatory witness from the Holy Ghost. We cannot be led astray in matters of importance if we always appeal to God for His direction.
7. Since there are several different contradictory accounts of Joseph Smith's first vision, how did the LDS Church choose the correct one?
- The First Vision accounts are not contradictory. No early member of the Church claimed that Joseph changed his story, or contradicted himself. Critics of the Church have not been familiar with the data on this point.
- The shortest answer is that the Saints believe the First Vision not because of textual evidence, but because of personal revelation.
- The Church didn't really "choose" one of many accounts; many of the accounts we have today were in diaries, some of which were not known till recently (1832; 1835 (2); Richards, Neibaur). The 1840 (Orson Pratt) and 1842 (Orson Hyde) accounts were secondary recitals of what happened to the Prophet; the Wentworth letter and interview for the Pittsburgh paper were synopsis accounts (at best). The account which the Church uses in the Pearl of Great Price (written in 1838) was published in 1842 by Joseph Smith as part of his personal history. As new accounts were discovered they were widely published in places like BYU Studies.
- For the most common claim about a contradiction, see here: Only one Personage appears in the 1832 account
- Many questions about the First Vision are addressed here: First Vision accounts
8. Can you show me in the Bible the LDS teaching that we must all stand before Joseph Smith on the Day of Judgment?
- This is a misunderstanding and caricature of LDS doctrine. There is, however, the Biblical doctrine that the apostles will help judge Israel:
Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28)
- Since the saints believe in modern apostles, they believe that those modern apostles (including Joseph) will have a role in judgment appointed to them by Jesus.
- Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.
- Learn more here: Joseph Smith's status in LDS belief
Questions About LDS Scripture (excluding the Bible)
9. Can you show me archeological and historical proof from non-Mormon sources that prove that the peoples and places named in the Book of Mormon are true?
- This question is based on the mistaken assumption that the Bible message that Jesus is Christ and Lord is somehow "proved" by archeology, which is not true. It also ignores differences between Old and New World archeology. For example, since we don't know how to pronounce the names of ANY Nephite-era city in the American archeological record, how would we know if we had found a Nephite city or not?
- To learn more: Archeology and the Bible
- For physical Book of Mormon evidence specifically, see:
10. If the words "familiar spirit" in Isaiah 29:4 refer to the Book of Mormon, why does "familiar spirit" always refer to occult practices such as channeling and necromancy everywhere else in the Old Testament?
- The term "familiar spirit," quoted in the often-poetic Isaiah (and used by Nephi to prophesy about the modern publication of the Book of Mormon) is a metaphor, not a description of any text or its origin.
- To learn more: Book of Mormon as a "familiar spirit"
11. Why did Joseph Smith condone polygamy as an ordinance from God (D. & C. 132) when the Book of Mormon had already condemned the practice (Jacob 1:15, 2:24)
- The critics need to read the next verses. The Book of Mormon says that God may command polygamy, just a few verses later. (Jacob 2:30).
- To learn more: Book of Mormon condemns polygamy
- Many Biblical prophets had more than one wife, and there is no indication that God condemned them. And, the Law of Moses had laws about plural wives—why not just forbid them if it was evil, instead of telling people how they were to conduct it?
- To learn more: Polygamy not Biblical
- And, many early Christians didn't think polygamy was inherently evil:
- To learn more: Early Christians on plural marriage
12. Why were the words "white and delightsome" in 2 Nephi 30:6 changed to "pure and delightsome" right on the heels of the Civil Rights campaign for blacks?
- The critics have their history wrong. The change dates to 1837. The change was made by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, though it was not carried through in some other editions, which mistakenly followed the 1830 instead of Joseph’s change. It was restored in the 1981 edition, but that was nearly 150 years after the change was made by Joseph.
- This issue has been discussed extensively in the Church's magazines (e.g. the Ensign), and the scholarly publication BYU Studies.
- To learn more: Douglas Campbell, "'White' or 'Pure': Five Vignettes," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29 no. 4 (Winter 1996), ?. off-site
13. If God is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bones, why does Alma 18:26-28 and John 4:24 say that God is a spirit?
- In Alma, the reference is to Jesus Christ, who before His birth did not have a physical body—though this is likely not the intent of the verse, since it involves a missionary teaching a non-believer, for whom the missionary describes God as the equivalent non-believer's "Great Spirit." It is misleading to see this attempt to build on common beliefs as a definitive statement about the nature of God.
- John 4:24 does not say God is "a" spirit, but says "God is spirit." There is no "a" in the Greek. The Bible also says "God is truth" or "God is light." Those things are true, but we don't presume God is JUST truth, or JUST light—or JUST spirit.
- As one non-LDS commentary puts it:
That God is spirit is not meant as a definition of God's being—though this is how the Stoics [a branch of Greek philosophy] would have understood it. It is a metaphor of his mode of operation, as life-giving power, and it is no more to be taken literally than 1John 1:5, "God is light," or Deut. 4:24, "Your God is a devouring fire." It is only those who have received this power through Christ who can offer God a real worship.
—J. N. Sanders, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, edited and completed by B. A. Mastin, (New York, Harper & Row, 1968), 147–148.
- To learn more: God is a Spirit
14. Why did God encourage Abraham & Sarah to lie in Abraham 2:24? Isn't lying a sin according to the 10 commandments? Why did God tell Abraham and Sarah to lie when 2 Nephi condemns liars to hell?
- In the Bible, there are accounts of God commanding or approving less than complete disclosure. These examples seem to involve the protection of the innocent from the wicked, which fits the case of Abraham and his wife nicely.
- To learn more: Why would Abraham lie?
15. Why does the Book of Mormon state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10) when history and the Bible state that he was born outside of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem?
- The Book of Mormon does not say that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem; it says that Jesus would be born in the "Land of Jerusalem."
- Bethlehem is seven miles from Jerusalem. El Amarna letter #287 reports that "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah." Thus, The Book of Mormon gets the ancient usage exactly right. There was an ancient "Land of Jerusalem" and Bethlehem, Jesus' birthplace, was in it.
- To learn more: Book of Mormon anachronisms/Jerusalem vs Bethlehem
16. If the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth, as Joseph Smith said, why does it contain over 4000 changes from the original 1830 edition?
- Christians should be careful with such attacks. If they don’t want to have a double standard, they'd have to realize that there are more differences in Biblical manuscripts of the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament! Yet, Latter-day Saints and other Christians still believe the Bible.
- Most of the changes to the Book of Mormon were issues of spelling, typos, and the like. A few changes were for clarification, but the original Book of Mormon text would easily serve members and scholars.
- To learn more:: Book of Mormon textual changes
17. If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel," why does the LDS Church need additional works?
- The Book of Mormon's definition of "fulness of the gospel" is not "all truths taught in the Church." The fulness of the gospel is simply defined as the core doctrines of Christ's atonement and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Critics do not trouble to understand what the Book of Mormon says before attacking it.
- To learn more: Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel
18. If the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the everlasting gospel," why doesn't it say anything about so many important teachings such as eternal progression, celestial marriage, the Word of Wisdom, the plurality of Gods, the pre-existence of man, our mother in heaven, baptism for the dead, etc?
- The Book of Mormon's definition of "fulness of the gospel" is not "all truths taught in the Church." The fulness of the gospel is simply defined as the core doctrines of Christ's atonement and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Critics do not trouble to understand what the Book of Mormon says before attacking it. Making the same attack twice (see #17) makes it no more convincing the second time.
- To learn more: Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel
19. Why do you baptize for the dead when both Mosiah 3:25 and the Bible state that there is no chance of salvation after death?
- The passage in Mosiah 3:25, and any passages in the Bible which also imply there is no chance of salvation after death, are clearly addressed to those who have the opportunity to repent in this life. Those who have not, by no fault of their own, embraced the everlasting gospel in this life will have the opportunity to do so after death.
- The critics are on thin ice with this attack—do they wish us to believe in a God so unjust that He would damn someone for all eternity, simply because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus?
- Why wouldn't members of the Church baptize for the dead, when the Bible teaches this idea? (See 1 Corinthians 15:29.)
- To learn more:Baptism for the dead
20. Since the word grace means a free gift that can't be earned, why does the Book of Mormon state "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23)
- The Book of Mormon does not state that "all we can do" is a way of earning the grace of Christ. And there is not one member of the LDS church who believes that our obedience can ever be payment in full for the free gift of the atonement. By the same token, we reject the "cheap grace" ideas suggested by many modern Protestant churches that seem to require no effort on the sinner's part. The correct meaning of the Book of Mormon phrase "after all we can do" is clear in light of other Book of Mormon passages which define it as repentance and being forgiven of sin and cleansed of guilt (see Alma 24:10-12).
- In fact, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes the same thing about grace that the earliest Christians believed. Modern Protestant ideas are different from earlier teachings. They are entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make Mormon ideas "false" if we agree with how the earliest followers of Jesus saw the matter.
- One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians…
Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works.
The early Christians [and the Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience....
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999), 57, 61–62. ISBN 0924722002.
- The Latter-day Saints are pleased to be in the company of the earliest Christians. And it is ridiculous to try to exclude LDS from the community of Christians because they have not embraced the modified doctrines that were clearly adopted later.
- The LDS doctrine of salvation and grace are thoroughly explained in the 1998 conference talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the present-day apostles. We advise any who want to find out what Mormons truly believe on this subject, instead of some caricature of our doctrine, to read his talk at:
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55. off-site
- To learn more:
- Have Mormons been saved? (off-site, non-wiki)
Do members of the Church despair because they cannot keep all the commandments? (Link)
- Early Christian views on salvation (Link)
Some claim that the Church ignores the doctrine of grace at the expense of "works." Critics argue that Church leaders do not teach this doctrine, and as a result most members of the Church do not expect to be saved, since they are not "good enough." (Link)
- Works and grace—
How do the LDS see the relationship between works and grace? (Link)
- Salvation by faith alone (Link)?
- Scriptures on grace and works (Link)
- Unforgiveable sin (Link)
- Grace and the meaning of Baptism (Link)
21. Does the LDS Church still regard the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price as Holy Scripture even after several prominent Egyptologists proved it was an ancient funeral scroll?
- The LDS Church announced that fragments of the papyrus were from the Book of Breathings within two months of their acquisition.
- The big print in the Church magazine published as soon as the scrolls were recovered can be seen here.
- Critics often don't tell people that we are missing at least 85% of the scrolls that Joseph Smith had. We don't have papyrus with the Book of Abraham on it (except Facsimile #1) and have never claimed to.
- To learn more:: Book of Abraham:Book of the Dead
22. Why does the Book of Abraham, chapters 4 & 5, contradict Alma 11 in stating that there is more than one God.
- The term "God" may be used in more than one way. Latter-day Saints are not Nicene Trinitarians, but still believe in "one God."
- To learn more: Polytheism
23. Why does D. & C. 42:18 say there is no forgiveness for a murderer when 3 Nephi 30:2 says there is forgiveness for him?'
- Doctrine and Covenants 42 is "the law of the Church" and pertains to those who are baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who by baptism are adopted into the house of Israel. 3 Nephi 30:2 pertains to those who are still "Gentiles" and who are not yet "numbered with [God's] people who are of the house of Israel." For a member of the Church to commit murder there is no escape from some consequences of that act, whereas a person who has not yet made baptismal covenants may, under certain conditions, be forgiven and inherit celestial glory. For example, some Lamanites repented and were forgiven of their murders (see Alma 24:10-12), though their sins were committed, to an extent, in ignorance.
24. If the Adam-God doctrine isn't true, how come D. & C. 27:11 calls Adam the Ancient of Days which is clearly a title for God in Daniel Chapter 7?
- The real question should be how do LDS justify their interpretation of Ancient of Days as Adam. LDS are not dependent upon biblical interpretation for a complete understanding of the meaning of this or any other term. Since LDS have a more expanded idea of Adam's role, it is not surprising that they interpret some verses differently.
- The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes:
For Latter-day Saints, Adam stands as one of the noblest and greatest of all men. Information found in the scriptures and in declarations of latter-day apostles and prophets reveals details about Adam and his important roles in the pre-earth life, in Eden, in mortality, and in his postmortal life. They identify Adam by such names and titles as Michael (DC 27:11; DC 29:26), archangel (DC 88:112), and Ancient of Days (DC 138:38).
- Joseph Smith is one source for this view of Adam:
"‘Ancient of Days’ appears to be his title because he is ‘the first and oldest of all.'
- The critics are also perhaps too confident in their ability to definitively interpret an isolated verse of scripture. This section of Daniel is written in Aramaic, while the rest of the Old Testament is in Hebrew. The phrase translated "Ancient of Days" (attiq yômîn) as one non-LDS source notes, "in reference to God...is unprecedented in the Hebrew texts." Thus, reading this phrase as referring to God (and, in the critics' reading, only God) relies on parallels from Canaanite myth and Baal imagery in, for example, the Ugaritic texts.  Latter-day Saints are pleased to have a more expanded view through the addition of revelatory insights.
- Like many other Christians, the LDS see many parallels between Christ (who is God) and Adam. Christ is even called, on occasion, the "second Adam." It is thus not surprising that DC 27:11 associates Adam with a divine title or status when resurrected and exalted—after all, LDS theology anticipates human deification, so God and Adam are not seen as totally "other" or "different" from each other. LDS would have no problem, then, in seeing Adam granted a type of divine title or epithet—they do not see this as necessarily an either/or situation.
- This does not mean, however, that Adam and God are the same being, merely that they can ultimately share the same divine nature. Such a reading would be strange to creedal Christians who see God as completely different from His creation. Once again, the theological preconceptions with which we approach the Biblical text affects how we read it.
- To learn more:Adam wiki articles
- To learn more:Ancient of Days
25. Why does the Book of Mormon contain extensive, word-for-word quotes from the Bible if the LDS Church is correct in teaching that the Bible has been corrupted?
- It would be more correct to say that the Book of Mormon teaches that plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible 1 Nephi 13:28. The vast majority of that which has remained in the Bible is both true and valuable.
- Latter-day Saints take two years of every four in Sunday School studying the Bible. They cherish it. They merely refuse to believe that the Bible is all that God has said, or can say. God can speak whenever He wishes.
- To learn more: Bible basics
- For extensive evidence that the Bible both underwent change and deletions in the very early years, see here.
- To learn more: Mormonism and the Bible/Completeness
26. Why do the Bible verses quoted in the Book of Mormon contain the italicized words from the King James Version that were added into the KJV text by the translators in the 16th and 17th centuries?
- The italics do indeed identify words added by the translators. They were "added" because they were necessary words for making sense of the translation: in Hebrew and Greek the words are sometimes implied, but necessary for English to make sense. (Italics can mislead us, however, in suggesting that there is such a thing as a word-for-word translation without interpretation, save for the italics.)
- Thus, in some cases the italic words are necessary, and Joseph or another translator would have had to put them in. In other cases, Joseph removed the italic words. (It's not clear that Joseph even owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation era, much less that he knew what the italics meant.)
- This is really a question about why the Book of Mormon text is often very close (or, in some cases, identical to) the King James Version. If Joseph was trying to forge a book (as the critics claim) then why did he quote from the Bible, the one book his readers would be sure to know?
- To learn more: Joseph Smith Translation and the Book of Mormon
27. If the Book of Mormon was engraved on gold plates thousands of years ago, why does it read in perfect 1611 King James Version English?
- Because Joseph translated it as King James English.
- Why do modern translations of the Greek and Hebrew Bible sound like modern English, even though the texts are hundreds or thousands of years old? Because that's how the translators translated them. It doesn't say anything about what the language is like on the original.
- (French translators make totally different translations than English translators, but the manuscripts remain the same!)
- Do Christians condemn the Bible as an inauthentic record because their translations sound like 21st century English? This question is a good example of how insincere these "questions" from an anti-Mormon ministry are.
Questions About the Bible
28. If marriage is essential to achieve exaltation, why did Paul say that it is good for a man not to marry? (1 Corinthians 7:1)
- Paul does not say it is good not to marry, but quotes the Corinthian Saints' comments in a previous letter to him. Paul is responding to this claim, and he critiques it.
- To learn more: Paul says good not to marry?
29. Since the Word of Wisdom teaches us to abstain from alcohol, why did Paul encourage Timothy to drink wine for the stomach? (1 Timothy 5:23)
- In Timothy's day, water was often not safe to drink. (Historically, it is interesting that the temperance movement opposing alcohol only took off in the United States once relatively clean water supplies were available to most people—prior to that, alcohol mixed with water was a necessary way of keeping water drinkable.)
- The Word of Wisdom was given to modern saints as protection against "the designs of conspiring men in the last days." Certainly we don't have to look far to see such conspiracy against the health of customers at work today in tobacco companies or street drug dealers.
- This shows why modern revelation is so important—what was dangerous for us in the modern age (cigarette manufacturers, illicit drugs, alcohol marketing, etc.) may need different advice from God than that given 2000 years ago where dying from dysentery transmitted by contaminated water was a far bigger risk than dying of cirrhosis or stomach cancer.
- A related question which Christian critics ought to ask themselves might be, "Since we know now that alcohol—including wine—can cause gastritis, ulcers, or stomach bleeding why did Paul (a prophet!) tell Timothy to use it?"
- This is a lot like earlier questions about Joseph Smith or Brigham Young expressing a false, though popular, opinion about scientific matters. Paul isn't any less an apostle because he expressed a false idea about the benefits of alcohol on stomach problems.
- To learn more: Wine for the stomach and the Word of Wisdom
30. If obeying the Word of Wisdom—which tells us to abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco—is important for our exaltation, why did Jesus say that there is nothing that can enter a man to make him defiled (Mark 7:15)?
- The Word of Wisdom says nothing about such substances "defiling us." Members believe it is important to obey the Word of Wisdom because God has commanded us not to do something, and we have promised not to do it. We should keep our promises to God.
- The Jews promised not to eat pork, and so it was a sin for them to eat pork—not because pork contaminates or "defiles" them, but because disobedience (that which comes OUT of us, as Jesus said) shows we do not love and trust God. The underlying principle here is obedience to God, not the Word of Wisdom, per se.
- To learn more: Word of Wisdom
31. If Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and Elohim is referred to as God in the Old Testament, can you explain Deuteronomy 6:4 to me "Hear, O Israel: the Lord (Jehovah) our God (Elohim) is one Lord (Jehovah)?
- An alternate translation of the passage is "Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Jehovah] is our God [Elohim], the LORD alone" (ESV footnote). In this case, "Elohim" is used as a title meaning "God" while "Jehovah" is used as a proper name. This translation also would suggest the possibility of other gods for other non-Israelite nations as seen in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. Moreover, we must not make the mistake of thinking that the name-titles "Jehovah" and "Elohim" had those meanings anciently, or were always used that way in scripture—they did not, and were not.
- These titles as used in the LDS Church for the Father and the Son are modern (i.e., 20th century) and are used for clarity when distinguishing members of the Godhead. It is not to be expected that ancient writers used the terms always in the same way. The use of the term such as "Elohim" could mean, depending on the context and grammar, "God," "gods," or even what would be better termed "angels" or "heavenly beings."
- To learn more: Elohim and Jehovah
32. Why does the Mormon Church teach that we can be married in heaven when Jesus said in Matthew 22:30 that in the resurrection man neither marry, nor are they given in marriage?
- Marriages persist after resurrection if done by proper authority; they are not entered into after the resurrection. Yet, the Bible teaches that men and women are not complete before God without each other (See 1 Corinthians 11:11).
- The Church teaches that marriages need to be performed either in person or by proxy here on the earth. Thus all such marriages will be arranged either here or in the spirit world, and conducted either now or during the millennium on earth.
- To learn more: Marriage not needed for exaltation
33. How can worthy Mormon males become Gods in the afterlife when God already said that before him no God was formed, nor will there be any Gods formed after him (Isaiah 43:10)
- Critics often misunderstand the doctrine of theosis, or human deification. Yet, it is a doctrine shared by many early Christians and much of modern Eastern Christianity (e.g., Eastern Orthodox). However, the question asked here represents a misunderstanding of the Isaiah scripture in its ancient context when compared with the rest of the Bible.
- To learn more: "No God beside me"
34. If God had a father who was a God, how come Isaiah 44:8 says that he doesn't know him?
- Again, the interpretation of this verse is mistaken.
- To learn more: "No God beside me"
- See also: Infinite regress of Gods?
35. If God was once just a man who progressed to becoming a God, how do you explain Psalm 90:2:…"even from everlasting to everlasting, thou are [sic] God"
- The only aspect of this about which we are certain is that God the Father underwent a mortal experience like Christ did. Jesus was, however, God before He underwent His mortal experience, and the Father may have been too. We simply don't know.
- To learn more: Unchanging Nature of God
36. How can God be an exalted man when Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man?
- The verse actually says (NET Bible version):
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? (Numbers 23:19)
- Thus, the teaching here is that God is not a fallible mortal who will change his goals or say He will do something and then not do it. There is, by contrast, abundant Biblical evidence of God's physical form upon which man's body was patterned:
- To learn more: Corporeality of God
37. Why does the Mormon Church teach that Elohim had sexual relations with Mary to produce Jesus when both Matthew and Luke teach she was a virgin (The Seer, January 1853, p. 158)?
- The Seer was a publication that was officially disavowed by the First Presidency soon after it was published. So, this is not LDS doctrine. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the virgin birth of Christ, but has no doctrine about how such a miracle occurred.
- To learn more: Jesus Christ's conception
38. Why does the LDS Church teach that Jesus paid for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane when 1 Peter 2:24 says that it was on the cross?
- The atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminated on the cross. We can see from the Gospels that the suffering began in the Garden and went on until Jesus said on the cross "it is finished." Neither aspect was unimportant, and both involved suffering which we cannot fathom (see DC 19:18). The LDS Church has no quarrel with this doctrine. This hostile question seems to be an attempt to suggest that Latter-day Saints do not value or appreciate Christ's saving death on the cross, but this is false.
- It may be that the Church sometimes emphasizes Gethsemane, because traditional Christianity has long focused on the cross in art, iconography, and ritual. Yet, Gethsemane must not be overlooked, where Christ "sweat...as it were great drops of blood" for the sins of all humanity (Luke 22:44; see also Alma 7:11, DC 19:18).
- To learn more: Was Jesus crucified on a cross?
39. Why did Bruce McConkie write that a man may commit a sin so grievous that it will place him beyond the atoning blood of Christ (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, p. 93) when the Bible says that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7)?
- "Mormon Doctrine" is not an official publication of the LDS Church.
- In this case, however, Elder McConkie is in good company since Jesus taught that there was an unforgivable sin:
31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
- 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31–32, emphasis added)
- Thus, it seems that 1 John is best interpreted as meaning that any forgivable sin is cleansed through—and only through—the blood of Christ. Latter-day Saints understand the "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" to be rejecting the atonement of Christ when one has a perfect knowledge of it.
- John later qualifies his statement making clear there is a sin that is unforgivable.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it 1 John 5:1.
- The counsel here is to pray for those who sin unless they have committed the "sin unto death" which cannot be forgiven. Obviously, if one rejects the atonement of Christ, one cannot be saved by it, and so one will not be forgiven for that sin.
- To learn more: Unforgivable sin
40. Why does the LDS Church teach that man first existed as spirits in heaven when 1 Corinthians 15:46 says that the physical body comes before the spiritual?
- 1 Corinthians is not talking about the order of creation, but is talking about the regeneration of the wicked person into a spiritual, born again person. Thus, of course the physical (i.e., carnal) person comes first, and the spiritual (i.e., born again) person comes next when regenerated through Christ.
- Biblical statements indicate that God is the father of our spirits and we were known to him before our birth (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5).
- To learn more: First Corinthians 15 and spirit bodies
41. Since Jesus statement, "be ye therefore perfect" (Matthew 5:48) is in the present tense, are you perfect right now? Do you expect to be perfect soon? According to Hebrews 10:14, how are we made perfect?
- In this life, perfection is something that can only be achieved by God's grace and in Christ. His perfection becomes ours through our covenant relationship with Him.
Yea, 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 nowise 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. Moroni 10:32-33
- However, Matt. 5:48 suggests there will be a time when we will actually and independently be perfect like God. This, however, is not to be achieved in this life nor for a long time after death.
- To learn more: Theosis/deification of man
42. Why do Mormons say the sticks in Ezekiel 37 represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon when Ezekiel 37:20-22 tells us that the sticks represent two nations, not two books?
- The two symbols are not exclusive. The sticks can be nations, and each nation has a witness of Christ which helps in restoring scattered Israel. The use of the Ezekiel passage is a modern one for Latter-day Saints. It does not mean that this is the only interpretation, or the use to which Ezekiel intended it to be put.
- To learn more: Book of Mormon as the stick of Ephraim
43. Why does the LDS Church teach that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers when both the first chapter of John and Colossians teach that Jesus is the Creator of all things, including Lucifer?
- This is another question intended more to sensationalize beliefs and polarize rather than lead to meaningful communication. Presumably, something akin to guilt by association is intended. The short answer a similarly rhetorical statement—the critic, Judas, and Hitler are brothers too! But the reality of that relationship obviously need not taint the good standing of the critic. All sons of Adam (including all subsequent generations) are brothers.
- Latter-day Saints do indeed believe that in a meaningful sense Jesus, angels (including the fallen angel Lucifer), and Adam and all his sons are sons of God—and hence, brothers. The Bible corroborates our respective sonships. No Christian should disagree with that. Perhaps the criticism stems from the fact that Latter-day Saints happen to believe that all the sons of God existed together pre-existently? However, this belief need not change the general equation for brotherhood upon which all Christians agree. Suffice it to say that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus Christ had a unique status as God in the pre-existence—a status other sons of God did not have! Jesus Christ's earliest introduction in Scripture uniquely embraced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes that clear—... one among them that was like unto God -- Abraham 3:24–28). None other had Christ's status. And that unique status Jesus Christ had in the pre-existence means Lucifer's brotherhood and our brotherhood with Him there were exactly the same as our common brotherhood with Him is based on His dwelling on the Earth. Brothers yes. Different yes.
- On Colossians, see: Creation in Colossians 1:16
- To learn more: Jesus Christ is the brother of Satan
- Also, note a caution on uses of the word on "all" in scripture from Evangelical leader, Charles Spurgeon:
"The whole world is gone after Him." Did all the world go after Christ? "Then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children," and "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." Does "the whole world" there mean everybody? If so, how was it, then, that there were some who were "of God?" The words "world" and "all" are used in seven or eight senses in Scripture; and it is very rarely that "all" means all persons , taken individually. (Particular Redemption, 28 February 1858)
- In other words, if the Bible is to be deemed to be always plain/perspicacious, if such a philosophically absolute interpretation of the word "all" were intended by John or Paul, they would certainly have provided the necessary academic/philosophical clarification, in the immediate context, and the Bible would be much more of a systematic theology and less of a compilation of religious history and moral teaching, and simple witness of God's existence and love.
44. Why do worthy Mormon males hold the Aaronic Priesthood since Hebrews 7:11-12 clearly teaches that it was changed and superseded by something better?
- Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:
Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...]
- The Church uses the Aaronic priesthood as a "preparatory" priesthood, but has no disagreement with the idea that the Melchizedek priesthood contains greater power and authority, and is vital to the government of the Church of Christ.
- It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).
- To learn more: Hebrews 7 and the Aaronic Priesthood
45. If your leaders are correct about the complete falling away of the true church on earth, was Jesus in error when he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)
- The critics again make a mistake by misunderstanding the original Greek text. In this case, "hell" is not a reference to the powers or evil, or Satan.
- The word translated as "hell" in the KJV is actually Hades, the dwelling place of all departed spirits. For the gates of Hades to not prevail against the church could mean that the gates would not be able to stop the church from entering therein. (By comparison, in The Gospel of Nicodemus the "gates" mentioned in Psalm 24 refer to the gates of Hades and the attempt made there to keep out Jesus in the period between his death and resurrection. [See The Gospel of Nicodemus, Part II, 6 in ANF 8:436-437.]) In other words, Christ’s Church, his disciples, would preach the gospel not only among the living, but also among the dead—not even the gates of Hades could keep them out.
- Another interpretation is that "prevail" has reference to keeping inhabitants inside. In this thought, gates could only prevail against something that is already inside of them and not external to them. This interpretation would be that Christ was saying that His Church would soon be inside the gates of the spirit world alone because of apostasy on earth, but that the Church would later come out from the world of the dead and back to earth—that His Church would shortly be confined to the spirit world, held back by its gates, but that later, members of Christ's Ancient Church (such as Peter, James, and John) would come, by revelation, out from behind the gates of Hades to restore the gospel to the earth.
- Both of the above readings are distinct possibilities. Both reconcile all the Biblical data.
- To learn more: Apostasy and the "gates of hell"
Miscellaneous / General Questions
46. If having a physical body is necessary to become a god, how did Jesus become a god before he had a body?
- Having a body is necessary for a fullness of joy (DC 93:33). It was necessary that at some point Jesus receive a body, but the timeframe in which He did so is not particularly important. (To travel to another country, one needs both a passport and an airplane ticket. It doesn't matter in which order one gets the passport or the ticket, but one must eventually have both in order to reach one's destination.) If correct sequence is an absolutely requirement, then all Christians would need to explain how Christ's atonement could be efficacious to those who were born, lived, and died prior to His crucifixion. The fact that the atonement was effective should caution us against adopting an absolute requirement for sequence concerning Christ's receipt of a physical body.
- To learn more: Christ divine before birth
47. Do you think the LDS Church will reconsider its teachings that the American Indians are descendants of the Jewish race now that DNA has proven that they are actually descendants of the Asian race?
- It was never LDS doctrine that the Book of Mormon peoples were "Jewish." They were from Ephraim and Manasseh, two other tribes of Israel, but not Judah explicitly. They can only be considered "Jewish" in that they came from Jerusalem.
- LDS doctrine only holds that some of the ancestors of the Amerindians were from the Middle East of circa 600 BC. Most scholarship on this matter since at least the 1950s (and stretching back to the turn of the century) has seen the Nephite contribution as numerically small.
- If Lehi left any descendants at all, then all Amerindians share Lehi as an ancestor. Many people do not realize that everyone alive today is directly descended from such people as Charlemagne, Muhammad, Confucius, and the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. (Click here for more information.)
- There is a huge literature on this matter:
- To learn more: Amerindians as Lamanites
- To learn more: Book of Mormon and DNA evidence
- To learn more: Geography and DNA
48. If polygamy was officially re-instituted by the Mormon Church, how would your wife feel about you taking another woman?
- This is obviously a leading question—entirely hypothetical and intended to be negatively emotive. The general principle, however, is that each member always has the responsibility to determine if new policies are from God, and then to act accordingly. This has always been so. People had to decide whether to listen to Moses when he told them what the Lord wanted them to do. People had to decide whether to listen to Samuel, David, or Elijah when they told them what the Lord wanted. They had to decide whether to heed Jesus Himself who, when many chose to stop following Him, asked the apostles, "Will ye also go away?" (John 6:67.)
- Obedience is always an individual decision.
49. Since the LDS Church teaches that there was a complete apostasy of the true church on earth, does that mean that the 3 living Nephites and the Apostle John went into apostasy also
- No. "Apostasy" merely means that no organized Church on the earth had the full authority or doctrine necessary for salvation for mortals. The Nephites and John were not exercising their priesthood authority for others in a church setting. There was no mortal priesthood authority, and no Church authorized to act in God's name.
- To learn more: Priesthood on earth during the apostasy?
- To learn more: Apostasy portal
50. Why are Mormon Temple ceremonies secret to the public when the Old Testament temple ceremonies were open to public knowledge?
- Large portions of LDS temple ceremonies are publicly discussed in church publications such as the Ensign, the History of the Church, and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. There are, however, certain aspects of temple worship that are considered to be of such a sacred character that they are not to be viewed by, nor discussed with, the uninitiated. The same was true with the biblical temple of ancient Israel -- Gentiles were never allowed into the three main temple areas (outer court, holy place, holy of holies) and the entrances throughout the temple complex were guarded by porters and shielded by veils. The vast majority of the Israelites were never allowed to view the ordinances that took place in the temple proper (holy place, holy of holies).
- Many early Christian groups had ceremonies or services (frequently referred to as the "mysteries") that were only open to those who were faithful members in good standing. Would the critics also condemn them?
- Jesus also taught his apostles things which they were not permitted to teach to everyone, and this was done in private.
- The Latter-day Saints are merely following a pattern of respect for holy things laid down by Jesus and the early Christians (Matthew 7:6). Latter-day Saints treasure this aspect of Christian life and worship, clearly spelled out in history and scripture.
- To learn more: Hugh W. Nibley, "Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum," Vigiliae Christianae 20 (1966):1-24; reprinted in Hugh W. Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Vol. 4 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Todd Compton and Stephen D. Ricks, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987),10–44. ISBN 0875791271. direct off-site
- [note] Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007).
- [note] Arthur A. Bailey, "Adam," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:15–16. off-site off-site direct off-site
- [note] Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 167. ISBN 087579243X. off-site
- [note] Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, "Ancient of Days," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 62. ISBN 0802824005.