Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions/Contradictions in LDS scripture table

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    Alleged Contradictions in Latter-day Saint Scripture: Table

QUESTIONS


Many conservative Protestant critics have reproduced a table which purports to show how LDS scripture contradicts itself.


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

CONCLUSION


The table below examines the supposed contradictions, presents the scriptures cited in context, and demonstrates that claims of contradiction rest on:

  1. a misinterpretation of LDS scripture
  2. comparing two verses which are speaking about different things
  3. reading Protestant meanings into scriptural terminology

DETAILED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Supposed Contradictions in LDS scripture

Number Column A: Book of Mormon... Column B: "Contrasting" scripture... Response and Comments

1

One God Plural Gods
  • The scriptures in Column A all state that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Column B scriptures explain the nature of this oneness. Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17:22-23).

To learn more:

2

God is a Spirit God Has A Body
  • The scriptures in Column A describe missionary efforts to teach the pagan Lamanites about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries begin their efforts by explaining that what the Lamanites called "The Great Spirit" was God. This is not an attempt to give a theological description of God's nature, but to build on common beliefs.
  • To the Lamanites, being "The Great Spirit" did not preclude being corporeal—Ammon was mistaken for the great spirit, and yet he clearly had a body, could perform physical actions, etc. So, the concept of "spirit" used by the Lamanites is not (as the critics assume) the same as the "spirit" of Nicene trinitarianism.
  • The God to which the Column A scriptures refer is Jesus Christ, or Jehovah. In LDS doctrine, Jesus Christ was a premortal spirit that did not yet have a physical body when the scriptures in Column A were given. Thus, the description of Christ as a Spirit was accurate before His birth even in LDS terms.

To learn more

3

God dwells in the heart

...35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. 36 And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell....

God does not dwell in the heart

The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse [John 14:23], is a personal appearance; the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
  • Column B explains that when Jesus says that He and the Father will "make our abode" with those who "keep my words," this means that the righteous may physically behold them. It targets the false idea that God does not have any physicality, and cannot be seen.
  • Column A describes the fact that the spirit of Satan or the Spirit of the Lord (i.e., the Holy Ghost) will "possess" or influence mortals depending upon their choices. The Holy Ghost can dwell in the heart of man, since he is a spirit (see 2 Timothy 1:14 and DC 130:22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.

4

One God creates Multiple Gods create
  • As discussed in point #1, LDS doctrine sees God as one, but not one in substance. In LDS doctrine, God may be properly spoken of as one and as consisting of more than one person or being.
  • This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

To learn more

5

God Cannot Lie

God Commands Lying

...22 And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon; 23 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say—She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise: 24 Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live. 25 And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me—Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.
  • Abraham misled the Egyptians by not disclosing all the facts. He did not disclose that Sarai was his wife. It was, however, true that she was his sister—more specifically, she was what anthropologists call a "parallel cousin," who under Jewish levirate law was considered his sister.[1]
  • Conservative protestant critics are disingenuous in posing this question, since Abraham twice uses this tactic in the Bible (though God is not said to explicitly command it). God no where condemns Abraham for this supposed "lie." Furthermore, the explanation for Abraham's claim is also included in the Bible—see Genesis 11:25-29 and Genesis 20:11-12).
  • The Bible also contains similar examples of God commanding a prophet to make a "strictly true" statement intended to deceive the wicked and protect the lives of the innocent, and other cases in which God ratified a decision to withhold the truth to save innocents.[2]

6

God's Word Unchangeable

Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

God's Word Can Change

Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.
  • Column A speaks of "decrees of God"—the commandments which God has given about how to return to him, and the consequences for disobedience. The speaker is the prophet Alma, addressing a sinful son who has left the ministry in pursuit of a harlot.
  • Column B notes that humans may be in changing circumstances. Thus, God may give specific commands in one situation, and different commands in a different situation necessary for carrying out His work. God will not force men to obey—if some disobey, then God may need to alter commands. If he tells John to go on a mission, and John refuses, then God may need to "reassign" someone else to carry out John's former task. As the scripture says, the consequences of this will "be answered upon the heads of the rebellious"—there is still a penalty for disobedience, but God's plans cannot be thwarted by mortal disobedience.
  • Neither scripture mentions "God's word" (which conservative Protestants would associate with scripture), but this terminology allows the critic to give the misleading impression that the verses are discussing the alteration of scripture, instead of on-going revelation adapted to the good and bad choices which mortals make.

7

No Pre-Existence of Man

For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?
And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?....34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;
Pre-Existence
  • The scriptures in Column A say nothing about pre-mortal existence. Jacob 4 asserts that God spoke and created man's body "upon the face of the earth." Alma says that man's body was created after the image of God. None of these says anything about a pre-existence.
  • Abraham 4:27 goes on to describe the creation of the body of mankind after the image of God—the same doctrines taught in column A.
  • This criticism assumes creation out of nothing—creatio ex nihilo—another unbiblical doctrine which conservative Protestants criticize Latter-day Saints for not accepting. For the critics, any creation must be ex nihilo creation; Latter-day Saint doctrine does not require this.

To learn more:

8

Death seals man's fate
And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. 34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
Chance for repentance after death
  • Column A scriptures speak of those who have had the opportunity to accept the gospel in this life, and have rejected it. Such people lose their chance for exaltation in LDS doctrine (see DC 76:73-78). They are those who "have known and...been taught all these things....[coming] out in open rebellion against God." Alma cautions those who "have had so many witnesses" against putting off the repentance and conversion which they know they need to undertake.
  • Column B describes those who have never had this opportunity.
  • If one cannot accept the gospel beyond the grave, then all those who have not heard of Christ in this life must be damned for all eternity—the critics may be comfortable with such an outcome, but the Latter-day Saints do not believe that a merciful God would condemn His children for that which they never had the full chance to receive.

9

Heathen Saved Without Baptism Baptism for the Dead
  • The scriptures in column B explain how the results in column A are accomplished. The heathen who choose to accept Christ will be saved, without baptism in their mortal life, because of vicarious baptism in their behalf, which they may accept or reject.
  • The scriptures are clear that without baptism, no one may be saved (John 3:5). Yet, the majority who have lived on the earth have not had the opportunity for baptism. Without vicarious baptism and preaching Christ in the post-mortal world, God would be said to eternally damn the majority of mankind for something they never had the chance to receive.
  • Note: 2 Nephi is not necessarily targeted at "the heathen"—it is targeted at those who have not been given the law. The Book of Mormon teaches elsewhere that all normal people have the spirit of Christ given them, and know good from evil (Moroni 7:16). "Heathen" peoples would still be responsible for the degree to which they observed the law which they had been given through the spirit of Christ, and would require forgiveness of sins against that law—through Christ and post-mortal acceptance of vicarious ordinances. Those who have not received any law would probably be restricted to little children, and others with physical or mental handicaps that render them essentially "child-like."
  • Note: Moroni 8 is likewise discussing little children and others who have no law, not necessarily "the heathen."

To learn more:

10

Only options are heaven or hell Three degrees of glory, with most people "saved"
  • The Book of Mormon teaches that one must accept Christ's sacrifice, or be damned: its focus is on either exaltation, or damnation. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how those who do not accept exaltation through Christ are judged according to their works. All who do not fully accept Christ will be blocked ("damned") from receiving some of the gifts which they could have enjoyed. Yet, it would be unjust for God to impose identical punishment on the vast range of human sins.
  • The Book of Mormon focuses the new or potential Christian on the absolute necessity of accepting Christ and His gospel. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how God remains merciful and just as he judges those who have not fully accepted Christ's gospel by their works.
  • Once again, we see the critics upset because more information which complements—not contradicts—earlier scripture is given.
  • The table is also misleading, since Latter-day Saints use the term "saved" in a variety of ways, and would not regard most of those discussed in the Column B as "saved" in the same sense discussed in Column A.

'To learn more:

  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55. off-site
    Elder Oaks discusses at least six senses in which Latter-day Saints use the term 'saved' in their theology.

11

Murder can be forgiven
Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
'Murder cannot be forgiven
...And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
  • Column A is addressed to those who have not yet accepted and covenanted with Christ—"ye Gentiles." Column B is addressed "unto the Church." Those who have a certain minimum of spiritual knowledge cannot commit murder and be completely absolved of the consequences. Those with less spiritual knowledge may be forgiven of murder following sincere repentance (Alma 24:9-11).
  • Once again, two different doctrines are being taught, but the critics ignore this.

12

Polygamy condemned Polygamy commanded
  • The critics are careful to omit the verse of scripture that explains this apparent contradiction, Jacob 2:30. This scripture from column A makes it clear that God may, under some conditions, command polygamy: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things."
  • Scriptures in column A show the "default" command to practice monogamy, which God may alter according to His plan and circumstance as described in column B.
  • This is a tired, well-worn anti-Mormon attack—its dishonesty should be clear.

To learn more:

13

Against Paid Ministries
...But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
...Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God."
For Paid Ministries
those working full-time in the Church's temporal affairs are "to have a just remuneration" for their work. [Bishops and councilors, at the time, were full-time jobs. Many bishops today would probably agree that such callings could be full time nowadays as well!]
  • Column A does not reject having someone be paid in a religious capacity. Column A insist that the motivation for those working must always be God's glory and the benefit of the Church. If they are working for money, or to get gain, there are grave spiritual risks for teacher and listener.
  • The second scripture in column A reflects this, since the religious community described had just escaped a wicked society in which a king and his hand-picked priests had used religion for gain and the satisfaction of their lusts, not teaching of the truth.
  • The second scripture also acknowledges, however, that there may be circumstances in which religious leaders may need financial help or support, as described in the Column B scriptures.
  • Again, these scriptures are complimentary and addressing different aspects of an issue.
  • The critics omit the scripture from the Book of Mormon that describe the problem:
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29)
  • The problem is priestcraft—to do religious acts for the purpose of getting gain or glory.
  • Priestcraft is a problem of attitude, and can happen whether one is paid or not.

To learn more:

  • David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning By Faith," (3 February 2006), Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion. off-site
  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign (October 1994), 15. off-site
    Elder Bednar and Elder Oaks discuss the risks of priestcraft for Church teachers, paid or unpaid.

14

Corrupt Churches Promise Forgiveness For Money
31 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. 32 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Church Members Who Pay Tithing Will Not Burn
23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming. 24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
  • Column B has had the next verse (v. 24) omitted, which is need to properly interpret verse 23. Nothing in column B promises forgiveness of sins. Rather, column B points out that if members of the Church refuse to tithe, this is good evidence that they are proud and wicked—they remain committed to Babylon, a symbol of worldliness.
  • Tithing thus prepares us and helps transform us. It weans us from worldliness, and helps remake us into the type of people who will not be consumed at God's appearance. It does not purchase forgiveness—but, if offered in the proper spirit, it will transform us from the type of people who will not seek Christ's atonement with humility into those who will.
  • Churches described in column A offer forgiveness and absolution with no change in behavior or character. Column B calls for a change in behavior, which can transform character. Those thus transformed may then seek and receive forgiveness. The approaches are mirror opposites.

15

Adam in the Americas Adam in the Old World
  • Moses is based upon the Bible narrative of Genesis. While the Genesis/Moses account describes the Garden of Eden in relation to four rivers—Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. The first three rivers are related to the lands of Havilah, Ethiopia, and Assyria (see Genesis 2:11). This organization corresponds to no known geographical location, in the old or new worlds.
  • Since Genesis does not match a real world geography, rather than seeing these descriptions as literal, most Bible scholars have seen them as a symbolic tool to place Eden at the "center" of creation. Given that the Bible was written in the Old World, it is unsurprising that the symbols therein use Old World sites. Such symbols, however, are of little use in establishing a literal geographic location in either the Old or New World.

To learn more:

As we have seen, none of these paired scriptures contradict each other. This list misunderstands and misrepresents LDS doctrine.

Endnotes

  1. [note]  Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  2. [note]  See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.

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