Monday, February 4, 2013

The Bible and The Book of Mormon

Are the New Testament and Book of Mormon really that much different?  Not if you're comparing the eyewitness testimony to Jesus' resurrection and the eyewitness testimony to the gold plates Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon.

According to the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus was witnessed by the following people:

  1. Several women including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, Joanna and Salome
  2. The 12 Disciples including Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Nathanael.
  3. After being with the 12, he appeared to a crowd of some 500 witnesses many of whom were still alive in 55 C.E. when the 1st letter to the Corinthians was supposedly written.
  4. Finally there is the Apostle Paul's vision on the road to Damascus.

Points 1 and 2:  The four Gospels are attested to be written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  However there is no documented proof of this as no originals of the Gospels exist and there is no historically documented evidence that these four men were actually the authors.  Nor is there any outside historical evidence that any of these men saw what is claimed that they saw.

Point 3:  There are no names given of any of these supposed eye-witnesses in the scriptures.  Nor are any of the locations given.  This is totally unreliable hear-say evidence written by Paul who was not even an eye-witness to the events he wrote about.  

Point 4: Again, there is no historical evidence that this event occurred.  We have to take the writer of Acts' word for it, along with Paul's word - a man who never met Jesus, nor did he ever speak with him and, in fact, did not even know what he looked like.

Now let's look at the witnesses concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon:

First you have the testimony of the three, Oliver Crowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.  They claim to have "seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man.  And we declare with words of soberness, that an angle of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true."

Next, the testimony of eight witness, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith.  They claim to have seen "the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship."

Finally there is the sworn testimony of Joseph Smith Jr. himself:  "I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.  They remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand."

The point I would make is that we have no more historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than we do that the golden plates of Joseph Smith actually existed.  You have the testimony of those who traveled with Jesus just as you have the testimony of Smith and the people that were his friends and relatives.  If we are to believe Paul and the Gospel writers, why not believe Joseph Smith and his people?  There is no evidence or proof that either are any more reliable than the other.

However, the Book of Mormon has one thing going for it that the Bible does not.  According to the Book, the resurrected Jesus appeared to multiple Native Americans here in America, which means he appeared to people outside Israel, something he did not do according to the Bible (other than to Paul).  I'd say those people Jesus appeared to in America were not Jewish, but the Book of Mormon claims them as a Lost Tribe of Israel which I suppose makes them uncircumcised Jews.  

At any rate, I think it would be difficult to accept the eye-witness reports of the Bible while at the same time rejecting the eye-witness reports concerning the Book of Mormon.  As for those of us at Table 54, we simply reject them both.  When the shoe fits, you have to wear it.


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