LDS Contradictions to the Book of Mormon

Okay, the last question successfully launched an active discussion.  This one is even more controversial, so I can’t wait to see what it inspires.

I mentioned in the comments section of the last question that I expect that some people will prefer to focus on the quality of the question rather than answer the question itself.  That’s okay with me, some questions might be so lame that they can be disregarded.  But, it would be great if participants can at least attempt to answer the question.

So here goes #2

If you truly believe the Book of Mormon, doctrinally, how do you accept the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price since these books teach different concepts?

For further clarification on this question, please FIRST review this list of apparent contradictions before answering.  We need a common list of contradictions so that we’re all on the same page and this is it.

This question obviously gets at what I’ve been describing as the apparent orthodoxy of the Book of Mormon and the heterodoxy/heresy of the other Mormon scriptures (or vice -versa as the case may be).  Something that bothered David Whitmer enough to cause him to abandon the LDS church.

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24 thoughts on “LDS Contradictions to the Book of Mormon

  1. I will respond to the substance of the question when I have more time than I do now. But despite Tim’s comment, I’m going to attack the question itself just a bit:

    I wonder if these folks would apply the same standard of consistency to the Bible as they do to the specifically LDS scriptures.

  2. Eric: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Tim anticipated that response….

    Tim: the vast majority of those ‘contradictions’, in my view, are easily reconciled. For example, the whole “is it One God or Many Gods?” question is pretty straightforward to me since I believe that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are all One God (I’m a trinitarian after all!). Sometimes it’s important to see that the Father and the Son are separate beings; most times it’s important to see how they are One.

    That said, there are a few on that list that perplex me (e.g., Alma 34:32-35). On those grounds alone I could reject the Church and more, but I have many many more grounds that keep me ‘grounded.’ It’s akin to rejecting the entire book of Matthew because he disagreed with Luke and got the genealogy of Jesus wrong (or did he?): there’s just too much good in the Book of Matthew for me to throw it all away. Rather, I come away edified in general yet perplexed about certain things.

  3. Eric, I think that’s a very fair response. There are certainly are apparent contradictions in the Bible. Matthew and Luke’s genealogies are an easy “fix” (one is Joseph’s one is Mary’s). Others are difficult (death of Judas, one God/three Gods). The question is how do you synthesize those contradictions or make way for fallibility which doesn’t wreck one or all parts of your scripture.

    I think some of these LDS contradictions may be akin to the Gospel genealogies. Others are much more difficult. Is murder forgivable or not? Was it once, but is no longer? That is much tougher than the supposed contradictions in the Old Testament of God prohibiting “murder” but justifying “killing”.

    Brian, you’re a Trinitarian?

  4. When I was a true believer, especially when I was on my mission and I read the Book of Mormon every day (I got through it something like 10 times in English and twice in German), I was severely troubled by what I felt were contradictions between the plain meaning of the Book of Mormon and the Church’s modern-day teachings.

    I realize that there are apologetic explanations for all of it, but I think they’re all pretty flimsy and attenuated, and I thought so back when I was a believer, too.

    Why, I wondered, if the Book of Mormon was supposed to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ so much more clearly, did so much of it need reconciliation and explanation in order to wind up meaning the opposite of what it actually seemed to say?

  5. OK, let’s have a shot at each of the “contradictions” on that list you linked to Tim…

    “One God” vs. “Plural Gods”

    First off, the title itself is misleading. LDS have always distinguished between capital “G” “God” and lower-case “g” “gods.” The fact that so many Evangelical critics of Mormonism continue to insist on capitalizing both Mormon notions makes me wonder if some aren’t deliberately obscuring the distinction in the hopes of scoring debate points.

    Secondly, I would note that the problem is no more difficult than resolving the same contradiction between the Old Testament (with its scriptures about “One God”) and the New Testament (with its scriptures about 3 Gods). Or for that matter – the contradictions within the Old Testament itself where at one time it talks about one supreme God, but also speaks of a divine heavenly council.

    Evangelicals have resolved these contradictions to their own satisfaction. I wonder why they find it so hard to believe that we Mormons cannot do the same.

    The resolution is easy.

    One supreme God governs the universe – and that “God” consists of more than one individual united in perfect love, mind, will and harmony. One God. Easy.

    Let’s move on.

    “God is a Spirit” vs. “God has a Body”

    The passages cited are Alma 18:26-28 and 22:8-11.

    To be honest, I feel at once exasperated, and a little embarrassed for our critics whenever they pull this one out (yes, I have heard this argument before). In this instance, a little context goes a long way.

    In the passage in question, Ammon, who is on a mission to convert a heathen people, is standing before the heathen king and trying to explain a God to him that is totally foreign. To help the king understand what Ammon is talking about, he refers to something the king already knows about – the “Great Spirit.”

    This is an attempt at bridging a cultural divide – nothing more. It is not a statement of dogma. Ammon analogizes God to the closest thing to a supreme being that the heathen king Lamoni knows. This should not be taken as a statement about God’s substance in a doctrinal sense.

    At least the list didn’t make the truly embarrassing gaff of citing Alma 31:15 – which is a prayer that Alma hears an APOSTATE sect of Zoramites uttering. I’ve heard Evangelicals try to use that verse too. To anyone who knows the context, these arguments are really non-arguments.

    “God dwells in the Heart” vs. “God does not dwell in the heart”

    The Book of Mormon passage is a bit of poetic imagery. The D&C passage is directly refuting a contemporary argument advanced by other Christians at that day. Non-issue. Next…

    “Creation – One God” vs “Creation – Plural Gods”

    Since all the lower-case “gods” assisted in the creation under the will and direction of the One God, I see no contradiction here. The Book of Abraham is simply giving an additional, but non-contradictory detail about the process.

    Ask yourself Tim – if someone were to advance the notion that angels carried out God’s commandments and instructions and helped “form the flowers” or some other limited task – would you find it expressly contradictory with Genesis 1? Or would you simply reason that actions that God’s “minions” undertake through His express will and by His power are the same as if he’d performed them himself?

    Keep in mind His statements regarding His word – “whether by my voice or by the voice of my prophets, it is the same.”

    “God cannot lie” vs. “God commands lying”

    Geez, I don’t even have to read the scriptures in question to have problems with this one.

    What’s the contradiction between God not lying, and God commanding someone else to deceive in a fallen worldly context? There really isn’t any. God works with the fallen situation His children find themselves in. End of story.

    You ever read Les Miserables? There’s a scene were Inspector Javert comes to arrest Jean Val Jean and his housekeeper – who has never told a falsehood in her life – lies to the inspector and says he’s not there. I suppose you think she was wrong?

    As for the scripture about “woe unto the liar,” do you think this verse applies to the housekeeper? What about the hotel keeper in Rwanda who saved hundreds from genocide by lying to the militia about the people he was hiding there?

    I mean, really Tim…

    “God’s Word Unchangeable” vs. “God’s Word can Change”

    I’ve read the passages and I don’t get what you think the contradiction is. One of them is referring to how we are to respond to decrees the Lord makes. The other is speaking about God Himself.

    Besides, the “unalterable decrees” being talked about in the BoM passage are about God’s decrees regarding the final judgment. That’s in a bit different class than deciding where Thomas Marsh is supposed to go on his mission.

    “No Pre-Existence of Man” vs. “Man Pre-Existed”

    Again, I just don’t see a contradiction. There’s only a contradiction here if you assume that “created” means creation ex nihilo – which I have repeatedly stated that Mormon doctrine rejects.

    Just because God “created” man doesn’t mean man was pre-existent in some sense. For Mormons, the word create is used in the same sense that a painter “creates” a painting. Not out of nothing – but from something pre-existent.

    I’ve got to get ready to file some court documents…

    Anyone else want to have a stab at the rest of them?

  6. Kullervo, did you read the list? Or are you talking about your own private contradictions you discovered – independent of the list?

  7. Seth, just to clarify. Neither the question nor the list are my own creation. I’m simply using them as a conversation piece. You’re free to critique the question, the apparent contradictions and me, but I just want to be sure everyone realizes that I didn’t make that list.

    I agree that God permits lying in some situations. You should lie to Nazis to save Jews. I think that may be different than God commanding a person to lie.

    Looking forward to more.

  8. Mostly my own stuff, but some of the things on the list: trinitarianism, Moroni 8, heaven and hell, the inconsistency of baptism for the dead with Book of Mormon gospel, etc.

    Again, I’m not inviting dispute–I’m saying that these things bothered me, and I did not find the available explanations satisfactory.

  9. Brian, I am greatly encouraged by the direction of that article. But no, most Mormons are decidedly not Trinitarian.

  10. I said when I had more time, I’d get to the substance of the question, so here goes.First of all, I purposely haven’t read Seth R.’s explanations. It’ll be interesting to see the extent to which our explanations differ.Also, I would point out that I’m not particularly bothered by contradictions. After all, I grew up an evangelical, someone who was taught to both love and revere the Bible, and I still do. But the Bible itself is full of contradictions (or, to use a word that may be both more charitable and more accurate, paradoxes). I think that part of being a Christian is working through those differences to arrive at an understanding. That, in essence, is what many Christians did 1,700 or so years ago to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity (although they got their synthesis wrong). In some cases, it doesn’t really matter. Does it really matter how many animals of each kind Noah took on the ark (if indeed the story is meant to be understood literally)? Does it really matter the sequence of the Creation? Does it really matter how many times the rooster crowed? Not really, in my opinion.In some ways, faith is like the old cliche about the blind men describing an elephant after touching it — their explanations are contradictory but all true. We don’t have the entire picture, and until we do there will be contradictions.Second, I’m not required by my faith to believe that there are no errors in the scriptures. Even the introduction to the Book of Mormon acknowledges that’s a possibility. I think it’s a waste of time trying to spend too much time trying to get everything to fit together. I have no problem with believing that either Matthew or Luke got Jesus’ genealogy wrong — or, perhaps, that the purpose of the genealogies wasn’t to give us a historical record but to teach us something about the nature of Christ. (I never have bought the traditional explanation, the one that Tim gave. It just doesn’t jibe with the text. But I don’t have a better explanation either.) And there’s plenty I just don’t know, but I can live with that. And I will agree that the Book of Mormon is more “orthodox” than what the Church teaches today. I’ve long said that if evangelicals were to wake up and find the Book of Mormon in their Bibles, they would have to change very, very little. Probably the most unorthodox thing in there is the suggestion that the Fall was part of God’s plan, but even some evangelicals have taken a similar position.I can already tell this is going to be a terribly long post. So I’ll stop right here and get straight into the “contradictions” in the next post.

  11. Sorry about that. WordPress stripped out all of my paragraph tags. I’ll use carriage returns for the next post.

  12. OK, here we go. I’ll keep most of my explanations brief, but I’d be glad to respond to a request for clarification:

    One vs. many gods: Part of this is the old God-is-one/God-is-three issue. But there are also different definitions of what it means to be a god. Even the Bible alludes to multiple gods.

    God body vs. God spirit: Calling God a “Great Spirit” doesn’t negate the fact that he has a body. There’s no logical reason why both couldn’t be true. Another explanation is that according to LDS teaching (and parts of the Bible too), it was Jesus who was the creator. At the time of creation he didn’t have a body and could easily have been referred to as a “Great Spirit.”

    Where does God dwell?: I think that Alma and Joseph Smith are talking about two different things. Amulek is making the point that we have a personal God, one who isn’t distant, and that God’s relationship is with the righteous, those who seek to do his will, rather than with what is unclean. I think that Joseph Smith is making the point that God’s relationship isn’t with just individuals, but that as believers we are part of a church, a family. I also think it’s possible that Joseph Smith was using hyperbole here or was being overly literal; it wouldn’t have been the only time.

    Creation/gods: See above. Also, even Genesis 1 and 3 have God speaking in the plural, so I just don’t think that this is any big deal.

    God lying: Well, so now we have Abraham’s side of the story. God also does many things in the Old Testament I don’t approve of (like ordering genocide), so, to be honest about it, that’s one of those things I ignore for the time being and figure I can ask God about later.

    God’s word changing: Yes, the basics of the gospel don’t change and won’t. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t free to change his mind about certain specifics that change with the times. He certainly changed his mind more than once in the Old Testament.

    Pre-existence: I don’t see how the selections from Jacob and Alma are inconsistent with the idea of a pre-existence.

    Death seals one’s fate: I see these selections as complementary. I fail to see the contradiction. Whatever problem there is (and I don’t see one) in reconciling these passages is the same that the evangelical faces when dealing with the Pauling statement that “every knee show bow.”

    Baptism: I don’t see the BoM passages as having much to do with baptism. And even if there they did say what the authors claim, the fact that there exists baptism for the dead would explain how someone could be saved without baptism on Earth.

    Heaven/hell: Again, I see these passages as complementary rather than contradictory. But I will acknowledge that, in general, the language of the Book of Mormon is much more black and white about the afterlife than modern-day LDS teaching is. The idea of continuing revelation is the standard explanation for that, even if not completely satisfying.

    Forgiveness for murder: The big difference is that the modern revelation is given specifically to those who already believe. To understand the grace of God and then to kill one of His children seems is substantively different than doing so in ignorance.

    Polygamy: There very well may be a time and a place for everything, including polygamy.

    Paid ministry: The distinction here seems to be one of the purpose for which one labors, not whether one receives the essentials of life.

    Forgiveness/money/tithing: The BoM passage is talking about a quid pro quo, while the later passage has nothing to do with that.

    Adam in America: I see the modern passages as allegorical in nature. For all I know, Adam and Eve themselves may be allegorical, but that’s a whole other issue.

  13. Oh, and to clarify (now that I’ve read some of the conversation that took place while I was writing my posts), I’m not that particularly bothered by Abraham’s lying. But his complicity in her adultery rubs me the wrong way.

  14. “But no, most Mormons are decidedly not Trinitarian.”

    No, Tim. The point of that article, which I support, is that most Mormons aren’t aware that they are Trinitarian. The other point, just as important, is that many other Christians unknowingly espouse a heresy (i.e., modalism). In short, nobody is using the term “trinitarian” correctly.

  15. I would have to disagree with you Brian. Mormons may well enough agree with the three persons part of the Trinity, but the Trinity also entails that these three persons are one being, not just one in unity and purpose. Mormons would vehemently disagree on that last part.

    My understanding of LDS doctrine is that there are many, many Gods (and Goddesses) out there, but the only ones whom we have any dealings with are the Father, Son and Spirit. Some Mormons have told me that “God” is an office which the Father, Son and Spirit occupy, kind of like a bishopric with the bishop and his two counselors. However we may describe the oneness of the three in Mormonism, Mormons would maintain that the Father, Son and Spirit are in fact three separate beings.

    Mormons may be trinitarian in the sense of generally believing in three persons who are in some way one, but they sure aren’t Trinitarian. Trinitarian theology has been laid out, debated and refined for centuries. Mormonism isn’t it.

    We’ve already got enough terminology confusion between our camps with the whole “Mormons are/aren’t Christian” debate. I’m solidly against adding further confusion by Mormons trying to claim the term “Trinitarian.”

  16. I have reviewed the “Contradictions” and found that it is not contradiction, but your misunderstanding.
    for example:
    God did not comand to lie:
    “Chapter 2:22-25

    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.”

    She was his Wife (Married) this is true, but also true she is his sister in spirit, for we all are spirit children of the same parrents. Thus no lie, but they let the Egyptians use their own context instead of sharing the correct context of that relationship.

    Many other seemingly contradictions are the same, differing understanding and use of context. It is no different than the supposed contradictions in the Bible.

    Thus the answer to your question:
    They each are true and do not indeed contradict eachother.

    -D

  17. She was his Wife (Married) this is true, but also true she is his sister in spirit, for we all are spirit children of the same parrents. Thus no lie, but they let the Egyptians use their own context instead of sharing the correct context of that relationship.

    Come on. That’s only technically the truth. It’s a willful deception, which is a lie. You really think God gets let off on a technicality?

  18. Also Sarah was in his half-sister. But still a deception.

    Brian said:
    No, Tim. The point of that article, which I support, is that most Mormons aren’t aware that they are Trinitarian. The other point, just as important, is that many other Christians unknowingly espouse a heresy (i.e., modalism). In short, nobody is using the term “trinitarian” correctly.

    Once again, a Mormon who thinks he’s got it right and it’s everyone else who doesn’t understand Mormon theology (including Jeffery Holland).

  19. (Sorry, hit post too soon)

    BJM: …debating the post here, because it’d be better to discuss it over on the original thread.

  20. Once again, a Mormon who thinks he’s got it right and it’s everyone else who doesn’t understand Mormon theology (including Jeffery Holland).

    Once again, this makes my head spin. It’s not that the person thinks they’re right and everyone else is wrong–that would be fine. Normal even. It’s that the person thinks that they are right about “what the Church teaches,” and all these other members of the Church misunderstand.

    Arguing about what is true is a much different proposition than arguing about “what Mormons believe.”

  21. This is getting to be a bit of a threadjack, but I’ll throw in my two cents anyway:

    What I’ve long said is that while Mormons believe in the Trinity, we don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. While technically you might call LDS belief a sort of trinitarianism, to use that word would misapply how it is usually meant. It’s kind of like saying I believe in creationism because I believe God created the universe, but I don’t for a second think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old nor even that Genesis 1 has much to do with science. Believing that God is in three in one in the way Mormons do just isn’t the same thing as trinitarianism as the word usually is used.

    But I’d agree with BrianJ about one thing. As I’ve said before here, my experience has been that many, many evangelicals (not the clergy or the ones who are well educated in theology, but ordinary folks who haven’t studied theology) do believe in modalism. More than once I’ve heard in evangelical Sunday school classes that God is like water — ice, water and steam — and that’s modalism, which in traditional creedal Christianity is a heresy, not trinitarianism. A pastor who attended seminary won’t make that mistake, but the people who listen to him often do.

    If we were to make these beliefs into a continuum, with modalism on one end and the “heresy” of the LDS godhead on the other head, trinitarianism would be lot closer to the LDS side, I believe. And social trinitarianism, which some evangelicals espouse, would be even closer to the LDS end. While the differences between the two belief systems are insurmountable, they also have a lot in common.

    And to get back to the original thread, I like Seth R.’s explanation of the Great Spirit. It points to a major problem with exercises of this sort; context is everything, and picking a few verses here and there don’t do them justice.

  22. Without going point by point, which I think Eric did a sufficient job of doing earlier, I want to throw out a couple of LDS beliefs/perspectives that help explain why some Mormons are not bothered by the so called “contradictions”.
    1. Dispensations The LDS church teaches that Joseph Smith’s call to be a prophet of God marked the beginning of the “Dispensation of the fullness of times” or the Final Dispensation which will end with the coming of Christ. As part of the final dispensation, Mormon’s believe that there are some things that have been revealed today which have never before been revealed (see the LDS Bible Dictionary for more information). Instead of seeing a contradiction between the Book of Mormon and current teachings, Mormons see the current teachings (such as “chance after death”, “Baptisms for dead”, and “three kingdoms in heaven”) as more detailed explanations of the same basic principles found in the Book of Mormon and that these new details are the logical consequence of the final dispensation.
    2. Book of Mormon NOT a Summa Theologica. Some of these listed “apparent contradictions” seem to assume that Mormons appeal to the Book of Mormon as a comprehensive doctrinal discourse, which it is not. Instead, the Book of Mormon is a compilation of historical events and teachings that testify of Christ and help readers come closer to Him. Just like pastors today, the prophets and missionaries in the Book of Mormon recognized what information would be pertinent to various audiences at various times and responded to their audiences accordingly. Therefore it is irrational to expect that every time a prophet discussed his beliefs that he would include everything he knew about every aspect of religion. Keeping in mind that the book of Mormon is a collection of teachings over time, it is easy to see that just because a prophet did not mention the “pre-existence of man” in a specific lecture does not imply that he does not believe that “man pre-existed”. Likewise, just because the Book of Mormon does not get into a discussion on the nature of God every time God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ are mentioned it does not imply that current beliefs regarding the Godhead are in obviously contradiction.

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