“The Biblical Roots of Mormonism” is a defense of Mormon doctrines using only the Bible. The authors concede that some of the unique doctrines of the LDS church are better defended in LDS scriptures but nonetheless have origins and support in the Bible. Before reading the book I assumed it should be titled “Prooftexting the King James Bible on Behalf of Mormonism.” But I wanted to give it a fair shake so I sat down with the book, my Bible and an open mind.
The book overviews basic Christian and uniquely Mormon doctrines. Each chapter is broken up into two sections; “Biblical Teaching” and “Mormon Understanding”. The “Biblical Teaching” included an overview of a few Biblical passages and an explanation as well as the passages reproduced from the King James Bible. The “Mormon Understanding” expanded on the ideas from the first section and typically took the concept further into the uniquely Mormon perspective. Rarely if ever was the Bible referenced in the second section.
I was generally disappointed with the authors approach to scriptures. Most of the passages were straight forward and on point. It’s hard to disagree that the Bible teaches that there is a God who offers salvation through Jesus Christ. But when the attention of the book was turned on unique Mormon teachings the authors used some odd justifications for some of their scriptural support.
There is a basic approach to reading the Bible that I think everyone should adopt. “Never Read a Bible Verse.” A reader should always read a verse in context to see what the entire passage is talking about. I think if the authors had used this principle and used a modern English translation of the Bible they would immediately have had a deeper understanding of the passages they cited. I won’t list every incident where a Biblical passage was misused but I will focus on one to illustrate my point.
The authors attempt to show an expectation of the Book of Mormon by citing Ezekiel 37:15-20
Verses 16 & 17 say:
“Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
They go on to explain that the people from the Book of Mormon come from the tribe of Ephraim, so this is an indication that scripture will be written by the people of Judah (the Bible) and scriptures will be written by the people of Ephraim (the Book of Mormon). Ezekiel’s prophecy is then fulfilled when Joseph Smith rejoins the Bible with the Book of Mormon into one set of scripture.
The problem is that if you read those verses in context it is quite clear that Ezekiel is talking about the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel which are scattered all over and will one day be united as one kingdom in Israel. There isn’t any wiggle room for an alternate explanation. The reader has to actually do damage to the plain meaning of the text to construe it to be a prophesy about the Book of Mormon.
To back up their case the authors direct us to two passages:
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
2 Corinthians 13:1
This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Again, if you look at the context of both of these verses, they are clearly talking about the proper procedure for church discipline. They don’t have anything to do with an expectation of multiple sets of scripture.
Shortly after encountering this flagrant misuse of scripture the authors included this summation of the Bible:
The Bible as we know it today begins with the Creation and ends shortly after the Ascension of Christ. The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament foretell of the coming of the Savior, while the twenty-seven books of the New Testament provide a record of the life of the Savior, with an emphasis of his public ministry. [emphasis added]
It seemed their understanding of the Bible ended at the Gospel of John. It was at this point that my open-mindedness towards the authors checked out. It seemed clear that they didn’t have a careful and thoughtful approach to the Bible and that they may not even have a decent understanding of the Bible itself. The Bible was a tool to support and validate Mormonism on occasion but not something that they had carefully consumed on its own. This resulted in more than a few outlandish non sequiturs.
I did find it interesting to discover which sort of nuanced view of Mormonism the authors held to. They believe that the Atonement happened in the Garden of Gethsemane but their treatment of works/grace was right in line with my own. The place where the book does its best work are the few passages that are ambiguous enough that a different interpretation can support the Mormon position such as baptism for the dead, spirit-prison and the lack of an explicit ban on polygamy.
Because of the misuse of some Biblical passages I can’t recommend this book as a useful tool in understanding the Bible. If the authors intended the book to be read by non-Mormons they should not have made frequent use of Mormon parlance. It may serve as a good introduction to basic Mormonism and be helpful to Mormons who are new to their faith. I think anyone who reads this book must have a copy of a modern English translation by their side so that they can investigate if each verse is being used appropriately.