Mormons (or Latter-Day Saints, as they prefer to be called) came knocking on my door a few weeks ago. I have always admired the courage and faith exhibited by these young missionaries. It takes a bold confidence to walk up to a stranger’s front door and try to convince him or her that your religion is true and that theirs is false. Obviously, I think these Mormon proselytizers are mistaken in their beliefs, but imagine if Catholics took the same initiative in seeking converts…
Now your average Catholic may never go door-to-door spreading the faith, but when Mormon missionaries (or others) come knocking to share their religious testimony, it is important that we take such opportunities to correct their doctrinal errors and lead them closer to Catholic Truth…or at least plant a seed that may flower in time. There are many good resources – tracts, pamphlets, CDs, booklets, etc. – that can be purchased or obtained for free and distributed to these door-to-door evangelizers in an effort to inform them of the truth of the Catholic faith. Many of these resources are designed not just for Mormons but for any non-Catholic inquirer seeking answers about Catholicism.
Unfortunately, compared to other Protestants, Mormons have an added obstacle to conversion. They have been taught that the Bible is not the only holy text containing God’s Word. They accept The Book of Mormon as another Testament from God. In any conversation with a Mormon this fallacy must be addressed. To that end, I have written a brief explanation of why the Book of Mormon is a false writing. This is not a thorough examination of the subject, but it may serve as a starting point for discussing the subject with a Mormon. Feel free to print and use the text below when approached by Mormon missionaries. If you don’t feel confident enough to discuss the issue further with your Mormon guests, then give them the web address of this blog. I would be happy to listen to and respond to any comments or questions they might have…
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The Truth about the Book of Mormon
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly called Mormonism) is filled with sincere and honest people trying to live according to God’s will. They truly believe that Mormonism represents the true faith. If they are correct, if The Book of Mormon is really the Word of God (a New Testament of Jesus Christ), then certainly we owe it to God and to ourselves to adhere to its teachings and to accept it as Truth. If this is the case, then we should all be Mormons.
But if The Book of Mormon is not really the Word of God, then it is a mere fabrication, a farce, and we have no choice but to reject it. Indeed, the truth of the Mormon faith rests entirely on whether The Book of Mormon itself is true. Now, certainly there are many good lessons taught by the Latter Day Saints Church - traditional moral values, the importance of family, the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, to name a few. But these truths are mingled with other details that conflict with known historical facts, or with traditional Christian teaching. A brief examination will show us these errors are so blatant, that common sense forces us to reject the Book of Mormon without a second thought. Let us examine a few of these problematic details.
Facts Don’t Lie
The Book of Mormon supposedly tells a history spanning several centuries of a Jewish clan who arrived in the Americas around the time of the Babylonian Exile. They were led by God to build a ship and sail across the sea to the New World, sparing them from captivity in Babylon. Mormonism relies on the truth of this account as proof of its claim as an authentic faith tradition. In other words, if this event did not happen, Mormonism is false.
Here in America these Jewish exiles were to await the Good News of the coming of the Messiah. Numerous cities are described in The Book of Mormon which these Jews established in their new homeland. Details are given about geographical features such as the location of rivers and seas. We are told particulars about their culture, the crops they grew, the tools and weapons they made, the types of buildings they constructed, and their movements from one place to another across the land. One would expect that this information could be confirmed by archeologists. Such a vast and powerful civilization as described in the Book of Mormon would surely leave its mark on the land, especially considering that these events happened only a little more than 1600 years ago – not very long in historical terms. Surely some trace of their existence would be left behind.
However no such evidence has ever been found to support the Mormon account. Not only are there no remains of cities, roads, or buildings that match the descriptions given in The Book of Mormon, but even the geography appears fictitious. The rivers and seas described in its pages do not match anything we find in the Americas. Now Catholics (and other Christians) can take comfort in knowing that we do find evidence of civilizations as described in the Christian Bible. We find archeological support for King David, the city of Jericho, Moses and the Exodus, various wars and migrations, and many other biblical persons and events. Mormons cannot make such a claim about their “holy book.”
And It Gets Worse…
To further complicate the matter there are obvious historical inaccuracies in the description of the culture of these ancient Mormons. For instance, the Nephites and Lamanites (the two clans described in The Book of Mormon) are said to have used sail boats, magnetic compasses, wheeled vehicles, and fine linen; they used swords and employed advanced metallurgy including the refinement of steal; they made glass and had wine presses. But the truth is that none of these things were found in the New World before Europeans arrived centuries later. There is simply no historical evidence to support what The Book of Mormon claims on this matter. There is not a shred of evidence, not one artifact or relic, to verify the existence of these cultural advances in the Americas at this early date.
Also mentioned in The Book of Mormon are crops such as grapes, wheat, and barley, and domestic animals such as horses. But all of these things were brought over after Columbus’ discovery of America. These plants and animals were not native to America, and none of these things were brought here before 1492. Obviously the Book of Mormon is wrong.
Perhaps most telling of all is the genetic evidence against the existence of the Nephites and Lamanites themselves. According to Mormonism, Native Americans of today are descendants of these Jewish immigrants. And so, American “Indians” ought to provide a living testimony to the book of Mormon. If the book is true then there should be genetic evidence that would link Native Americans to the Jewish people. But this is simply not the case. There is not a single shred of DNA evidence to support this theory. Tests conducted on all of the various tribes of Native Americans show that they most closely resemble the people of Asia and the Far East, not the Jews of the Middle East.
Clearly, all of the facts point to one conclusion. The evidence is stacked solidly against The Book of Mormon. So why should we accept it as God’s Word? What could possibly persuade us to convert to the Mormon religion?
Hooked on a Feeling?
When Mormon missionaries ask us to read The Book of Mormon, they obviously do not suggest that we check the historical facts or research the truth of the text. As we have already seen, such research would only prove Mormonism false. Rather, the Mormon evangelist will say that we should read the Book of Mormon and search our souls - we should look for a “burning in the bosom” as a sign from the Holy Spirit. This feeling deep in our heart supposedly proves that this book is the very Word of God.
Now every Christian knows that God’s Word can certainly move us spiritually and produce a “burning in the bosom” as described by Mormons. But this cannot be the only proof necessary to demonstrate a book’s authenticity. As for the Bible, Christians can point to ample historical evidence to support its claims. And there are witnesses to the Bible’s authenticity dating all the way back to pre-Christian times. Thus history provides a witness to the Bible’s reliability.
On the other hand, The Book of Mormon has no such track record. There are no ancient manuscripts or outside sources to corroborate it or to verify the events described. Indeed, we are told that the only “ancient manuscript” that ever existed was “discovered” by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith in the 1800s. He secretly dug it up in upstate New York, copied the words in his own hand, and then the original document was mysteriously “taken up to heaven” so that no scholar has ever examined or verified its existence. All we have left are copies of the text transcribed by Smith. No amount of “burning in the bosom” can erase the doubt that surrounds the history for Mormonism. It takes more than a “feeling” to explain away this empty hole in the Mormon narrative.
Interestingly, Mormons are not the only group to claim a “burning in the bosom” as the proof for their religion. Muslims also claim that the Koran is an inspired text for much the same reason. They claim that simply reading the Koran will lead one to faith in Allah and in his prophet Mohammed. Supposedly the reader will be moved to belief by the shear power of the “divinely-inspired” text. And just as Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon through mysterious and secretive revelation from God, so too did Mohammed produce the Koran out of thin air and began a religion that had no history before.
If Mormons wish us to believe in their religion based on this flimsy proof, then they must explain why their religion is more true than Islam. The two religions have the same basis in fact…which is to say, absolutely no basis whatsoever.
Trust in God’s Word
Christians and Mormons can agree to at least one thing: God is no liar. Our God is the God of Truth. From this brief examination we now know that Mormonism is obviously founded on falsehood. The history presented in The Book of Mormon is a complete and utter fiction. This cannot possibly be the religion of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! The real Church of Jesus Christ could not have been established on an historical fabrication.
We also realize that we cannot simply brush aside these falsehoods because we feel a strange “burning in our bosom” that tells us to do so. Such emotional reactions cannot erase the Truth. Indeed, we are fallen creatures who can easily be led astray when we give in to unchecked emotions. We must not throw reason out the window in favor of whims and fancies. But Mormonism asks us to do just that – to ignore the Truth and follow a false feeling or emotion.
But the good news is that, for Mormons, God’s grace is not far away. The Bible is also accepted by Latter Day Saints as God’s Word. And this book is not filled with the errors and inconsistencies that are found throughout The Book of Mormon. In the pages of the Bible we can find the true history of God’s people, a history that is not invented by a Nineteenth Century charlatan, but rather a true account of God’s love for His people as it was carefully recorded and passed down through the centuries. If we can meet our Mormon missionary friends on this common ground, after carefully demonstrating the falsehood of their Mormon text, we can show them the Truth of God’s Holy Word and point them toward a more perfect relationship with the God of Truth.