Problem With The Book of Mormon: Alma 26-63
Once something is learned it can’t be unlearned and a small truth that starts as a trickle can open the spillway, and that leads to an unstoppable river of doubt, which is why the LDS Church teaches its members not to question. If you don’t know the truth, the truth won’t cause you to doubt the Church.
The members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are some of the kindest, friendliest and most generous people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and it is sad that they believe the lies that are told to them by the Church. When I look back on it, I am amazed at the mental gymnastics I used to participate in so that I could avoid things that would cause me to doubt the Church and to reconcile the troubling things about the Church I could not avoid hearing.
I had been taught that The Book of Mormon was error free, but the first time I read the book I noticed errors and lots of them. However, since the people were so nice, I wanted to believe the Church and its flagship book to be true to the point that I allowed the apparent errors to be explained away. I managed to either ignore or suppress all of my doubts about the Church to the point that it allowed me to gladly join the Church. When I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I did not truly know what it holds for doctrine, and by the time I learned I felt obligated to believe it. The Church has a saying they like to use, “milk before meat,” which is another way of saying they don’t teach anyone anything that might scare them away from the Church and slowly introduce the more troubling doctrines once a person is more committed to the faith.
I convinced myself that the only reason anything about the Church appeared to be wrong, especially with The Book of Mormon, was because I did not know enough about the Church. I spent the next ten years learning everything I could about the Church, its history and its doctrine, desperately trying to explain away all of the inconsistencies and the apparent lies of the leaders. I defended the Church every chance I got, regardless of the personal cost, even if I wasn’t convinced that the official answer was the true answer, because I felt that it was my duty to defend the Church.
Another major factor in my stalwart defense of the Church was that I did not want to think that I had believed a lie. The longer I had been in the Church and the more of my time talent and money I had invested in it, the more determined I was to prove to myself and to others that it was true. Eventually the evidence tipped the scale in such an obvious way that I could no longer pretend that I hadn’t noticed it.
I really wish that I had listened to the evidence when it was first presented to me instead of devoting so much time and effort to defending a lie, and the kicker is, it was a lie that didn’t benefit me at all.
Dallin H. Oaks
Does this counsel to avoid faultfinding and personal criticism apply only to statements that are false? Doesn’t it also apply to statements that are true?
The Church teaches that it is a sin to question the leaders of the Church and that it is a sin to speak against them, even if they are in the wrong, (1). During my time in the Church I was told that to speak against the leadership of the Church was the same as speaking against the Lord. Anyone who wants to investigate any claim made about the Church is strongly discouraged by the Church and are they told that all criticism of the Church is from the devil.
The problem with automatically assuming that any criticism of the Church is of the Devil is that history has given us many examples of people who have been outright lying to their followers and used that tactic to keep them from discovering the truth. David Koresh of the ill-fated Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, Scientology and many other groups make or have made the same claim about their critics, and for the exact same reason, they know the truth will set you free. Any claim that is true will hold up to examination and is not afraid of the truth.
It is not a sin to have doubts, nor is it a sin to do a little research to make sure that what you are devoting your life to is actually true and is the will of God. I have heard many true believing Mormons say that all Churches ask their members not to question, but I know for a fact that statement is not true; I have heard many pastors encourage their congregation to find out for themselves, and not just from internal sources. I am not spending my time exposing the truth about there Church because of any ill will or animosity but out of a love for those who are trapped in the LDS Church.
The issues in chapters 26 and 27 of Alma are things I have already addressed ad nauseam so I will skip them and move on to chapter 28. In the italicized chapter heading for chapter 28 it says, “The Lamanites are defeated in battle--tens of thousands are slain--The wicked are consigned to a state of endless woe; the righteous attain never-ending happiness. About 77-76 B.C.” Unlike the mention of things in America that should not have been present there at that time frame such as steel, silk, horses, cattle, the wheel, wheat and other crops, and the people’s obvious failures to follow the law of Moses while claiming to follow it, major wars that are reported to have killed tens of thousands of people can’t just be glossed over or swept under the rug.
In the story up to this point there have been a lot of wars and in Alma 28:2-3 it says, “there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad. Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi.”
Alma 28:10-11 says, “And from the first year to the fifteenth has brought to pass the destruction of many thousand lives; yea, it has brought to pass an awful scene of bloodshed. And the bodies of many thousands are laid low in the earth, while the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth.”
By the end of the narrative in The Book of Mormon, millions of people were killed and many cities destroyed, and even if we are to believe what it says in 3rd Nephi that some of the cities were covered by mountains or buried in the depths of the sea, there would still have been plenty of evidence of the civilizations, especially since the story tells us the people rebuilt and expanded and became a great people.
Throughout The Book of Mormon there are a lot of verses, such as Alma 30:2, that says so many people died that they were not even numbered. Another instance of so many people dying that they were not numbered is in Alma 44:21.
Alma 30:3 says, “Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses until it should be fulfilled” I have said it many times, but the only indication we have that these people were following the law of Moses is that they claimed to be following it. There are a few mentions of animal sacrifice, even though the law of Moses specifically states that such sacrifices are only allowed at the temple in Jerusalem, but there is no mention of observing the Passover or any other Jewish feast or festivals, no mention of ritual washings, no mention of sabbath observances, no mention of the laws pertaining to what they could eat, etc.
Not only are these people not following the law of Moses, but they are constantly talking about how dead the law is and are constantly talking about the coming of the Messiah in great detail, much greater detail than any of the writers of the Bible were privileged to. All throughout the story the many of the people act as if the law of Moses had already been fulfilled.
Before the birth of the Messiah the thought of treating the law of Moses as if it had been fulfilled or treating it lightly would be considered to be the height of blasphemy by anyone who was truly living the law. While it is true that the law pointed to the coming of the Messiah and the work he would do, the law was everything until it was fulfilled and no one was a Christian before the coming Christ.
It is interesting that in Alma 30 a man named Korihor, who we are told is an Antichrist, condemns the leaders and teachers of the people for teaching that they are under condemnation for the sins of Adam, and he says, “behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.” The interesting thing here is that the villain seams to agree with the 2nd Article of Faith which says, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression,” and the people who were supposed to be righteous in this story did not seam to agree with him on this.
A while after the end of my second mission president’s term we had a mission reunion and I had to get a photo with both of my mission presidents and their wives. Halfway through my mission I got a new mission president.
Chapter 31 of Alma tells of the mission Alma leads to reclaim the apostate Zoramites, and when I read this section of The Book of Mormon I always think about a training in Zone Conference on my mission taught by my 2nd mission president’s wife. Part of the reason I remember the training so clearly, other than the fact that I took notes, is that every time she would say a specific word we were all to jump up and with gusto and enthusiasm shout, “Rameumptom!”
In the story told in Alma, the Rameumptom is a platform on which the Zoramites stand on to declare their belief in God and to thank him for separating them from their brethren and for showing them that their brethren’s beliefs were not correct. Each Zoramites proclaimed their church and their beliefs to be true and that the beliefs of their brethren were not, and that they would be the ones to be saved. Whoever among the Zoramites wanted to speak would go up on the Rameumptom and says the exact same thing, or as Alma tells us, “the selfsame prayer unto God.”
It didn’t occur to me the time, but the LDS Church has its own version of the Rameumptom in the form of the stand in fast and testimony meeting. On the first Sunday of every month, members of the Church of all ages gets up, and with the exception of the one ward member in every ward who is certifiably insane, everyone says the selfsame thing and it goes something like this, “I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints is the only true Church on the face of earth, I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet and restored the gospel. I know we have a true and living prophet today. I know The Book of Mormon is true and that it was translated by the gift and power of God and that the rest of the scriptures are true. I know that the quorum of the twelve apostles and the first presidency are prophets seers and revelators. I know the temple is truly the house of God. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Most people only ever mention Jesus as the closing of their “testimony,” like an afterthought. In almost every sacrament meeting, as well as all other meetings in the Church, Jesus is second fiddle to Joseph Smith, and it doesn’t seam to bother anyone, or at least if it does they are afraid to say anything about it. If anyone ever gets up and in fast and testimony meeting and only talks about Jesus and fails to mention prophets or the Church, the congregation looks at him or her as if they had just talked about the grossest sexual perversion.
The reason I made the disclaimer about the certifiably insane ward member is that in every ward there is that one person who inevitably goes up the the stand, as anyone who has attended LDS Church meetings for any length of time can attest to, and spouts the incoherent ramblings of an insane person that has no relevance to the Church or anything anyone would want to hear, but to be nice, the rest of the ward humors him or her. I have heard people talk about everything from inconsistencies in their stool to birthing pigs. It is odd that no one is scolded or criticized for talking about crazy things but they are scolded for talking about Jesus and the Bible without mentioning the Church, prophets or The Book of Mormon.
Another thing Alma talks about in relation to the Zoramites is that once they left the meeting they would not talk about God again until the next meeting, and I have discovered that many, many LDS people are that way. I gave my all to the Church so I could not understand why people who were active in the Church would refuse to talk about God or the Church other than on Sundays or on the way to the temple. On one temple trip I car pooled with a group of people from my ward and the other people in the car got annoyed with me because I wanted to talk about gospel topics on the way back from the temple. The other occupants of the car told me that they had already met their religion quota for the week, and this was far from being an isolated incident. I always thought that if the Church were true it should affect every aspect of a person’s life and that they should be excited to talk about it.
As I briefly mentioned above, one of the core beliefs of the Zoramites was that they were in the one true church and that all other people would be lost, and while some Latter-Day Saints won’t admit it, the LDS Church teaches that only faithful Mormons and those who didn’t have a chance to hear about it in life and accept Mormonism in the afterlife and have proxy work done for them here on earth will be saved, or rather exalted, which is their ultimate goal. Honestly, Mormons don’t like the term “saved” and almost treat it like a dirty word. According to their doctrine, almost everyone will be saved but only those who are the most righteous will be exalted.
One of the things in the book of Alma that I used to think was about the most brilliant thing in the world and would use it as an example when teaching people about the Church I now realize is full of holes. Alma compared having faith in what he was teaching to planting a seed. Alma said that if the people would take the seed, and not cast it out by their unbelief, and would allow it to grow than they would see it is a good seed. Alma said that because the seed grows and produces good fruit that means it is a good seed. At first that seams to make sense, but when you apply a little logic to it the whole thing falls apart.
Just because my faith in something grows that does not mean that what I have faith in is true, even if it causes me to do good works, or “fruits.” Imagine that a friend introduces me to a music artist that I had never heard of before and tells me that the artist is the greatest artist of all time. If I don’t “cast out the seed by unbelief” and “experiment” on my friends words and listen to some songs by that artist, and that convinces me that the artist is the best artist in the world, that does not make it true, even if listening to the songs makes me a better person.
While I was serving my two year Church mission, people sowed the seed of doubt in regards to the Church in my heart, and that seed grew until it was a full grown tree. Would Alma say that it was a good seed because it grew, even though it caused me to loose faith in his book? As I mentioned, Alma also says that you can tell if it is a good tree by its fruit. By allowing myself to doubt the LDS Church I have become a nicer and less judgmental person, and I have accepted the Jesus of the Bible. I would say that is good fruit, but Alma would not agree since it led me to believe that The Book of Mormon is not true.
Alma 34:6 tells us that “the word is in Christ unto salvation,” and it is clear that when The Book of Mormon talks about salvation it does not mean exaltation. The word exaltation does not even appear in The Book of Mormon, and the concept of becoming gods is completely foreign to the doctrine of the book.
I have mentioned this before, but the doctrine of The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that once we die there is no chance for salvation, which invalidates the LDS temples. One of the best examples of this is Alma 34:32-35
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have heard Mormon apologist say that this is only referring to those who had a chance to believe in the gospel in this life but chose not to, however, the story I mentioned in the last section about Ammon and King Lamoni’s father clearly shows that, according to The Book of Mormon, no one has a chance for salvation after death, not even those who never knew the gospel. If you did not listen to the last installment of this series, Ammon, one of the prophets in The Book of Mormon, tells Lamoni’s father that if he were to die in his sins he could not be saved, and at this point, he had never had the chance to hear the gospel, which handily discounts the apologetic defense of proxy temple work.
In chapter 37 Alma is talking to his son and relates the story of the children of Israel in the wilderness and how they would be healed if they would look upon the bronze serpent Moses lifted upon the pole, but many thought it was just too easy and refused to do it and in verse 46 he says, “O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the the way; for so was it was with our fathers; for so it was prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.”
There is nothing easy about the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and in fact, they often criticize Christianity because they say it is too easy, so it is clear that Alma was not in any way talking about the convoluted mess that is the LDS doctrine and, throughout the book, he talks about just believing in Jesus and says nothing about temples, tithing, eternal marriage, or any of the other doctrines that are considered to be essential for exaltation.
Alma 38:9 says, “And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.”
Nowhere in the entirety of The Book of Mormon does it talk about Joseph Smith having any say on whether or not we enter heaven. Jesus is all we need, and that is what The Book of Mormon teaches, but of course, this was “translated” before Joseph Smith came up with most of his later doctrines.
Alma 41:1 talks about people “”wresting” the scriptures, which is to twist or distort, and the Church does a fair amount of that when it comes to the Bible and they justify it by saying that the Bible we have today has been corrupted and is not reliable. The Church takes many verses out of context in attempts to support un-Biblical doctrine such as baptisms for the dead. At some point in the future I plan on discussing the problems with the Joseph Smith “inspired” translation of the Bible, but not today.
All throughout The Book of Mormon it talks, in great detail, about Christ and acts like he had already come. I recently started listening to The My Book of Mormon Podcast and it is interesting to hear the book read from the perspective of a person who has never read it before, and one of the things the host mentions constantly is how ridiculous it is that the people of The Book of Mormon had so much knowledge of the Christ when the writers of the Bible didn’t, and that they were acting like he had already come when he would not be born for many years.
The My Book of Mormon Podcast is from the perspective of a person who is not religious, so some of the things he has issues with or doesn’t understand is simply because he is not familiar with religion, but he noticed many issues in the book without comparing it to anything else other than itself. The host also could not help but notice all of the blatant plagiarism form the Bible.
One of the My Book of Mormon’s criticisms of the book of Alma was that the story of Alma was a cheap copy of the story of Moses, especially with how he died, and just in case the reader missed the comparison, it was then clearly spelled out.
In Alma 46:13-14 it talks about the people calling themselves Christians, 73 years before his birth, while still claiming to follow the law of Moses. I simply can’t believe that a people who followed the law of Moses would call themselves Christian before Christ had even come, especially since none of these people had ever had any exposure to Greek and would not have called Jesus “Christ” but would have used a Arabic or Hebrew word.
The word “Christ” originated from christos, a Greek word meaning “anointed.” In Hebrew he would be called “Mashiach,” or “messiah” (2). No logical line of thought would lead to God or one of his angels referring to the Messiah as “Christ” to a Hebrew speaking people who had never encountered Greek.
Speaking of angels, the LDS Church places a HUGE emphasis on the appearance of angels in the story of the Church’s origin. The Church also places an extreme amount of emphasis on believing the Church because of a good feeling instead of evidence. From just a simple reading of The Book of Mormon we can see why that is a bad idea. In Alma three is a man named Korihor who went around preaching against the teachings of the church. Eventually he was struck dumb by God when he asked for a sign and he wrote that he had been deceived by the devil who had appeared to him in the form of an angel of light (Alma 30:52) who had told him to go reclaim the people because they had gone astray.
An angel of light appearing to a man and telling him to reclaim the people because they had gone astray is the origin story of The Book of Mormon and the Mormon Church. If it is so easy to be deceived by an angel than why should we trust a man who said he was given a message by an angel, especially since no one else heard the message?
Alma told Korihor and the people to follow the scriptures instead of following what the deceiving angel of light said, and that is good advice. Everyone should follow the Bible instead of following another gospel preached by a man who got it from an angel of light, or at least one that looked the part.
The Bible is clear that we should not follow another gospel, and The Book of Mormon admits right on the cover that it is another gospel (another testament). Paul said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!”
In the book of Alma, Captain Moroni and a man named Ammoron are sending epistles back and forth, and of course, epistle is a Greek word and there is no reason a people of Semitic origin would use the Greek word for letter since they would have spoken Hebrew or Arabic. Some apologist say that Smith used the word epistle because it was a word he was familiar with, which would make sense if the golden plates were translated in the traditional manner, but that explanation falls apart if we are to believe the official story from the Church that they were translated with the gift and power of God.
The way in which the book was reportedly translated would not leave any room for Smith to substitute words, and since people in the 1800s in America used the word letter instead of epistle, it is far more likely that Smith used the word in an attempt at making the book read more like the New Testament of the Bible. Church history telly us that Smith was given the words, which he repeated to the scribe, and then the scribe would write them down and repeat them back. If the words were not exactly the way God wanted them than Smith would not be given the next set of words until the words were corrected. Given the translation method, the only way epistle could have been used if God wanted to use an uncommon word, or more likely, that Smith chose to use it since it was in the Bible. Having the word epistle used by a pre European people of Jewish descent in the Americas who had never had any contact with the Greeks is out of the question.
True believing Mormons always say that The Book of Mormon is without error, but a fairly noticeable one is found in the Alma 58 where there is a conflict on whether or not blood was shed in retaking the city of Manti. In verse 21 it says that, after the Lamanite army was led out of the city of Manti on a rouse, the Nephites “fell upon the guards who were left in the city, insomuch that they destroyed them and did take possession of the city. However, in verse 28 it says that the city of Manti was taken without the shedding of blood. I guess the guards that were “destroyed” somehow doesn’t count.