One of the things I’ve noted in answering questions from the Church’s detractors and critics is they rarely do any real research. They don’t have a sincere desire to ask of God if the teachings of the Church are true, either because they reject outright the idea that any single religion might be true, or they believe that they are already in possession of that truth. Either way, it’s is a poor reason to justify attacks on the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, or other targets they select from the panoply of Mormon beliefs. Yet they feel compelled to do so.
With the advent of sites like Twitter, many of them have been perfecting the art of the 140-character attack. Such a tactic is designed to promote doubt, not faith. Whereas a true seeker will invest real effort into finding out whether the Book of Mormon is true or whether God spoke to Joseph Smith, the shallow, insincere efforts of those who simply intend to damage Mormonism are easily discerned.
A recent comment from one of my readers is exemplary of this tactic. With a limit of 500 characters on the cakechow.comment field, he crafted a formulaic comment that is designed to zing a “fiery dart” of the Adversary to negate the points I made in one of my articles. I have been active in sharing the gospel and countering anti-Mormon claims on the Internet for more than a few years. I have seen enough of these attacks to recognize that they are simply cut-and-pasted from other anti-Mormon web sites, with some minor reformatting. Let’s examine reader “Bullfrog’s” most recent comment.
First, let me begin by saying that I appreciate having Bullfrog as a reader. I respect his right to believe whatever he wishes or to not believe anything at all. I would hope he would find joy in actively sharing a positive gospel message instead of trying to undermine the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such a pursuit is always unfulfilling because the Church just keeps advancing and moving forward. If one would think about it reasonably, anti-Mormons have been disappointed ever since the year 1820. The Church will soon number over 14 million and it is still growing and expanding into every nation on earth. If stopping the forward progress of the Church is their goal, anti-Mormons have been abject failures.
To my recent Examiner article, Can you know that God is real? the gentle reader wrote the following comment:
“Bullfrog – Like Blackout, I have read the Book of Mormon and etc.. But before I prayed about it, I took Smith’s advice in the Doctrine and Covenants and “studied it out in my mind.” I then determined that praying to know the truth of the Book of Mormon would be like praying to know that 2+2=5. I couldn’t believe in a book discovered with and translated with a seer stone. I couldn’t believe in a “gold” book that weighed only 50 pounds. (A gold book would have weighed closer to 140 pounds). I couldn’t believe in abook that claimed to show that the American INdians were descenents of Jews, only to be disproven by modern mitochondrial DNA tets. The truth of the book depends on the credibility of Joseph Smith, and he turns out to be quite a character. After discovering all this, it seemed blasphemy to pray to know that it was true. ” (Spelling, grammar, and punctuation intact per the original)
Bullfrog’s comment followed, and echoed that of the reader who goes by the moniker, “Blackout.” The assertion of the article was that a person can know for himself by personal revelation that God is real, using the Book of Mormon to do so. The ironic thing is that “Blackout’s” objection to the process I proposed is that there is no God to hear or answer the question. “Bullfrog” read the same article, claims to have read the Book of Mormon, and decided it wasn’t worth asking God.
I find it curious that a Christian would find himself agreeing with and supporting the conclusion of an atheist. It’s not at all unusual, however. Last year, I found an evangelical Christian who was operating an anti-Mormon web site. After offering to debate with her to debunk the falsehoods she was spreading about the Church, she declined the invitation. Then she briefly signed up with the Society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism, where she was unable to sustain her attacks when the truth was fully and fairly presented. After leaving our site, she linked up with an atheist, former member of the Church, where she proposed sharing notes.
Isn’t it funny that a supposed believer in Jesus Christ would not find it uncomfortable colluding with an avowed, militant atheist to share information to destroy another religion and deter its members from exercising faith in Jesus Christ? When I discovered this “alliance,” it reminded me instantly of this Bible passage:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
In the case of “Bullfrog,” who believes in God and “Blackout,” who does not, would either one of them find unity in the beliefs of the other? No, but they find fellowship in opposition to Mormonism. Ironic.
The rest of “Bullfrog’s” statements could have come directly from the pages of any of a hundred anti-Mormon web sites. It’s all the same old stuff. It’s all half-truths or half-baked assumptions that rely on misinformation. Let’s go through them line-by-line:
“I then determined that praying to know the truth of the Book of Mormon would be like praying to know that 2+2=5”
The implication is that he had already made up his mind about the truth of the Book of Mormon. The promise of Moroni to every person who reads the Book of Mormon is that God will bear witness of its veracity if he will read, ponder it–remembering the mercy of God and his goodness–and then pray about it.
In “Blackout’s” case, he declined to remember the mercy of God and his goodness. He declined to go directly to God and ask, preferring science, archaeology, etc. to a witness of the Holy Ghost. In “Bullfrog’s” case, he determined not to ask because he had already prejudged the situation. In either case, neither one of them actually asked God.
“I couldn’t believe in a book discovered with and translated with a seer stone”
Note that the operative words of this statement are “I couldn’t believe.” Perhaps he is unfamiliar with use of instrumentality by God throughout the Bible. I wonder if he could persuade “Blackout” to believe in a God who used an ark of the covenant, stone tablets with commandments, or the flowering rod of Aaron?Maybe he could convince an atheist to believe in a Jesus who spat on some dirt, squished it into a little ball, and anointed the eyes of a blind man and made him see. Perhaps he can persuade those who don’t believe in God that Jesus walked on water or that he fed five thousand men (not counting the women and children) with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.
If the Bible’s God is a God of miracles, certainly he is still a God of miracles today. Is it any more unlikely that he could take a farm boy with a couple years of the rudiments of education under his belt, and inspire him to translate and ancient record into English? We say that it is a miracle. It was done by God’s power and not by man’s. It is amazing. It does challenge one to believe in God’s power. Does “Bullfrog” only believe in a God who could do miracles in the past, yet is powerless to do them today?
“I couldn’t believe in a “gold” book that weighed only 50 pounds. (A gold book would have weighed closer to 140 pounds)”
This is an old, red herring. Gold is an element that is quite heavy; however, gold is also a color. The plates were gold in color. There was never a metallurgical analysis made of them, even if the technology existed at the time. Nevertheless, there were eleven witnesses who saw and testified that Joseph Smith was in possession of the plates. Eight of those witnesses actually touched, handled, hefted, and turned the pages of the plates. They gave their testimony to attest that Joseph Smith did have the plates. In that testimony, (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/eghtwtns), these eight men affirmed that “Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold….”
The plates had the appearance of gold. Since we do not know the actual alloy of the various metals used, it would be impossible to accurately gauge their weight. This statement is simply an assumption that can not be made on the available facts. What is known is that ancient sacred writings have been found in Persia and other places in the world that were engraved on metal plates. We have witnesses that tell us that Joseph Smith did indeed have gold-colored plates. “Bullfrog’s” red herring simply seeks to dissuade anyone from investigating further. On the other hand, we encourage you to continue do your homework. He continued:
“I couldn’t believe in abook that claimed to show that the American Indians were descenents of Jews, only to be disproven by modern mitochondrial DNA tets” [sic]
To this, I would refer the reader to my article, A ‘kitchen table’ discussion about DNA. I would also point out a characteristic of classic “cut-and-paste” Internet attacks on the LDS Church. One of the identifying characteristics of cutting and pasting from anti-Mormon sites are atypical spelling errors. In the comments sections of blogs and Internet journals, conventions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation are admittedly “fluid” at times. People misspell or mis-type words all the time. However, when a person can’t spell common words like “descendants” and “test” correctly, but they successfully spell “mitochondrial,” it’s a dead giveaway that they’re copying material, trying to sound well-informed.
Furthermore, the Cohen modal haplotype, a DNA marker that is distinctively Hebrew (it’s a way to identify the descendants of the Levites), has been found among indigenous peoples in South America. How the Hebrew DNA got there is still to be determined, but it is definitely there. Mormon researchers are careful not to jump the gun to say that it is “proof” of the Book of Mormon’s claims. However, there are definitely and verifiably descendants of Levites among indigenous South Americans. If we are truly honest, we’ll wait for all the data to be developed instead of racing to verify a position one way or another.
However, the truth of the matter has nothing to do with his spelling or mine or even Joseph Smith’s. The truths of whether God exists and that the Book of Mormon is true doesn’t have anything to do with human limitations. The issue at hand is why don’t people have enough faith to ask God?
Again, “Bullfrog’s” operative statement is “I couldn’t believe.” The Bible tells us that Abraham’s seed was scattered among all nations. Recently, Israel validated that there are groups of people in India who are descendants of Jews from the Diaspora. If Abraham’s seed can be found among people in India, China, and even the Americas, it certainly isn’t inconceivable that the claims of the Book of Mormon could be true. “Bullfrog’s” next line was:
“The truth of the book depends on the credibility of Joseph Smith, and he turns out to be quite a character”
Attacking the messenger and not the message is a classic anti-Mormon ploy. It certainly isn’t new. The same tactics were used against Jesus himself. Pharisees called him Beelzebub. They couldn’t argue with miracles so they discounted them by saying that Jesus did them by the power of the devil. If you read some of the anti-Christian literature produced by Jews in the early centuries of Christianity, you see the same kind of personal attacks.
According to those who opposed Jesus and his apostles, this is the scenario they promoted to deter faith in Jesus Christ. They said that Mary came from a family of ne’er-do-wells. She got pregnant out of wedlock and shamed her family. She was sent away to live with her cousin until it was almost time to have her baby. The family left Israel in shame and went to Egypt to live. While in Egypt, Jesus picked up a few magic tricks from the Egyptian magicians, which he used to dupe the gullible. The family came back to Israel and, still too ashamed to go back to where they came from, ended up hanging out with a bunch of low-life Galileans. He got into trouble with the leaders of the synagogues, the chief priests, and the elders of the people. He gathered around him a following of rabble: sinners and publicans. When he finally got too carried away, he ran afoul of the Roman authorities and they crucified him. Then his disciples stole his body from the tomb and claimed he was resurrected.
Those were the kinds of scurrilous lies told about Jesus. They called him a “gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Luke 7:34) I suppose the Pharisees and scribes considered Jesus of Nazareth to be “quite a character,” just as their modern-day counterparts did with Joseph Smith. When you can’t argue with the message, destroy the messenger. It was a tactic used 2,000 years ago and it’s apparently just as useful today. Nevertheless, Jesus said, “…If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” Joseph Smith was in good company, apparently. Just think of what happened to the people who believed what the Pharisees said about Jesus.
“After discovering all this, it seemed blasphemy to pray to know that it was true.”
So “Bullfrog” did not ask of God. He decided on his own. Thus, my thesis still stands. A sincere seeker can read the Book of Mormon, ponder its contents, evaluate the message, and then ask of God and he will answer. Bullfrog said it seemed like “blasphemy” to ask of God. Blasphemy is defined as “the act of depriving something of its sacred character.” How is it blasphemous to ask God for truth? In James 1:5, it says “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….”
The Bible doesn’t put any preconditions on what you can ask. It says that God will not “upbraid” you for asking. The word “upbraid” means to reproach or criticize. Would a kind, loving God reproach or criticize his children who approach him humbly, seeking his wisdom? Do you see what these anti-Mormons are doing? They’re trying to make you afraid to “bother” God with your questions. I would commend to you an article I wrote last year about this very subject titled, The evil spirit that teaches a person not to pray
Your Heavenly Father loves you and is pleased to hear and answer your prayers. He doesn’t care if you come to ask him why avocado pits are so large or why platypuses look like they’re made out of spare parts left over from the other animals! Nothing would make him happier than for you to come to him and ask him for wisdom and guidance. I know that he answers prayers and that he will indeed tell you that the Book of Mormon is true.
In conclusion, I invite my readers to consider the situation at hand. In the comments to my article, Can you know that God is real? two individuals replied, both of whom sought to gainsay my position. I confidently stand by the claim that God can and will answer prayers about the Book of Mormon. One of the commentators believes no God exists to answer a prayer–so why bother? The other believes in God, but denies that he can do miracles today, that he has used instrumentalities in the past, and then used three spurious (yet easily refuted) misrepresentations in an attempt to dissuade others from asking God a question.
Why not let God answer for himself? We’re content to let the Lord do his own answering. All we ask is that you ask. It’s truly the only way to really know for yourself.