Response to CARM: Difficult questions, part 3

28 Aug

I have recently been pointed to a website called Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry as an excellent location to learn LDS doctrine. On this website they have many pages dedicated to what they call exposing the truth of Mormonism. Most of what they present is well thought out, and they use many quotes and documents to support it. When they are simply giving a list of quotes they don’t do too bad. When they try to interpret those quotes and explain doctrine they fail almost completely. So I am starting a new series in which I will address a selection of pages from that website.

This next page is titled “Difficult Questions For Mormons to Answer.” It is a series of questions that are supposed to stump members of the LDS church. There are 32 questions total. Most are followed by a few quotes that try to establish the subject in question. The first part of my response will be a comment on the quotes given, and this will be in green.

Now, since there are so many questions and responding to all of them will take a long time, I will be dividing this into many separate posts, each answering 1-3 questions.

 

Q. If the book of Mormon was transmitted to us by the power of God, why does it have thousands of changes in it?

A. The author gives a series of comparative quotes, comparing the original 1830 edition with the 1981 edition. I am going to address only the first two in the series as they are both from Nephi’s great vision, as recorded in 1 Nephi 10: 17 – 15: 36.

Verse

1830

1981

1 Nephi 11: 18 “…And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of flesh…” “And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.”
1 Nephi 13: 40 “…and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world…” “…and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the son of the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world…”

Now, before we go any farther, let us understand that all the changes made in the Book of Mormon have been of two types: (1) corrections of punctuation, scribal error or typesetting error; (2) clarifications of passages that were somewhat less than clear in the original edition. Most of these were made by Joseph Smith himself, and thus carry the authority of his priesthood.

Now, some have claimed that the changes made here alter the meaning of the verses. This is, of course, not true. They do fall into the category of clarifying changes, as the original was a little confusing.

I have often heard those who criticize the church say that we take various verses of the Bible out of context. I believe the author, in making the claim regarding these two verses in the Book of Mormon, is guilty of taking them out of context. Few verses stand alone, but must be understood in light of what is being said in the surrounding verses and what the full message of the passage is. So, let us look at the context, using only the 1830 edition (though the links are to the current edition for comparison).

In 1 Nephi chapter 10 Lehi has just finished telling of his Tree of Life vision. At the end of the chapter Nephi expresses his desire to see the vision for himself. In verse 17 he tells us that his father had seen these things through faith on the son of God “… And the son of God was the Messiah, which should come….” (pg 23, par 1) It clearly shows that the Messiah was the son of God.

Then, in chapter 11 Nephi recounts the vision he had. He is guided through this vision by an angel. In verse 7 the angel tells him “… thou shalt also behold a man descending out of Heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after that ye have witnessed him, ye shall bear record that it is the son of God.” (pg 24, par 1) So, the angel is establishing that the following vision would reveal the coming of the son of God.

It is then in verse 18, which the author quotes, that we read the statement that the virgin is the mother of God. (pg 25, line 4) However, it has already been established that the vision is about the son of God.

In verse 21 of the 1830 edition we also read “…behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father…” (pg 25, par 1) Again, it is an apparent contradiction of what has already been established.

However, in verse 24 Nephi tells us “…I looked, and I beheld the son of God going forth among the children of men…” (pg 25, par 1) again establishing that we are talking about the son of God.

We then go back again in verse 32, which reads “…And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world…” (pg 26, par 1)

Then in chapter 13 verse 40, which the author quotes, we read “…that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world…” (pg 32, par 1)

So, in the 1830 edition we have this apparent contradiction within the vision of Nephi.

But, we read in Mosiah 15: 2-5 (in the 1830 edition) “because he dwelleth in flesh, he shall be called the son of God: and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the son; the Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and son: and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of Heaven and of Earth; and thus the flesh becoming subject to the spirit, or the son to the Father, being one God”

So, there really is no contradiction, as Christ is the Father and the Son. However, it is a bit confusing to the reader. Thus the changes clarify for the reader the context that had already been set by Nephi without actually altering the meaning of the passages. In fact, all these verses were changed to say the son of God (or the like) by Joseph Smith in the 1837 edition.

I have not yet looked at all the passages listed, but I am confident that they will reveal similar results. I will analyze them in the comments section in a few days.

*This question is answered in the response be S.H.I.E.L.D.S. It contains a number of additional examples. I will address all of them in a later post, so keep an eye out for it.

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