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Information on Mormonism

The information you are about to read comes from the following resource:

Farkas, J. R., & Reed, D., A. (1995). Mormonism: changes, contradictions, and errors (electronic ed., pp. 12–15). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

We have placed excerpts here to help you understand what Mormonism is all about. This information along with the information found on our comparative religions page should give you an idea of how off this cult is. They are not Christian and hold to no Christian truths. In fact, their religious writings contradict much of the Bible even though they claim to believe what the Bible says and follow its teaching.

The Only True Church

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

  This is the only true church.… This is not a church. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. There are churches of men all over the land and they have great cathedrals, synagogues, and other houses of worship.… (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, [President] ** Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, p. 421)

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

  This is not just another Church. This is not just one of a family of Christian churches. This is the Church and kingdom of God, the only true Church upon the face of the earth, according to the Lord’s own words (see D&C [Doctrine and Covenants] 1:30). His Church—it bears His name and it is directed under the authority of His priesthood … is a message that will save and exalt the souls of the children of men. There is no other way, because this is the only true message and the only true church upon the face of the whole earth. Those are not my words; they are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ as found in the revelations. (D&C 1.) This gospel in its purity, now restored to the earth.… (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, [President] Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, pp. 164–65, 177)

God allegedly told Joseph Smith in 1820 that no other churches were right.

  My [Joseph Smith’s] object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” …  I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20, in Pearl of Great Price, a work viewed by Mormons as scripture)

God allegedly said that Mormonism is the only true and living church on the face of the earth.

  And also those [Joseph Smith and others] to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased … (1831 [this is the date of the alleged revelation], Doctrine and Covenants [hereafter abbreviated D&C] 1:30; D&C is viewed by Mormons as scripture)

More Mormon Claims

The significance of the above references and their authors can be found in Appendixes 1 and 2. It is very important to understand that the statements made are not just “puffery” and/or enthusiasm presented in a salesman-like fashion to make the Mormon organization look good. The men saying these things were presidents and official spokesmen for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a booklet published and copyrighted 1982 by the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was said:

  The Lord provided that salvation should come through his gospel, functioning through his church.… But where is there such a church? How will we recognize it when we see it?… Is there such a church upon the earth? Until 1830 there was not. It had been lost through the falling away.… In 1830 the Almighty restored his church to earth again.… This restored church is known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City. (Which Church Is Right? p. 17)

In recent years the Mormon missionaries have not given this message the same emphasis as in the past. It has not been changed; it just has not been given the strong focus, probably for public relations purposes. They have learned the old adage “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

The Mormon Challenge

But in any event the LDS message is significant, and the truth and validity of it needs to be established because, if it is true, we all need to know and yell it from the rooftops, so to speak. But if it is not true, we also need to know so that it is exposed for what it is. In fact, a past Mormon leader said:

  If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, … then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false.… If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures. (Doctrines of Salvation, [Apostle] Joseph Fielding Smith, 1954, 1:188)

We have taken up this challenge. What follows is the fruit of an in-depth study that compares Mormon scriptures on various subjects, compares statements of top LDS leaders on certain subjects, compares old editions and new editions of Mormon scriptures for changes, and then looks at absurdities taught by LDS Church leaders. We also look at the sect’s own standards for determining the reliability of its scriptures and the reliability of statements by its top leaders.

In making this in-depth study, we have taken great care to be sure nothing has been taken out of context. The meaning of Mormon verses, allegedly from God, has been studied in the context of adjacent verses and adjacent chapters. Statements by top Mormon leaders have been examined in their context. Reliable sources, from a Mormon viewpoint, have been used—most of them are published and copyrighted by the Mormon Church or authorized by the First Presidency, and many of them feature teachings and sermons of Church presidents.
 

A Brief History of Mormonism

    1805      Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the organization now called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), is born on December 23rd in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth child of Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith.

    1816      The Smiths move to the Palmyra, New York, area (about forty miles east of Rochester).

    1820      In the spring Joseph Smith, Jr., at the age of 14, allegedly receives a visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ, who tell him that all churches are wrong, their creeds are an abomination, and the professors of those creeds are corrupt.

    1823      The angel Moroni allegedly visits Joseph in his bedroom three times one September night. These visits are the start of a series of lessons that results in Joseph’s getting gold plates that were allegedly buried in Hill Cumorah, just a few miles south of Palmyra, in Manchester, New York.

    1826      Court records of Chenango County, State of New York, People v. Joseph Smith The Glass Looker, March 20, 1826, reveal that Joseph Smith was brought to trial on charges of money digging, using a “peep stone” to locate buried treasure.

    1827      Joseph allegedly receives from the angel Moroni the gold plates that were buried in Hill Cumorah. Written on them in “Reformed Egyptian” is the history of a previously unknown New World people. With the help of God Joseph translates the writing into what is now the Book of Mormon.

    1829      On May 15 John the Baptist allegedly gives the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery as part of the restoration of God’s Church on Earth—authority that had been lost shortly after Jesus died.

    1829      Probably in the summer, as a continuation of the restoration of God’s Church, the Apostles Peter, James, and John allegedly give Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    1830      The Book of Mormon is printed by the Grandin Print Shop in Palmyra, New York.

    1830      On April 6, the Mormon Church is organized with a handful of people as God’s one true Church on Earth. At this time it is named the Church of Christ.

    1831      The Mormon Church moves to Kirtland, Ohio. At its peak in the 1830s Kirtland reaches a population of around 3,200—about equal to nearby Cleveland.

    1832      Mormons start settlements in Missouri.

    1833      A collection of sixty-five alleged revelations from God to Joseph Smith is published as the Book of Commandments. Seventy-one revelations have been given up to this date, but only sixty-five are included, as the printing press and facilities at Zion (Independence, Missouri) are destroyed before the collection can be completed.

    1834      The name of the Church is changed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

    1835      About this time the practice of polygamy starts in private but is publicly denied.

    1835      The 1833 Book of Commandments is updated with new revelations, and old ones are modified (with no indication they are changed). The resulting new book, entitled Doctrine and Covenants, has two parts. The first part is called “Theology on the Doctrine of the Church of the Latter Day Saints” (better known as the “Lectures on Faith”). 1 The second part is named “Covenants and Commandments.” Section 101:4 forbids the practice of polygamy.

    1838      Joseph leaves Kirtland and goes to Far West, Missouri, fleeing the wrath of the law and disgruntled members.

    1838      The name of the Church is changed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    1838      About nineteen Mormon men, women, and children are massacred by non-Mormons at Hauns Mill, Missouri.

    1838–

    1839      Mormons are driven out of Missouri due to conflicts between them and non-Mormons.

    1839      Settlement of what is to become Nauvoo, Illinois, starts.

    1840      The Mormon Church has about 17,000 members. 2

    1842–

    1844      Joseph Smith, John Taylor, and other members of the community, in the Mormon Church newspaper, deny that polygamy is practiced, even though it is.

    1843      The alleged revelation from God that allows the practice of polygamy is received, but is not formally announced until 1852, is not included in Mormon scripture until 1876, and is not voted on until 1880. (This is the present-day D&C 132, which says in its heading that Joseph had known the doctrine and principles since 1831.)

    1844      The city of Nauvoo, Illinois, has a population of about 12,000; it is the second largest city in the state, after Chicago. Joseph Smith is the mayor and lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo legion.

    1844      On June 7 William Law, Joseph Smith’s second counselor, publishes The Nauvoo Expositor, which exposes the practice of polygamy in Nauvoo and the teaching by Joseph Smith that there is more than one God.

    1844      On June 10, under the authority of Mayor Smith and the Nauvoo City Council, police led by Smith destroy the press, office, and papers of The Nauvoo Expositor.

    1844      On June 25 Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith are arrested for their part in the illegal destruction of The Nauvoo Expositor press and office and the calling out of the Nauvoo legion. Along with John Taylor and Dr. Willard Richards they are held in the jail in Carthage, Illinois. On June 27 a mob attacks the jail, killing Joseph and Hyrum in spite of Joseph’s efforts at self-defense with a six-shooter. Two men in the mob are reported killed.

    1846      Brigham Young, the second President of the LDS Church, leads the Mormon trek to what is then a portion of Mexico and will become Salt Lake City, Utah. They arrive there in 1847.

    1850      Mormon Church membership numbers about 52,000.

    1851      The first edition of the Pearl of Great Price is published. It is added to the Mormon scriptures in 1880.

    1852      In August polygamy is announced for the first time at a public Mormon meeting.

    1857      On September 11 a combined force of Indians and Mormon militia led by Mormon Bishop John D. Lee attacks and annihilates a wagon train of 120 non-Mormon men, women, and children in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    1860      The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is officially established at Amboy, Illinois, with Joseph Smith III as President and Prophet.

    1860      Mormon Church membership reaches about 61,000.

    1862      The Morrill Act prohibiting polygamy is passed by the U.S. Congress.

    1876      D&C 132, which allows polygamy, is first printed in a volume of Mormon scripture.

    1880      In October D&C 132, on polygamy, is first voted on by the Mormon membership.

    1882      Congress passes the Edmunds Act, providing heavy penalties for practicing polygamy. The practice continues by many in hiding.

    1887–

    1890      The Edmunds-Tucker Act dissolves the Mormon Church corporation and seizes its property. The Idaho test oath law disenfranchises Mormon voters. A short time later the Supreme Court finds the Idaho test oath constitutional. Legislation is drafted to disenfranchise Mormons in Utah.

    1890      On September 25 Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff issues his Manifesto asking Mormons to stop the practice of polygamy. At a Mormon Church General Conference on October 6 this Manifesto, now called Official Declaration—1, is accepted by the general membership as “authoritative and binding.” This does not reject the revelation allowing polygamy (D&C 132); it just puts the practice aside.

    1890      Mormon Church membership is about 188,000.

    1921      The first part of the Doctrine and Covenants, the “Lectures on Faith,” are removed quietly without such removal ever being presented to the general membership for a vote.

    1950      Mormon Church membership is about 1,111,000.

    1967      The original papyri, allegedly written by the hand of the Old Testament Prophet Abraham and used by Joseph Smith to translate the Mormon scripture Book of Abraham, are rediscovered. (The document has since been shown to be an Egyptian funereal text called a “Book of Breathings,” written some 1500 years after Abraham’s day.)

    1970      Mormon Church membership is about 2,931,000.

    1978      On September 30 what is now Official Declaration—2, allowing all worthy males in the Mormon Church to hold the priesthood, is accepted by unanimous vote of the members. (Prior to this a man with any amount of African blood could not hold the priesthood.)

    1980      Mormon Church has about 4,640,000 members.

    1991      Mormon Church has about 8,100,000 members, about 267 mission centers, and about 43,000 missionaries in the field.

    1993      Mormon Church has about 8,700,000 members.

A Brief Summary of the Doctrine  Taught by the Mormon Church

This section focuses on the unique doctrine taught by the Mormon Church through its teaching manuals, scriptures, and talks by top Mormon leaders. Many of these items are not likely to be mentioned by Mormon missionaries or in Mormon Church advertising. Note that many of the theological terms are exactly the same as those used by Christians, but they have a different meaning for most Mormons.

Our intent here is not to provide a biblical answer to the Mormon teachings. That has already been done in our book Mormons Answered Verse by Verse. We outline the unique Mormon Church teachings to prepare the reader for the comparisons in the following chapters.

Aaronic Priesthood-  This is called the lesser priesthood and is usually held by young men starting at the age of 12 to the age of about 18. It is also held for a short time by men who have just become members.

Adam-God-  From April 1852 to at least February 1877 LDS Church President Brigham Young clearly taught that Adam of the Garden of Eden is the father of our spirits, that Adam is the father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and the literal father of his body, and that Adam is our God. This is not now taught by the Mormon Church, and many Mormons are not aware it once was; others claim Brigham Young is incorrectly quoted.

Afterlife-  The Mormon afterlife is divided into four levels. The lowest is hell, and then there are three levels of heaven: the telestial, the terrestrial, and the place where God dwells, the celestial (also called the kingdom of God). The celestial is also divided, the highest level being exaltation, or becoming a God.

Apostles - The Mormon Church claims to have the same organization as the primitive church that Jesus set up. They also have twelve Apostles and sometimes use this as a proof of their divine appointment as the one true Church. But they actually have fifteen or more most of the time. The general practice has been for a new President, who is also an Apostle, to appoint counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve; then the openings left by the President and his counselors are filled, resulting in a total of fifteen.

Bible-  The King James Version of the Bible is one of the canonized scriptures of the Mormon Church, but it is considered incomplete, incorrectly translated with parts missing. Joseph Smith rewrote it, but only the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints regularly uses his version. They call it Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible. The Mormon Church in Salt Lake City calls it the Joseph Smith Translation. They feature some of it in the footnotes and appendix of their edition of the King James Bible.

Celestial Kingdom - See Afterlife.

Chapel-  A local building where Mormons hold their worship services and other activities.

Eternal Progression-  The teaching that each of us has the potential to become a God just like God the Father did. He was once a man capable of physical death, was resurrected, and progressed to become a God. We can take a similar path and get all the power, glory, dominion, and knowledge that the Father and Jesus Christ have. We then will be able to procreate spirit children who will worship us as we do God the Father.

Exaltation-  Becoming a God in the highest level of the celestial kingdom. See Eternal Progression.

Excommunication-  The highest disciplinary action that the Church can take against a member. Excommunicated persons lose their membership in the Church.

First Presidency-  A collective name for the President of the Mormon Church and his counselors, usually two.

General Conference - An official meeting held twice per year, early in April and October, for general membership instruction, teaching, and announcements by the top leaders of the Mormon Church.

God-  Within Mormonism, Gods, angels, people, and devils all have the same nature or substance but are at different stages along the line of progression to Godhood. God the Father was once a man like us, capable of physical death, and he progressed until he became a God. He has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood.

Heaven-  See Afterlife.

Hell-  A place of torment from which most nonbelievers are resurrected into the telestial kingdom; only a limited number remain in hell forever—the devil and the demons and apostates who consciously reject and work against Mormonism.

Jehovah-  The name for the preincarnate Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ-  The spirit of Jesus Christ was the first spirit born to God the Father and his wife (Heavenly Mother), and he progressed to become a God under the Father. (The Father is also the literal father of Jesus’ body in exactly the same way we were begotten by our earthly parents.) Jesus now has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood. He is the spirit brother of Satan, whose spirit was procreated in the same way as Jesus’.

Marriage-  The Mormon Church teaches two types of marriage. One ends at death. The other is for “time and eternity.” If a couple is married in a Mormon temple by someone with authority, it is believed they will stay married in the next life. This kind of marriage is needed if they are to progress, not only as husband and wife, but as God and Goddess.

Melchizedek Priesthood - The higher of two categories of ministry in the LDS Church, assigned primarily to seasoned members over the age of 18 and to males only.

Mother in Heaven-  The wife of God the Father, the mother of his spirit children.

Polygamy-  The practice of men having more than one wife was started by Joseph Smith in the early/mid 1830s and ostensibly ended in 1890. It is not now practiced within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. Members found practicing it are excommunicated. While the practice was ended, the revelation teaching it is still in Mormon scripture (D&C 132). Some Mormon splinter groups believe the teaching was for eternity and still practice it. These modern-day polygamists (called fundamentalists) number in the 30,000–50,000 range.

Pre-existence - The Mormon teaching that our spirits (Mormons and non-Mormons) were procreated in a premortal life by God the Father and our Mother in Heaven, that our spirits were born and raised to maturity before coming to earth to obtain physical bodies, and that the spirit of Jesus Christ was the first one born to our heavenly parents.

Priesthood - A category of ministry in the LDS Church open to all worthy males 12 years of age or older, empowering them to act in God’s name. See Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood.

Prophet - The top leader of the Mormon Church is considered not only a Prophet but also a Seer and Revelator. He has the title “President.” He is the only one who can speak for the whole church and receive new revelation for the whole church. When the existing Prophet dies, the most senior (in time as an Apostle, not in age) of the twelve Apostles, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, becomes the new President. He can appoint counselors, who receive their authority from him.

Salvation-  A word that Mormons qualify in one of three ways: unconditional or general salvation is simply resurrection from the dead, granted to all through Christ’s atonement; conditional or individual salvation involves entering the celestial kingdom through works of Mormonism; full salvation means exaltation to become a God as a result of temple ceremonies and other works.

Satan-  One of the spirit children of God. As a consequence of their rebellion, Satan and his angels cannot have mortal bodies; hence they cannot progress.

Scriptures-  The Mormon Church has four documents it calls canonized scriptures: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Version of the Holy Bible. See Appendix 1 for details.

Son of God-  Besides Jesus Christ, all of us are viewed as the children of God, his literal spirit children. This makes us all—Mormons, non-Mormons, Jesus Christ, and Satan—spirit brothers and sisters. See Pre-existence and Spirits.

Spirits-  Non-material beings allegedly procreated in the pre-existence by God the Father and his wife. Jesus Christ (and even we ourselves) was supposedly born and raised to maturity as a spirit before coming into a body on this earth. The spirit of Satan was also procreated in this way. This makes Satan and Jesus Christ spirit brothers. Jesus selected a righteous path; Satan selected the opposite.

Stake-  A group of wards, similar to a Roman Catholic diocese.

Standard Works-  The four canonized scriptures (see Scriptures above) used by the Mormon Church are called the standard works.

Temple-  One of about four dozen large religious buildings around the world in which special ceremonies are performed for the living and the dead; off limits to nonmembers and even to Mormons who lack a “temple recommend” from their leaders.

Trinity-  This word is used by Christians to summarize the biblical teaching that within the one true God are three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. They share the same nature or substance, so that there are not three Gods, but three persons in the one God.

Mormons say they also believe in the trinitarian concept of God. But what they really mean is that God the Father is a God, God the Son is another God, and God the Holy Ghost is a third God, and that they are “one God” because they are “one in purpose.” Mormons often have an incorrect understanding of what Christians mean by the Trinity. They say Christians believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one person (i.e., Monophysitism) or that God shows himself as the Father or the Son or the Holy Ghost (i.e., Modalism).

Virgin Birth-  A concept negated by the view that God, a resurrected man with flesh and bones according to Mormon teachings, literally fathered Jesus in the flesh in the same way in which earthly men father their children. 3

Ward-  A local Mormon congregation. The building it meets in is called a chapel.

Word of Wisdom-  The Mormon teaching requiring abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and hot drinks (tea and coffee).

Authority in the Mormon Church

Within the Mormon Church authority flows from the top down. The organization is structured in what might be called a classical pyramid shape, with the point upward. The President of the Church (always a man), with his counselors (usually two, always men), together called the First Presidency, are at the point. The President also is called a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. He is the only one in the Church who has full authority and “keys,” and the only one who can speak for God and receive revelation for the Church. Bruce R. McConkie, in Mormon Doctrine, said: “He is the earthly head of the kingdom of God, 4 the supreme officer of the Church, the ‘President of the High Priesthood of the Church.… ’ His duty is to preside over the whole church and to be like unto Moses … ” (p. 591).

The men who are the top leaders in the Mormon Church under the Prophet are called the General Authorities, 5 and each gets his authority for assigned responsibilities from the President/Prophet.

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, twelve men, just under the Prophet, also have the same authority and “keys” as the President, but can only partially use them as authorized by the President. President Joseph F. Smith, in Gospel Doctrine, said: “What is a key? It is the right or privilege which belongs to and comes with the Priesthood, to have communication with God” (p. 142). They can be fully used by the Apostles only when there is no President, and that historically has seldom happened for long periods.

The Quorum of the Seventy forms the next level below the Apostles. As of this writing there are seventy-seven men in this body (quorum), but vacancies sometimes go unfilled for a period of time.

Within the Mormon Church only men can hold the priesthood. They are the only ones with the formal authority to act in God’s name.  (But the role of women can be considered significant in that the priesthood-holder cannot reach exaltation unless married to a woman in the temple for time and eternity.) Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, in Mormon Doctrine, said: “ … priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men” (p. 594).

At the local level is a Mormon congregation called a branch or a ward. A branch is a congregation, headed by a branch president, not large and/or stable enough to support all the usual activities. A ward is a congregation headed by a bishop and his two counselors and is the level at which the Mormon Church carries out most of its programs. Several branches and wards form a stake. A stake is similar to a diocese in the Catholic Church and is led by a stake president and his two counselors.

Mormon View of the Bible

The reader must also understand where most Mormons are coming from, what is their point of reference. To most Mormons the Bible is an incomplete document, and that is why their other scriptures are needed. To them it ranks below these other scriptures in reliability and completeness. Some Mormons may not want to admit at first that they hold this view of the Bible, but if you demonstrate your knowledge of the subject, some will soon confess that this is their view. The LDS position on the Bible is illustrated in the following references.

  The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations. (An open letter from the First Presidency [Presidents Benson, Hinckley, and Monson] dated May 22, 1992, to all members of the Church, in Church News, June 20, 1992, p. 3)

  We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.… (Articles of Faith #8, in the Pearl of Great Price)

  And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.… because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.… because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb.… (1 Nephi 13:26, 32, 34)

Mormons who hold the Bible in lower esteem can more easily conceive of its having contradictions than their own unique scriptures.

MORMON PRESIDENTS COMPARED

The President of the Mormon Church is the highest leader in what is claimed to be the one true Church that Jesus Christ “restored” in 1830 through Joseph Smith. Including Smith, a total of fourteen men have held the office. They have been the only ones with “authority” to receive revelation for the Church and to instruct the Church. 1 In order to understand the importance and status of the position, let us examine what some of these thirteen men, other top Mormon leaders, official Mormon Church publications, and Mormon scriptures say about the importance of listening to what the President says. 2

Mormon Standards for Following  Top Mormon Leaders

The Importance of the Teachings by Mormon Prophets

The first five items are from Search These Commandments, Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide, published and copyrighted (1984) by the Mormon Church. It is a teaching manual for Mormon men. The sixth item is from a similar 1983 manual titled Come Follow Me.

  The words of the President are more than the advice of man.

  Elder George Albert Smith noted: “When we are instructed by the President of this Church, we believe he tells us what the Lord would have us do. To us it is something more than just the advice of man” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1930, p. 66). (p. 272)

  We have our marching orders.

  President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “Therefore, the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the Prophet contained each week in the Church Section of the Deseret News and any words of the Prophet contained each month in our Church magazines. Our marching orders for each six months are found in the general conference addresses which are printed in the Ensign magazine” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets,” 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1981], p. 27). (p. 273)

  We have God’s will for us.

  President Ezra Taft Benson has pointed out that “the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets,” 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1981], p. 27). (p. 275)

  The Lord will never permit the President to lead us astray.

  President Wilford Woodruff gave the following assurance, “I say … the Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the President of this Church, to lead you astray” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 212). (p. 276)

  Our eternal life depends on his word.

  At the conclusion of one general conference, President Kimball said: “Now as we conclude this general conference, let us all give heed to what was said to us. Let us assume the counsel given applies to us, to me. Let us hearken to those we sustain as prophets and seers, as well as the other brethren, as if our eternal life depended upon it, because it does!” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, April 1978, p. 117; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 77). (p. 276)

  The Prophets speak the mind, will, and voice of the Lord and the power of God unto salvation.

  President Harold B. Lee [he was the President and Prophet of the Mormon Church at the time] once said at the close of a general conference, “If you want to know what the Lord has for this people at the present time, I would admonish you to get and read the discourses that have been delivered at this conference; for what these brethren 3 have spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost is the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (in Conference Report, April 1973, p. 176; or Ensign, July 1973, p. 121). (p. 11)

Wilford Woodruff, Harold B. Lee, and Spencer W. Kimball were Presidents of the Church when they made these statements. The other two men were Apostles, the level just below the President of the Church, when they made their statements, and became President of the Church at a later date.

The Reliability of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is the most correct book.

President Joseph Smith on Sunday, November 28, 1841, said:

  I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book. (History of the Church 4:461)

Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith said in answer to a question about changes to the Book of Mormon:

  In the case of the Book of Mormon, your attention is called to the fact that the publisher of it was unfriendly to the Church. It required the utmost care on that account. Being unfriendly, it would have been a natural thing for him to permit some errors to appear. A careful check of the list of changes submitted by these critics shows there is not one change or addition that is not in full harmony with the original text. Changes have been made in punctuation and a few other minor matters that needed correction, but never has any alteration or addition changed a single original thought. As it appears to us, the changes mentioned are such that make the text clearer and indicate that they were omitted. I am sure that the mistakes or omissions in the first edition were in large measure the fault of the compositor of the printer. (Answers to Gospel Questions 2:200)

A comparison of a first edition (1830) of the Book of Mormon with the present edition will show that many of the changes were indeed relatively minor, as Mr. Smith said, but many were not. A detailed analysis will show that almost 4,000 changes were made, and a number of them were significant. The original thought was changed, and the changes were not in full harmony with the original text. A full analysis has already been completed in the book 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. They photocopied every page in the first edition of the Book of Mormon and clearly marked the differences between it and the 1964 edition. Some of the changes are illustrated below. The Tanners’ book, on page 17 of their text and page 26 of the photocopy of the Book of Mormon, discusses the change made to what is now 1 Nephi 11:32 (chapter 3, p. 26 of the original Book of Mormon). Using a photocopy of the original handwritten manuscript, they clearly demonstrate that the original manuscript and the first edition agreed. The printer of the first edition did not introduce changes that needed correction. It was the changes introduced later by the LDS Church that were significantly different from the original handwritten manuscript.

Many of the changes made to the original edition of the Book of Mormon were corrections in spelling, grammar, and arranging the book into chapter and verse. None of these types of changes will be included in the few examples given here. But if several of the witnesses to the events leading to the publishing of the Book of Mormon are correct, then one has to wonder why even these changes were needed.

How Was the Book of Mormon Translated?

David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses whose statement is found in the Introduction of the Book of Mormon, had this to say concerning how the Book of Mormon was translated from the gold plates:

  I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. (An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer, Richmond, Mo., 1887, p. 12)

This same quote is used and accepted by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his article “A Treasured Testament” in the July 1993 Ensign, page 62.

Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, had a similar observation to share with her son Joseph Smith III when she said: “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it … ” (Saints’ Herald, 1 October 1879, pp. 289–90; also in History of the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Mo.: Herald House, 1952, p. 356, as quoted in “The Translation of the Book of Mormon,” The Word of God, James E. Lancaster, Signature Books, 1990, pp. 98–99)

“The Translation of the Book of Mormon” also reports on page 103 that Oliver Cowdery’s widow, Elizabeth (David Whitmer’s sister), along with Michael Morse (Emma Smith’s brother-in-law), also supported the reports of Emma Smith and David Whitmer. This same article, on page 105, arrives at the conclusion that only the first 116 pages of the translation, the ones lost by Martin Harris, 3 were translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim, 4 and that the rest were done by means of the seer stone, as described above.

If the Book of Mormon were truly the product of such divinely guided translation work, it would seem reasonable to expect that no changes at all should be found in subsequent editions. With this in mind, consider the changes documented in the next few pages.

Code Names in the Early Mormon Scriptures

Code names were used in some early Mormon scripture verses in place of actual names of people and places. Even Jesus Christ had other names. Except for the Lord’s name, only the code names were used in certain sections of the 1835 D&C. Sometime later, newer editions of the D&C used the code names and real names together. Finally, in the 1981 edition the code names were dropped entirely. 2 By whose authority were code names used? By men, according to Apostle Orson Pratt. He reported that the code names were not in the original manuscript revelations but were added before printing because of “persecution” in Kirtland 3 and regions nearby (Journal of Discourses 16:156). Jesus Christ is allegedly the source of the D&C (see D&C 1:2–6). Couldn’t he in 1832 to 1834, when the revelations were allegedly given, anticipate that in 1835 code names would have to be used due to “persecution”? (It then took over 145 years to return the wording back to the original revelation.)

The present edition of the D&C 1:2 and the 1835 D&C 1:1 both say, “the voice of the Lord is unto all men.” In Luke 8:17 the Lord said, “Nothing is secret … neither any thing hid.” How could the 1835 D&C be unto all men if codes were used to hide information?

{D & C = The Doctrine and Covenants}