What Do Mormons Believe About the Bible and the Book of Mormon – Session 1

By: Sandra Tanner, Dr. Lynn Wilder, Michael Wilder; ©2012
The Book of Mormon has absolutely no archaeological support and includes a wide variety of historical inaccuracies. Even though it claims to be the word-for-word translation Joseph Smith received by revelation, there have been 3,913 changes in the Book of Mormon. Why all the changes?



According to a recent survey, half of all Americans believe Mormonism is a Christian religion, while one third think it is not. This has caused many to ask, are Mormons Christians? How do their beliefs compare with what Jesus and the apostles taught in the Bible? My guests today are three prominent Mormons who have left the LDS Church and become Christians. First, Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church.

Sandra Tanner: In June of 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the president of the church at that time, he said “the traditional Christ of whom they,” meaning the Christians, “speak, is not the Christ of whom I speak.” Now, why isn’t it the same Christ? Because the Christ of the Bible has eternally been God. He’s never been less than he is today. And yet Jesus of Mormonism is one of a whole string of Gods. His father, Heavenly Father, had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus in Mormonism has not always been God. This is something he achieved. It is the goal of every Mormon man to someday achieve godhood the same as Jesus did, the same as Jesus’ father did.
Second, Dr. Lynn Wilder, a tenured professor at Brigham Young University, who authored more than 50 scholarly publications. She left her teaching position in 2008 after becoming a Christian.
John Ankerberg: As a tenured professor at Brigham Young, okay, and being a Mormon for 30 years, do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God?
Lynn Wilder: I do not. There are contradictions all over their own scriptures. There are blatant contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, even. One says God is spirit, and one says God has a body of flesh and bones. You can’t have it both ways.
And third, Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who worked in the Temple, was a member of the High Council, and served in two bishoprics.
Ankerberg: Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey and Orrin Hatch, they’re all Mormons.
Michael Wilder: Yes, they are.
Ankerberg: Okay, so if I ask them the question, can you be a biblical Christian at the same time that you are a Temple attending Mormon, as one of those that gave the Temple Recommend, what would you answer?
M. Wilder: I would say, with my understanding of Christianity now, is that, no, there’s a huge conflict between being a biblical Christian and being a Mormon.
Tanner: It’s a totally different concept of who Jesus is, who man is, who God is, how we fit in the universe, how we get right with God. In Mormonism it all hinges on participation in the Mormon Temple ritual; in Christianity it all hinges on throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and claiming Christ as savior.
We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re comparing Christianity and Mormonism today, a very, very interesting program. We have three terrific guests. We have the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church, Sandra Tanner, with us. We have Dr. Lynn Wilder, who has been a tenured professor at Brigham Young University, and is an expert on multiculturalism. We’ve got her husband, Michael, who has served in high offices in the Mormon Temple. And we’re going to talk about your jobs and the things that you’ve come out of along the way.
But today we are going to be talking about the Book of Mormon itself. And, Dr. Wilder, I want to come to you. And the fact is that Joseph Smith made this claim about the Book of Mormon. He says, “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 by any other book.” This whole idea that Joseph Smith said this is the one that’ll get you closer to God than any other book is very tantalizing in terms of saying, hey, read this and get closer to God. Did you believe that?
Lynn Wilder: Oh, I did believe that. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth. They also believe that the Bible is subject to not being correct. So, you would put the Book of Mormon above the Bible. But there are three other Mormon scriptures as well. And most of Mormon doctrine actually comes, not even from the Book of Mormon, but from the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a collection of revelations, supposedly, from Christ to the prophets.
Ankerberg: Yeah. In fact, we’ll talk about that in a moment. But, if you were a Mormon missionary or you are a Mormon or, even as a professor at Brigham Young University, if you met somebody like John Ankerberg that says, “Look, okay, you’ve got this Book of Mormon. How do you know it’s true?” And Joseph Smith had an answer for that one: basically, you pray about it, right?
L. Wilder: Right. Right. At the end of the Book of Mormon, there is a scripture that says, “And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the eternal Father in the name of Christ if these things are not true. And if ye ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.” So, what is expected is that, you read pieces of the Book of Mormon, you go to your knees, and then you wait for a feeling. And you’re looking for a warm feeling that would confirm to you that the Book of Mormon is true.
Ankerberg: And, Michael, you had that feeling, right?
Michael Wilder: Yes, I’m afraid I did. And, again, it does not tie with facts or empirical evidence. You pray about something, and you feel good about it. And this is what the missionaries try to do: If you pray about the Book of Mormon—you’re not praying about specific things, you’re just saying, feel good about it; you know, some of the passages I’ve read, yes, it seems good, it seems logical. You pray about it, you say it’s good. So, if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith has to be a prophet. You say, well, yeah, that’s deductive reasoning. And if Joseph Smith is a prophet and he restored the true church of Christ upon the face of the earth today, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must be the only true and correct church upon the face of the earth.
Ankerberg: Now, what we were talking about here is, you had a subjective experience that then helped you to bypass actually looking at the factual data down below. And, Dr. Wilder, I found this fascinating. When I was reading some of the research, in terms of doing this program, I found out—probably from Sandra, in your books—that the president of the Mormon Church made a statement about the Mormon missionaries. And your son was a terrific missionary for the Mormon Church.
L. Wilder: We have three sons who served missions.
Ankerberg: Three sons. And they were all missionaries. Now, the thing is that, what I found fascinating, he said this, is that the kids that come in that are sent out to be missionaries, okay, most of them have not even read the Book of Mormon, and they haven’t read the New Testament. Now, add to that. I mean, there’s probably a little bit more to that than I’m even saying. But they were going out and they were bearing testimony to something that they hadn’t even read.
L. Wilder: Bearing testimony with emotion is always the default. When someone gives you something that’s contrary to what you believe, and you don’t know how to refute it, and you can’t find a Mormon scripture that supports it, you bear your testimony. And Mormons rely heavily on emotionalism. When we were Mormon, we had a fast and testimony meeting once a month where, rather than having normal church, people get up and tell answers to prayer, what God has done for them. It’s very emotional. And, yes, they believe very much in the subjective.
Ankerberg: Yeah, in fact you had a verse that backed it up. It was III Nephi 11:29, which says, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention…” so somebody comes along and says, hey, I need to ask you about this, because I don’t think this is true…
L. Wilder: Right
Ankerberg: “…is not of me but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger one with another.” So, the fact is, you could basically write that person off and say, oh, they’re of the devil, because I’ve got this subjective feeling that this thing is true.
L. Wilder: Right. Let me hit that home, because this is really good for Christians to know about Mormons. If you’re trying to witness to Mormons, and they believe that you’re being strong, or that you’re contending with them in any way, they completely shut down and decide you are of the devil and won’t listen. So, if you’re talking to a Mormon, the approach has to be truth in love. You have to find some way to stir up the thought process. The God of the Bible says, “Come, let us reason together.” So, if you can get Mormons to reason, and to look at contradiction—there are contradictions all over their own scriptures. There are blatant contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, even. One says God is spirit and one says God has a body of flesh and bones. You can’t have it both ways.
And there are a number of contradictions like that. Doctrine and Covenants 132 says that polygamy is the new and everlasting covenant and will be forever. And the Book of Mormon says that polygamy is an abomination.
Ankerberg: So, let me ask you this question, okay. As a tenured professor at Brigham Young, okay, and being a Mormon for 30 years, I assume that you believed what the Doctrine and Covenants said about the Book of Mormon, which was, it’s the “truth and the word of God;” it’s the “fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ;” it’s “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” My question to you is, do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God?
L. Wilder: I do not. And it actually began for me at Brigham Young when I was teaching multiculturalism. I had a number of my students that began to teach me about the “curse of Cain.” I didn’t know anything about the curse of Cain.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Let me tell our audience what you’re talking about here. In July of 1947, the First Presidency of the Mormon Church stated this in a letter: “From the days of the prophet Joseph,…” right from the beginning, “…even until now, it has been the doctrine of the church, never questioned by any of the church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the gospel.” Bruce McConkie said, “Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood. Under no circumstance can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them. Negroes are not equal with other races.”
That bothered you as a professor of multiculturalism, and yet you were a Mormon. Why?
L. Wilder: I thought racism was behind the church, was behind us since 1978. But what I learned from my Mormon students was that it was still ingrained in them. They still believed the curse of Cain. And I hadn’t really researched it. Those kind of questions in my class started my researching. I went immediately to the Bible, thinking the Bible is usually not right, and assumed that it was going to talk to me about the curse of Cain. And when I read the Bible, it doesn’t say that the curse of Cain is black skin. It says nothing like that. I had to go to Mormon scriptures to get the idea that black was less than white, and from words like you just said from Mormon prophets. And I was beginning to realize how horrific racism had been in the church since 1830 all the way up to 1978, and that it still ran in the church, because it still exists in the scriptures.
Ankerberg: Sandra, it was doctrine up until 1978. It was revelation. It was God’s word given through Joseph Smith, alright. This was laid in stone. What changed in 1978?
Sandra Tanner: Well, people need to understand that in Mormonism everything’s about priesthood authority. In order to go to the highest level of heaven, you have to have priesthood authority. In order to ordain anyone to any office in the church, you have to have priesthood authority. In order to go to the Mormon Temple, you need priesthood authority. And yet, Blacks were denied the priesthood up until 1978, which meant that they could not attain the highest level of Mormon heaven. So it was a very important thing when the prophet finally announced in ’78 that Blacks now could hold the priesthood, which allowed them to go to the Temple. Now they could progress to the top eternal life, to become a God.
Ankerberg: The problem, though, for you, Dr. Wilder, was, it’s been revealed in new revelation that that’s not the way it ought to be, but it is still part of the Mormon scriptures even now.
L. Wilder: It’s in the Book of Abraham. It talks about Ham. And it is in the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Mormon, supposedly Lehi and his family left Jerusalem 587 BC, before Babylon conquered Jerusalem; came across the many waters to Mesoamerica, and established a civilization here. And that’s what the Book of Mormon talks about. Well, there were kind of the good guys and the bad guys in the Book of Mormon. One of the sons, Nephi, was righteous; and one of the sons, Laman, was not righteous. So the people who followed Laman, then, supposedly God gave black skin, so that the Nephites wouldn’t want to intermarry with them. And it was a curse because of their unrighteousness. That is still in the Book of Mormon today.
Ankerberg: Alright. We are going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to say, you, in teaching multiculturalism at Brigham Young University, found out that, even though the prophet got new revelation in 1978, that the attitude is still among your students, alright. And we’re going to talk about why that’s true when we come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church; and Dr. Lynn Wilder from Brigham Young University, who used to be a professor there; and with Michael Wilder, her husband, who has served in the hierarchy of the Mormon Church.
And I want to come back to this thing, what we were talking about, in terms of racism in your classes. When your students showed signs of racism, even though in 1978, the fact is, the prophet of the Mormon Church said, we’re no longer going to keep Blacks from going into the priesthood, so therefore they can go into the celestial heaven, they can progress to godhood, okay, they can have all of those ceremonies. Even though that was true, you still have these verses in Mormon scripture that say Blacks are cursed. And so you have two revelations here. And you’re saying that some of this crept up in your classes. How so?
L. Wilder: It crept up in my classes, and I couldn’t seem to refute it, because students realized it was connected with the scriptures. And this is kind of the way Mormons think. Reasoning is the thing to do in every other realm except for faith. So, when it comes to faith, if it’s tied to scripture, it has to be true, and the debate is over. So I had a really hard time kind of opening the minds of my students to the ideas that all skin colors might have some value and be equitable. This was just what God used, I think, to get me into the Bible and to get me into the scriptures to start reasoning these things out. I actually decided I’d go to the Book of Mormon first, because it was “the most correct book on earth.” I wanted to know the truth, so I decided, I trust Christ; I’m going to go right to the Book of Mormon and find Christ’s own words. I realized, the whole Book of Mormon, God only visits, supposedly, in one little section. And what I was reading was an exact copy of the Beatitudes out of Matthew. And I knew that.
Ankerberg: When you say “exact,” you mean “exact?”
L. Wilder: Yes.
Ankerberg: Word for word?
L. Wilder: There are a number of places in the Book of Mormon where it is plagiarized directly from the Bible; 18 chapters right out of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.
Ankerberg: In King James language, too.
L. Wilder: Yes, which is something we’ll talk about eventually. But I then had to go to the Bible to hear the direct words of Christ. When I went to the Bible and started reading Christ’s own words, I was stunned to find that Christ himself was anti-Mormon doctrine in a number of cases. And I kept reading, kept reading, kept reading; decided I only trusted Christ, and he was in the Bible; therefore, I only trusted his words in the Bible. Eventually I got so that I could trust his disciples’ words in the Bible. But what I found was, biblical doctrine is not Mormon doctrine. And I literally came to a point where I had to make a decision: did I trust Christ in the Bible, or did I trust the Mormon hierarchy?
Ankerberg: Yeah. “For God is no respecter of persons,” okay. And that’s biblical theology. And you didn’t have that in the Book of Mormon.
Let me jump here, because time’s rolling along. Sandra, you said part of your journey out of Mormonism was realizing that the Book of Mormon didn’t teach real Mormonism. How so?
Tanner: Right. Well, when Jerald and I first started studying and questioning about Mormonism, we thought, well, maybe God used Joseph Smith to bring out the Book of Mormon. But we could see there were a lot of problems. Later on Joseph changed his doctrines, changed his theology, changed his revelations and scriptures. So we thought, okay, we’ll look at the Book of Mormon for doctrine. And lo and behold, the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach like the Doctrine and Covenants. It doesn’t have this idea of progression to godhood, Temple marriage, three levels of heaven. We haven’t even touched on it in the program yet, but the Mormon idea that we all pre-existed in heaven with Heavenly Father as spirit-children. And none of this in the Book of Mormon. I thought, wow, it just talks about there being one God; well, that’s kind of like the Bible. So I sort of backed out of Mormonism to the Bible through the Book of Mormon, seeing that the Book of Mormon didn’t teach like the Doctrine and Covenants; and that it lined up, in some areas, more with the Bible. And so, then when I started reading Bible verses—that there’s only one God, there’s never been any other, God doesn’t know of any others—the Book of Mormon seemed to go along with that idea. But when I read the Doctrine and Covenants, we have multiple gods. And in the other scripture, the Pearl of Great Price, they teach plural gods. So you have this change in theology in Mormonism through the years, even in their own scriptures.
Okay, here is an example. Brigham Young said—and he was the second president of the Mormon Church—“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like himself when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things he puts into our possession. We are created, we are born, for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our father in heaven.” And that’s the whole goal of the Mormon—to become a God like Heavenly Father.
Ankerberg: And none of that was in the Book of Mormon.
Tanner: And none of that is in the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon says that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God. It says that God is unchanging; God has always been God. There’s nothing in the Book of Mormon to teach the kind of thing that came in later into Mormonism.
Ankerberg: What was going on in your head, as a very smart person that was trying to figure this out? What happened?
Tanner: Well, I couldn’t believe that God is a God of contradiction; that if he revealed one thing about his nature one day, it’d have to be the same thing the next day. God isn’t changing; I had that firmly in my mind—God did not change. And yet when I looked at Mormon scriptures, I see the doctrine of God changing continually. So, it was pretty obvious that God wasn’t speaking through these Mormon prophets, if they’re teaching different than what the Bible always said about God.
Ankerberg: What do you do with this thing of racism still being in their scriptures, even though you’ve got the prophets saying, this is not what we believe anymore? How do you know what to believe?
Tanner: That’s one of the problems in Mormonism, that you find these different teachings through the years. And so, the Mormon Church just says, you follow the living prophet. It doesn’t matter what any past prophet has said, we go by the living prophet. But then, why do the Mormons have any scriptures at all, if we’re just going to go with the living prophets? So there’s a contradiction even in their own use of their prophets’ words. They use their past prophets when it’s convenient, but when it contradicts today’s prophet, then they just say, “Oh, well, don’t worry about the past ones, we just go with the current one.”
Ankerberg: What would you say to a Mormon that was just about where you’re at? What’s your advice to them, then?
Tanner: You go back and read the New Testament. The Mormons claim to be a restoration of the original Christian church. You need to first get a firm handle on what was the original Christian church. Read that New Testament. You won’t find Mormonism there.
Ankerberg: Alright. Next week we are going to talk more about the Book of Mormon. And I think that you can see that there is a big difference between what Mormonism is saying about God, Jesus, and salvation, and what the Bible is saying: who God is, what Christ did, and how you get eternal life. So, please stick with us. We’re going to talk more about this as we go along. Join us next week.

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