Religions Blog
“The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible”
is a motto that has been around Grace Brethren circles for a long time. While I am conscious of the historical context that gave rise to it – the Grace Brethren group broke off from the Ashland Brethren group in large part because of the perceived weak view the latter had regarding the authority of Scriptures – I now realize that this can also be a narrow way to define one’s principal beliefs.

That the Bible is central to everything we believe as Christians is undeniable, but contrary to Islam and Mormonism, to cite just two, we do not seek to place our religious writings in an exalted pedestal requiring a level of veneration almost akin to adoration. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, ascribed to the Book of Mormon a status achieved by no other religious book in the world. It is the most complete, the final authority from God. Muhammad, naturally, also claimed the same about the Koran.

We, Christians, on the other hand, claim that Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God. The author of Hebrews said that in these last days God spoke “in” His Son, not simply “by” or “through.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hmmm. Jesus was the walking billboard of God. If for some reason we didn’t have the Bible, God’s ultimate revelation to mankind would still be intact because it lived, breathed, walked and talked among the likes of us. The Christian view permits no quasi-divine status to the Holy Book. We are biblio-centric but never bibliolaters.

Since the claim has been made that the Book of Mormon is the crown of God’s revelation to mankind, then it is reasonable to say that the book will be a bullet-proof case of precision and order, completely insulated from the perils that plague a merely human book or a religious book of less worth (as all others would be, according to Joseph Smith).

But when you apply that test, the Book of Mormon is found wanting. Willfully short of perfection.

Let’s forget the unusual circumstances in which the book was supposed to have been found. Let’s forget the cunning and conniving that seemed to be present during the so-called “translation” from the gold plates. Let’s forget that “Reformed Egyptian” is not even a language any linguist anywhere has ever recognized that it exists. Let’s forget all of that and go to narratives in the book itself.

According to the Book of Mormon, the American Indians are direct descendants from the Hebrews, who immigrated to the New World; but this is contrary to every anthropologist or archaeologist (non-affiliated with the Mormon Church). Even some scientists from Brigham Young university have expressed doubt whether the traditional view espoused in the Book of Mormon can be maintained.

The whole geography of the book appears to be a fiction (not a single town listed in the Book of Mormon has been found — even traces of them– by archaeologists). One is left with only faith in something that the prophet and a few of his followers said about the origin of the book.

Though many Mormons claim that the Smithsonian Institutions have used their book in their research, this has been patently denied by this institution, as you can read here.

The chronology of the book is also off. According to Joseph Smith, the first group of Semites arrived in North and South America between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C., but Archaeology shows conclusively that  western hemisphere was populated at least as far back as 10,000 B.C. by east Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering Strait. For a summary of this argument, go here.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that even some Mormon scholars have expressed doubt about the overall geography present in the Book of Mormons. Some of them have proposed what is called the “limited geography” theory, but this presents even more challenges to someone who believes the Book of Mormon is the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind. For a detailed analysis of the limited geography theory, go here. Warning: it is somewhat technical…

I am not buying any of it, and if you want to hear more, please join us this Sunday at Grace Church. As I compared the understanding we Christians have about the Bible with how Mormons view the Book of Mormons, I was once again reminded of how radically different our approach is. Christ could never compete for a place of prominence, even against the Bible. Though I like the motto that places emphasis on Scriptures, I for one would rather live by this motto: “Christ alone, all of Him, and nothing but Him.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade