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The

Failure
Of
Anti-Mormon
Scholars
Book One

Professor Harold J. Berry


Professor of Bible and Greek at Grace College of the Bible

Copyright © 2011 Ronnie Bray


MESA Arizona
Who is Ronnie BRAY?

Ronnie Bray is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


– a Mormon. He became a Latter-day Saint through personal conviction that
it is the Church of Jesus Christ and the vehicle for the Restored Gospel of
Jesus Christ.

Education

From two and a half years of age, Ronnie attended Spring Grove Elementary
School, retiring from formal education in December 1949, shortly before his
fifteenth birthday, without passing any significant examinations, and
abysmally failing his examination to attend Grammar School.

Since becoming a Latter-day Saint at the age of fifteen, he has taught almost
continuously in one or other of the Church’s auxiliaries, staring with the
Primary Organisation when he was sixteen.

When he was seventeen, Ronnie enlisted in the British Army on a three-year


regular engagement. By this means, he avoided being called up for
compulsory National Service, in which he would have to serve for two years
but with a lighter weekly pay.

In the Army he became a Vehicle Mechanic, of incomparable ineptitude, and


also completed several courses under the ægis of the British Army
Education Corps, including a module on ‘Principles and Methods of
Instruction,’ receiving a First Class Certificate at the end of all modules.

Besides continuing to study the Holy Bible in pocket edition that


accompanied him on all his adventures, he enrolled in a distance learning
course at Ruskin College, Oxford, England, in ‘Principles of Philosophy,’
graduating with a consistent Grades ‘A.’

During 1953, he attended night classes at Derby Technical College and


graduated in ‘Elocution, ‘ and ‘Elementary Spanish.’

During military service with the Middle East Land Services, Ronnie taught
Bible Studies to an informal group of fellow Christians soldiers, addressed
the Anglican Young Men’s Movement on the subject of Mormonism at the
invitation of the Anglican chaplain, was frequently called on by his
comrades in arms to pray for them, contact their families with unfortunate
news, officiate as a spiritual advisor to divers groups of soldiers during
Easter and Christmas seasons, and served as an informal but accessible
trusted listener and comforter, providing spiritual, social, and other kinds of
counsel as need arose.

During this period of service in Ægypt and Cyprus, he learned some of the
rudiments of Arabic and a useful command of Greek.

After demobilisation in 1955, Ronnie served a teaching mission in the


British Mission of the Church, labouring in Peterborough, Southampton,
Bournemouth, Cheltenham, and Bristol.

Besides serving a second mission as a Church Building Missionary, Ronnie


continued to teach in Youth programmes, Sunday School classes, Priesthood
classes, and has also taught Seminary and Institute of Religion.

In his late middle years, Ronnie was awarded a Diploma in Social Sciences
from Huddeersfield Technical College, and thereby gained admission to
Leeds University Department of Theology and Religious Studies, from
which he graduated with honours in 1992.

Ronnie‘s third mission was as an Institute of Religion Co-ordinator based on


the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee.

Ronnie’s doctoral dissertation, “Images of Hate—Ministers of Fear” has not


been presented or published, but is used as a resource to Latter-day Saints
that are disturbed by or curious about publications and representations made
by Anti-Mormons.

Ronnie served as the ALERT Specialist on Huddersfield Stake Public


Affairs Council and was instrumental in having several textbooks containing
errors about Mormon Teachings and belief either pulled from school shelves
and, in some case, being amended.

For many years, Ronnie has engaged Anti-Mormons and studied their
methods, pointing out to them where their failures lie concerning their
understanding of what is and what is most definitely not Mormonism.
It is in the spirit of enlightened discourse that Ronnie reads and critiques
publication that while intending to throw light on what is, for the authors,
the vexed subject of Mormonism, that he undertakes to have them correct
their errors. The usual response to his entreaties and explanations is most
commonly a telling silence!

Now in his twilight years – he was born in January 1935 – he maintains his
interest in telling the truth about Mormonism as understood and believed by
Mormons. This response is but one of dozens he has made over the years.
If health and the balance of his mortality permit, he anticipates continuing to
shed light in dark places for many more years, an it please God to let him.

Whatever your religion, denomination, or spiritual path, Ronnie seeks


nothing more than that you understand Mormonism as understood by
Mormons, and not as the modern equivalents of the writers of the Arabian
Nights would have you understand it.

May God guide you and shed his Spirit on you to bring you closer to
Himself and to His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ, and ever nearer to His
truth.

Ronnie Bray – a servant of the Living God and His Christ


April, 2011
MESA, Arizona, USA
Who is Harold J. Berry?

Harold J Berry is said to be, ‘Professor of Bible and Greek at Grace College
of the Bible,’ in Omaha, Nebraska.1

Grace College was originally intended as an inter-Mennonite Bible institute


where Christian men and women might further their theological training,
that is stated to be fundamental in doctrine, vitally spiritual in emphasis, and
interdenominational in scope. Originally called Grace Bible Institute in
1943, the name was changed in 1976 to Grace University, to emphasise the
school's newly acquired accredited status.

Grace University offers 17 undergraduate and two graduate degrees,


including pastoral ministries, psychology, music, and teacher education.
The campus has a state of the art extensive theological library, a new gym,
and a teacher education wing.

The teacher education program is one of the biggest programs offered at


Grace University. This program started in 1998. This program strives to
provide a Biblically integrated curriculum as well as challenging, up-to-date
education. Students can choose from a variety of different areas of teaching
interest.

Elementary and Middle School Education majors automatically receive an


additional English Language Learner endorsement with their diploma.
Among the possibilities of teacher education programs, students can receive
an associate’s degree of education, elementary education, middle school, and
high school. Students are also given the opportunity to pursue a degree in
music education.

There is a class grandly titled, “American Faiths in the 21st Century,”


instructed by: Harold J. Berry, which is described by Grace College as:

] Providing] a landscape of faith systems in the current culture of popular


American religions from an evangelical Christian viewpoint. Various faith
and belief systems will be taught from their history and doctrines, including
what make them different from biblical Christianity. Through this academic

1
Frontispiece, Berry, “MORMONS, What-They-Believe,” published 1988, reprinted 1991
process, students will gain a deeper understanding of their own faith in the
light of other beliefs.

Required Textbooks

• What They Believe (Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, 2006) ISBN: 978-
0-8474-6700-6.

A 52 page pamphlet written by Berry.

• Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions (Grand


Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2006) ISBN: 978-0-310-23954-3

Publisher’s Product Description

Up-to-date, well-documented, comprehensive coverage of cults, sects, and


world religions, from the historical to the contemporary.

INCLUDES:

Well-known groups and world religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses,


Mormons, Islam, and Baha'i

Groups with a significant North American influence, including Santeria,


Rastafarians, Haitian Voodo, white supremacy groups, Wicca, and Satanism

REVISED, UPDATED, AND EXPANDED TO INCLUDE NEW ENTRIES


AND NEW INFORMATION*

Updated information on Islam and its global impact.

New entries: the Branch Davidians, Native American religions, Heaven's


Gate, Aum Supreme Truth, the Boston Movement, the Masonic Lodge, and
many others.

Developments in the world of cults and the occult.


Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions is arguably
the most significant reference book on the subject to be published. Formerly
titled Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult, it provides
reliable information on the history and beliefs of nearly every form of
religion active today.

This extensively revised edition includes new topics, updated information,


and a brand-new format for a clearer, more organized approach. The
authors evaluate the beliefs and practices of each group from the
perspective of the Bible and the historic creeds of the Christian church.
You'll also find group histories, numerous illustrations, charts, current
statistics, websites, bibliographies, and other useful information.

From the Back Cover

The Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult is probably the
most significant reference book on the subject to be published in recent
decades. In addition to traditional, well-known groups such as Jehovah's
Witnesses, Mormons, Islam, and Baha'i, the Dictionary of Cults, Sects,
Religions and the Occult deals with groups that are not yet well-known but
are making strong inroads in North America, such as Santeria,
Rastafarians, Haitian Voodoo, white supremacy groups, and Satanism.

The authors evaluate the beliefs and practices of each group from the
perspective of the Bible and the historic creeds of the Christian church.
Numerous short articles about people, places, and concepts provide brief
definitions and descriptions. These articles are cross-referenced to the
major in-depth articles that deal with the history, beliefs, and demography
of each cult, sect, or religion. The book contains many illustrations and
charts and includes an up-to-date bibliography for each of the groups and
movements.

Not everyone agrees with the publisher’s blurb. Amazon carries six reader
reviews as of 28 April, 2011:

The first reviewer is fulsome and engaging, although the Reverend


gentleman makes claims that might not be realised:
Concise and extensive handbook of many of today's cults, July 21, 1998, by
xxxxxxxxx@aol.com, Rev. Robert F. Shonholz.

This review is from Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult
(Hardcover). The strongpoint of this dictionary is its extensive coverage of
the hundreds of cults and sects that are around today. While it was
impossible to cover all of them, the authors went to great pains to include
all the best known ones as well as some that enjoy less popularity.

Each article is written from a strong Christological viewpoint, includes an


extensive list of primary and secondary resources for further investigation
while still being immensely readable. Theological language is either
explained or avoided making each synopsis easily understandable for the
average layman.

Kingdom of the Cultsm [sic] move over, your repalcement [sic] is here.

The second review is bitingly critical:

Good cataloging, horrible interpretation, December 15, 2007, By C. Cornell

This review is from: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World


Religions: Revised and Updated Edition (Hardcover)

Though commenting upon an array of religions, cults, and sects so great


you could hardly ask for more, this book is crippled by its own bias.

It is written from such a Christian-centered viewpoint that all non Judaic


religions become horribly tainted. Just about everything, even religions
such as Hinduism and Buddhism which pre-date Christianity, are compared
extensively to the Christian faith.

The trouble in this is, as any student of subaltern groups knows, that the
reader cannot develop an organic understanding of a religion, but rather
can only see religions as measured by the yardstick of Christianity.

For example, the section on Buddhism is broken down into the following
categories: History, Teachings, God, Sin, Salvation & the Future, Morality,
and Conclusion. In every section except for History and Conclusion,
Buddhism is compared to Christianity, even though Buddhism predates
Jesus by hundreds of years.

The authors do not even attempt to hide such bias, openly declaring that
they will portray Buddhism only through Christian lenses on page 42.

The section on Christianity itself is almost laughable. The masturbatory,


emotive waxing on the noble history of Christianity (and its inherent
correctness!) in the conclusion is hilariously sad.

"Yet despite persecution, moral laxity, heresies challenging it both from


within and without, the church of Jesus Christ prevails... It has experienced
dark moments, but even as the darkness of the first Good Friday gave way to
the brightness and splendor of the resurrection and the empty tomb, so too
has the church experienced a glorious history with a future that will be
brighter still when Jesus and the church - that is, when the bridegroom and
the bride - unite forever.” (Page 72)

If you want a comprehensive list of religions, cults, and sects, this will do -
but if you want to understand them and see them from a relatively neutral
viewpoint, go elsewhere.

P.S. Zoroastrianism doesn't have its own encyclopedic entry. Hello!? The
People's Temple (the organization/cult of Jim "Purple Kool-Aid" Jones)
which had perhaps 1000 members at its height gets its own section, but not
a religion which heavily informed both Christianity and Islam and which
still boasts 200,000 members world-wide today.

The third review is even less complimentary:

This Dictionary Rapes The Truth, November 10, 2008, By Tami Jackson "of
SunTiger MOJO" (Greater Seattle Area)

This review is from: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World


Religions: Revised and Updated Edition (Hardcover)

Most of us buy books to educate ourselves and NOBODY wants to spend


time researching false facts that only make us grow more ignorant and
misinformed. Yet that is exactly what this so-called dictionary attempts to
do; promote ignorance and slanderous lies (when it's not simply providing
partial truths).

The authors clearly did NOT research the occult or much about the other
religious groups they write about. Not only do they repeatedly credit
Satanism for beliefs completely unrelated to that Sect, but they mutilate any
respectable definition of the peace sign -- calling it the "Satanists Pentacle"
(when penta is the prefix meaning "five" and there are no five points inside
a peace sign).

Regarding the Wiccan Rede -- the authors erroneously attribute it to


Aleister Crowley who had NOTHING to do with either Wicca or with the
Rede, as an ethical principle that's regularly drummed around many neo-
pagan circles. Many would argue Crowley had nothing to do with ethics at
all. In fact, he purported "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole law" (feel
like having sex with your neighbor's infant? Do it!) while the Wiccan Rede
states "An it harm none, do what ye will." The authors also falsely claim
that Satanists follow the Rede, when they are not at all compelled by Wiccan
dogma, but (according to the Satanist Bible) follow their own rules to do
whatever's the OPPOSITE of Christianity.

The two examples, provided above, are but the tip of the iceberg for how
inaccurate is this dictionary. (I hope you find this review helpful/truthful
because I utterly adore books and education and we'd all benefit from
promoting intelligence instead of lies.)

Best advice in regards to this "dictionary": Save your money. THESE


GROSSLY IGNORANT PAGES ARE NOT FIT FOR THE BOTTOM OF
THE BIRD CAGE.

More appreciative is the brief review by Paul Deary

This review is from: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World


Religions: Revised and Updated Edition (Hardcover)

Hey - ordering Amazon has a fantastic way of being proficient. It has been
helpful and informative (the book that is).
Hardly appreciative at all is the review by “A Customer,” whose review
content suggests he or she is a Latter-day Saint.

Which Is the "Christian" Doctrine? November 19, 1999. This review is


from: Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult (Hardcover)

Which Is the "Christian" Doctrine?

Suppose for a moment that the Latter-day Saints were to take seriously the
demand that they conform in every particular to "Christian" doctrine, and
that they then made the attempt to do so. Having complied with such a
demand, would the Latter-day Saints find themselves in total agreement with
Protestants or with Catholics? Would they believe in apostolic succession
or in the priesthood of all believers? Would they recognize an archbishop,
a patriarch, a pope, a monarch, or no one at all as the head of Christ's
church on earth? Would they be saved by grace alone, or would they find
the sacraments of the church necessary for salvation? Would they believe in
free will or in predestination? Would they practice water baptism? If so,
would it be by immersion, sprinkling, or some other method? Would they
believe in a substitutionary, representative, or exemplary atonement?
Would they or would they not believe in "original sin"? And on and on.

It is unreasonable for other Christians to demand that Latter-day Saints


conform to a single standard of "Christian" doctrine when they do not agree
among themselves upon exactly what that standard is. To do so is to
establish a double standard; doctrinal diversity is tolerated in some
churches, but not in others. The often-heard claim that all true Christians
share a common core of necessary Christian doctrine rests on the dubious
proposition that all present differences between Christian denominations
are over purely secondary or even trivial matters-matters not central to
Christian faith. This view is very difficult to defend in the light of Christian
history, and might be easier to accept if Protestants and Catholics – or
Protestants and Protestants, for that matter – had not once burned each
other at the stake as non-Christian heretics over these same "trivial"
differences.

The last review accuses the authors and editors of blatant bias.
Unbiased? October 1, 2000, By A Customer

This review is from: Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult
(Hardcover)

The book has a lot of good information but they continually compare every
religion or doctrine to their own obviously fundamentalist Christian views.
It gets a little old time after time reading how this organization is wrong
because they're not the right kind of Christian.

It leaves little to be said other than the reviews represent several spiritual
perspectives, only one of which is from a Mormon. The reviewers, by five
to one, declare the book less than neutral in its approach to those its titles
declare to be “Cults, Sects, and World Religions,” by which it means those
it has declared to be ‘non-Christian faiths.’

My personal view of the book is that it is the work of The Crowbar, an


epithet for the one that prises people apart, when the true work of a Christian
is to reconcile man to man, and man to God, distancing himself from none,
but embracing all mankind as brother and sisters, some of which might be on
a different path, but all of which have the common goal of finding sacred
truths.

The third volume of required reading for those taking this course is,

• A Pocket Style Manual, 5th edition (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004) ISBN:


0-312-40684-32

This slim volume is simply a high school grade primer for writing in an
academic style, and provides instructions on verifying sources for academic
papers, that Grace College of the Bible overlooks in its other two required
books.

That this school does not take its own advice bodes ill for students taking
this course, since they are given tainted documentary sources as foundation
documents, and then, having polluted the spring, Grace College of the
2
http://www.amazon.com/Pocket-Style-Manual-Diana-Hacker/dp/0312406843/ref=sr_1_1?
s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304026549&sr=1-1#reader_0312406843
Bible’s students are required to resort to cynical fictioneering to make their
work appear to represent reputable academic scholarship when the very
substance of the course and its instructor scream ‘BIAS!’

More from Grace College’s website:

The denominations and faith visited during this Grace University course are:

1. Biblical Christianity. [Students memorize two Bible verses about the


source of authority, through which they will internalize what God’s Word
says about this doctrine].
2. Roman Catholicism
3. Seventh-day Adventism
4. Mormonism
5. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
6. Masons
7. Secular Humanism/Unitarian Universalists
8. The Way International
9. Unification Church
10.Christian Science/Unity School of Christianity
11.New Age Movement/Transcendental Meditation
12.Islam
13.An Evangelical Response

The flavour and direction of the course is obtained from Harold Berry’s own
hand in his pamphlet, “Mormons,” in the continuing series. ‘What They
Believe.’ Berry calls Joseph Smith’s first vision a ‘fantastic account.’3 He
later asserts, ‘In recent years, the discovery of several historical documents
has raised several questions concerning the validation of the Mormon
scriptures and the character of the group’s founder.4

It should not have been impossible for an academic of Berry’s alleged status
to provide at least one verifiable reference to these hypothetical documents.
In the absence of one example we recognise the academic canon of ‘What is
offered without proof requires no rebuttal,’ applies, and so we silently pass
over much of the darkness and vagrancy that permeates Professor Berry’s
work.
3
Berry, ‘Mormons’ p. 3
4
Ibid. p. 4
Lilies that fester smell worse than weeds – or Berry Badly Done

A lie direct from Berry’s fustian pen is:

“Through the years the Mormons have maintained that Smith possessed a
flawless character.”5

This is a lie direct. Joseph Smith said:

“I told them [the Saints] I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be
perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them;
but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren,
I would likewise bear with their infirmities.”6

Those that knew Joseph well knew his flaws, and they have not been kept
hidden from the Latter-day Saints, but spoken of wherever Saints gather and
discuss the Prophet of Palmyra. To attempt to make it seem otherwise is
disingenuous and blatantly dishonest, and demonstrates the pithy saying that
‘A tale half told is a lie made bold!’

Berry shows a singular lack of scholarly integrity, as do all that garner their
supposed ‘facts’ from defiled sources and palm them off on the gullible for
thirty pieces of silver as truths.

Joseph Smith was a man, a good man, but not a perfect man. It is difficult to
maintain a good character in the eyes of your enemies when you are a mere a
mortal. It should surprise no one that the only perfect being that ever walked
the earth, Jesus Christ, was accused of blasphemy, being a glutton, a
winebibber, of consorting with social pariahs and outcasts.

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus busy ministering
to and helping people, while the scribes and Pharisees were busy griping,
complaining, and finding fault.

Jesus healed a crippled man physically and spiritually [vs. 1-8], while the
Scribes found fault with him. [vs. 3]
5
Ibid. p. 7
6
‘History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ v. 5, p. 181
Jesus called Matthew, who was a tax collector and, therefore, according to
Jewish custom he was an out-and-out thief,7 to follow him [vs. 9], and then
Jesus reached out to Matthew's friends and colleagues in the tax farming
business by eating supper with them [vs. 9-10]. The Pharisees found fault
with him [vs. 11] but Jesus reminded them of their own rule of faith, saying,

“Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.
Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [vv. 12-13].

Jesus raised a girl from the dead [vv. 23, 25-26]. The witnesses of this act of
Divine mercy laughed Jesus to scorn [v. 24]

Jesus healed a demon-possessed man [vv. 32-33], and still the Pharisees
found fault with Jesus [v. 34].

At the end of the chapter, Jesus continues ministering, teaching, preaching,


meeting the needs of all manner and conditions of people, and changing their
lives [v. 35], and looked at the multitude of people that stood in need
spiritually, and He looked at His disciples and uttered those classic words,

"The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” [vv. 37-38]

Today, the harvest remains large and abundant. People everywhere need
Christ and the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Latter-day
Saints are most energetic in preaching Christ Jesus with 60,000 full-time
unpaid missionaries through the world on a sustainable basis to take the
message that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer and the author of our
salvation.

Modern day Pharisees raise their voices to call good evil, light darkness, and
life death, just as they did when Jesus perched the same spiritual verities.
They did the same to Joseph Smith, and they do the same today to all Latter-
day Saints.

7
The Roman government required heavy taxation of its people. Tax collectors were local employees
considered to be outcasts and traitors. Matthew was such an outcast and traitor.
All throughout Matthew’s ninth chapter, Jesus is ministering to people and
meeting their urgent needs, yet he is continuously criticised and ripped apart
by Pharisees and scorners sitting on the sidelines.

Faultfinders are almost always either misled or otherwise clueless, yet they
imagine they knew everything. However, they missed the harvest while
Jesus reaped it.
habitually faultfinders are usually ignorant. How do we know? Because if
they were informed experts they would not miss the harvest.

It takes effort, mental rigour, and emotional energy to condemn and find
fault with others. That energy is better spent loving and reaching people
rather than in spreading lies about them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ all
about people, and these Pharisees just cannot grasp this simple fact. They
think it is all about them, their positions, their rules, and their powers. It
isn’t. As Jesus said,

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and
Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” [John 17:3]

Raising up Jesus Christ and God the Father is Christian work. Finding fault
with those that seek to follow Christ and be perfected in him, is the work of
another fellow altogether. Professor Berry, in his haste to elevate his
perspective has lost the Christian perspective taught by Jesus when he told
his angry disciples who complained that another, not of their company, was
blessing people in Jesus name:

“Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name,
that can lightly speak evil of me.” [Mark 9:39]

Professor Berry’s academic credentials do him no good when he refers to


‘Reformed Egyptian’ as ‘a non-existent language.’8

The Book of Mormon does not call Reformed Egyptian a ‘language,’ but
describes it as a script in which the record was inscribed. It is not too far a
stretch to consider much of the character set of the English alphabet to be
reformed Egyptian, for the origin of many of our characters came from
Egyptian characters that were subjected to change or being re-formed, down
8
Ibid. P. 10
the centuries. Making a written alphabet a ‘language,’ is not an honest
man’s work.

Samuel Pepys, the English diarist, wrote in the English language using a
character set he devised himself that was not accessible to others. His
character set was not the language. During military service in the Middle
East, I kept a full year’s diary in the English language written in Greek
characters. I dare say that my inept hand re-formed some of the characters
beyond the ken of my Greek friends, but they were readable by me.

There is no excuse for a professor of any subject to mangle well known


historical details. Yet, Berry manages this when he writes,

“Joseph and his brother Hyrum were arrested and placed in jail in
Carthage, Illinois, to await trial.” 9

The truth is that Joseph was not arrested but had to answer a charge, and so
voluntarily went to Carthage and submitted to his incarceration ready to
stand trial. Hyrum was not being put on trial for anything, and neither were
the other brethren that accompanied Joseph and stayed with him in an upper
room at the jail until he and his brother Hyrum were murdered by the mob
that stormed the jail, putting the guards to flight, killing, first Hyrum, then
Joseph, and wounding others in the company. These are facts not in dispute
entered on the historical record and available to all.

A small matter, you may say, and perhaps it is. However it demonstrates the
carelessness with which an academic responsible for teaching the subject to
students in preparation for their Christian ministry does not take basic care
in establishing what he later asserts to be facts when they are not.
Unfortunately, this kind of error is all too common in Anti-Mormon
publications.

The Professor makes another startling statement:

“The historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon presents an interesting


problem. The Mormons claim the Book of Mormon is a history of ancient

9
Ibid. p. 13
America, but non-Mormon archaeologists find no support for such a
claim.”10

“Letters from qualified sources make statements such as,

“The book [Book of Mormon] is untrue Biblically, historically, and


scientifically” and “The Smithsonian Institute has never used the Book of
Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no
direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject
matter of the book.”[Emphasis added]

The juxtaposition of these two statements connected by the narrative ‘and’


make sit appear that both statements were made by the Smithsonian
Institute. Had Professor brown done more than simply copy them from
Martin’s falsehood laden ‘Kingdom of the Cults’ he would not have fallen
flat on his face over this, nor led so many of his students so badly astray on
such a vital matter. The statement,

“The book [Book of Mormon] is untrue Biblically, historically, and


scientifically”

Is no part of the Statement made by the Smithsonian Institute in response to


questions about whether they used the Book of Mormon as a field guide. I
can verify from personal experience that this had been a Mormon myth,
since I heard it myself in the early nineteen fifties. It was, however, never
taught by the Church, and was the equivalent to one of today’s urban myths.

The origin of that statement is not referenced by Berry except his footnote to
the pericope indicates that he lifted it directly and without verifying its
provenance or truth from Walter Ralston Martin, a proven liar on so many
fronts.

Martin cites a letter in which the opinion is stated:

The following letter was addressed to the Rev. R. Odell Brown, pastor of the
Hillcrest Methodist Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia, an ardent student of
Mormonism and its claims. Dr. Brown, in the course of his research, wrote
to the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York
City. The answer he received is of great importance in establishing the fact
10
Ibid. p. 17
that the Book of Mormon is neither accurate nor truthful where the sciences
of archaeology and anthropology are concerned.

Dear Sir:

Pardon my delay in answering your letter of January 14, 1957. The


question which you ask concerning the Book of Mormon is one that comes
up quite frequently.... However,... I may say that I do not believe that there
is a single thing of value concerning the prehistory of the American Indian
in the Book of Mormon and I believe that the great majority of American
archaeologists would agree with me. The book is untrue Biblically,
historically, and scientifically.

Concerning Dr. Charles Anthon of Columbia University, I do not know


who he is and would certainly differ with his viewpoint, as the Latter Day
Saints (Mormons) tell it. What possible bearing Egyptian hieroglyphics
would have on either the Book of Mormon or the prehistory of the American
Indian I do not know....

I am,

Very sincerely yours,


Wm. Duncan Strong (Signed)11

Dr Strong was an eminently qualified anthropologist, born on January


30, 1899 in Portland, Oregon. He received his B.A. degree in 1923, and his
Ph.D. in 1926 from the University of California at Berkeley.

Dr. Strong's interest in anthropology developed under the influence of Dr.


A.L. Kroeber, a student of Dr. Franz Boas. He worked at the Field Museum
of Natural History at the University of Nebraska, and at the Bureau of
American Ethnology before joining the faculty at Columbia in 1937. In
1942 he was promoted to Full Professor, and in 1943 was appointed to the
Loubat Professorship, a chair which had been vacant since 1918. Dr. Strong
served as the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology for many years,
and he remained at Columbia until his death in 1962.

11
Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, p. 157
Dr. Strong's anthropological career consisted of a variety of experiences.
Between 1924 and 1925, Strong was assigned by Dr. Kroeber the job of
classifying the Max Uhle Peruvian Collections. During the winter of 1927-
28, he participated in the Rawson-McMillan Subarctic Expedition collecting
valuable data on the Naskapi Indians of Labrador. His field research on the
Great Plains was influential in changing the previous picture of native life
on the Great Plains. His excavations in Honduras in 1933 and 1936-37
provided important data on the Maya civilization. It was in 1940, while at
Columbia, when he began his field work in Peru which gained him his
greatest recognition. He excavated on the central Peruvian Coast of
Pachacamac in 1941-42, on the northern Peruvian Coast of the Viru Valley,
and on the southern Peruvian Coast at the Nazca and Ica Valleys in 1952 and
1953. His careful stratigraphic excavations allowed him to develop a sound
chronology of Peruvian culture, and his synthesis of broad cultural epochs in
Middle and South America was influential on later developmental
schemes.12

His opinions would carry some weight, but ought not to be given more
weight than he himself allowed them. Both Martin and Berry allowed
themselves to fall into the trap of taking learned opinion as proven facts.
Berry ought to have known better and considered what Strong’s intentions
were when he chose to say,

I do not believe that there is a single thing of value concerning the


prehistory of the American Indian in the Book of Mormon and I believe that
the great majority of American archaeologists would agree with me. The
book is untrue Biblically, historically, and scientifically.

Although it is difficult to take much comfort from Dr Strong’s words, ‘I do


not believe’ is not a positive scientific statement, but an opinion that leaves
some leeway for future conviction should evidence appear that convinces
him to believe differently.

“I believe that the great majority of American archaeologists would agree


with me,” also leaves room for emendation should it be warranted.

However, his statement, “The book is untrue Biblically, historically, and


scientifically,” is a direct condemnation of the Book of Mormon on Biblical,
historical, and scientific grounds. It would be interesting to discover
12
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/anthropology/about/main/one/strong.html
whether Strong’s opinions would have changed had he been privy to the
wealth of information we have today about the Book of Mormon’s
consonance with the Bible, the ancient Near east and its culture, and the
history and science of the New World that has unfolded to view since Strong
expressed himself in the terms he used. I do not say he would have changed
his opinions, but the probability is that he would not jettison all the positive
evidence that has been unearthed in many disciplines since he penned his
letter to Mr Odell.

My purpose here is not to contend with Professor Strong, but anthropology


has neither stood still nor continued as it once did because of wiser heads
and better information that is coming to light year on year and has done
since 1957. Professor Berry might believe that there have been no important
advances in our understanding of Mesoamerica in the last sixty years, but
few will agree with him.

To continue with Professor Berry’s mention of the Smithsonian Institute, it


is essential that the Smithsonian Statement is read in the light of
distinguished Latter-day Saint scholar Dr John L Sorenson’s,

A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution


"Statement regarding the Book of Mormon"
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent
the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints.

Summary: Anti-Mormons frequently refer to a long-standing form letter


sent by the Smithsonian Institution in response to inquiries about the Book
of Mormon. In this paper, John Sorenson makes note of serious flaws in this
Smithsonian statement, pointing out that parts of the form letter are based on
unsubstantiated assumptions by the Smithsonian staff who are unqualified to
make such generalizations. Also included in this paper is a more responsible
letter recently issued by the Smithsonian Institution on this matter.

Smithsonian Statement on the Book of Mormon Revised

For many years the Smithsonian Institution has given out a routine response
to questions posed to them about their view of the relation between the Book
of Mormon and scientific studies of ancient American civilizations,
Statements in their handout pointed out what somebody at the Institution
claimed were contradictions between the text of the scripture and what
scientists claim about New World cultures.

In 1982 John Sorenson wrote a detailed critique of the Smithsonian piece


that was published by FARMS. It pointed out errors of fact and logic in the
statement. He revised that in 1995 and included the recommendation that the
Smithsonian Institution completely modify their statement to bring it up to
date scientifically. FARMS officers later conferred with a Smithsonian
representative who indicated a willingness to make changes. More recently,
members of Congress have questioned the Institution about the
inappropriateness of a government agency taking a stand regarding a
religious book.

In March of 1998 the Director of Communications at the Smithsonian began


using the following brief response to queries about the Book of Mormon:

Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution's alleged use


of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Office
of Communications. The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a
scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in
archeological research and any information that you have received to the
contrary is incorrect.

A New Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institution "Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon"
(Revision, draft 28 March 1995)

For many years the Smithsonian Institution (SI) in Washington has received
inquiries concerning the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon, its
rumored role in the Institution's scientific activities, and specific queries
about the Book of Mormon story in relation to American archaeology. For
several decades the SI has responded to such inquiries by distributing a
form letter prepared by its Department of Anthropology. The contents of the
letter have changed in detail from time to time, but overall the statement
denies that there is evidence from science that supports the picture of
ancient America which it supposes the book to present. This denial has been
used by opponents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which
accepts the Book of Mormon as historically sound, to support their position
that the volume is false. This paper evaluates the accuracy of the SI
statement itself in the light of an alternative view of what archaeology has
found.

The necessity for a Smithsonian statement stems from the fact that for years
some Latter-day Saint missionaries and other enthusiasts for the Book of
Mormon have made the claim that archaeologists at the Institution use the
Book of Mormon to guide their archaeological research in the field. (As a
matter of fact, SIs archaeologists conduct virtually no field research.) In the
manner of all folklore, this rumor passes from person to person in such an
undocumentable manner that it is impossible to correct this foolish, naïve
notion. Understandably Smithsonian officials would be frustrated and
irritated at having to deal with persistent inquiries on this point. Their form
letter has seemed to them a reasonable way to cope with the problem.
However, the content of the letter is laden with problems. In the interest of
truth and the advancement of knowledge (an important part of the SI's
mission), their public communication people should correct those faults.
Until they do, this evaluation may assist a few people to get some relevant
facts straight.

If an intelligent criticism is to be made of any position, the critic must be


well prepared regarding both, or all, sides of it. Rendering a judgement on
whether or how the Book of Mormon relates to the result's of scientific study
on ancient America is no different. It requires knowledge of both sides of the
potential equation. The most erudite archaeologist who has not also
mastered the cultural and geographic content of the Book of Mormon
cannot sensibly compare it to archaeological findings (exactly as if the book
were some other purported American Indian book, say, the Walarn Olum or
Popol Vuh). Conversely, LDS scriptorians ignorant of necessary details
from science controlled by knowledgeable archaeologists are equally
unqualified.

The Book of Mormon has never been analyzed as a record reporting ancient
cultures on anything like the scale and with the intensity that it deserves,
The text needs to be examined in full detail for what it says—and does not
say—about customs, the rise of cities, warfare, etc., which it attributes to the
peoples it treats. The only analysis even moving in that direction was
published in An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,1 but
even it only begins the requisite investigation. Meanwhile most Latter-day
Saints characterize the cultures of the Nephites and other peoples treated in
the volume unsystematically and uncritically, on the basis of informal
traditions rather than sound scholarship. Yet what non-Latter-day Saints
have claimed the Book of Mormon says about ancient America is equally
unreliable. Even the few non-religious scholars, like those on the SI staff,
who purport to have looked at the scripture in the light of archaeology
sufficiently to make a statement about it have failed to investigate this
complex record more than superficially.

In studies of ancient American culture history no comparison is worth


anything unless it refers to the right place and the right time. For instance,
if researchers should examine the question of the origin of a particular
architectural form mentioned in a central Mexican document, they would
only look foolish if they wasted effort surveying buildings in Ecuador. On
the same principle, talking about the precise where and when the Book of
Mormon speaks of is a requirement if one wishes to be taken seriously in a
discussion of that volume in relation to archaeology.

In recent decades LDS scholars have established three important facts


about the Book of Mormon text that define how it must be compared with
external, scientific information. The first point is that the Book of Mormon
itself presents the events in the New World which it reports as taking place
in a territory of limited extent—not more than 500 or 600 miles long and
considerably less in width.2 This territory is also characterized as lying on
both sides of an isthmus separating the major oceans. This scale is contrary
to what many Latter-day Saints and virtually all critics of the Book of
Mormon have assumed. For generations they have supposed that the entire
western hemisphere was the scene for Book of Mormon events. But careful
studies of hundreds of interlocking details in the text about topography,
hydrographic features, climate, settlements, and cultural patterns have
produced general consensus that the Book of Mormon peoples lived in all or
a portion of Mesoamerica, that is, the area occupied anciently by the
civilized peoples of southern and central Mexico and northern Central
America.

The second point is that the book reports events and cultures confined
almost totally to the "Pre-Classic" or "Formative" era, prior to about A.D.
300.

Third, it is a record kept by and about only a segment of Mesoamerican


society—a particular noble "lineage" according to one frame of reference. It
was written to explain and justify events that affected the descendants of a
ruler (Nephi) who lived in the sixth century B.C., probably in southern
Guatemala. It does not purport to be and manifestly is not the story of a
whole "'nation," let alone a full "culture" or "civilization." Neither does it
tell us systematically about portions of Mesoamerica or beyond that were
not involved with the fate of its particular descent line.

It is also important that the Book of Mormon is only incidentally and


incompletely a record of culture. Its primary purpose is religious or
ideological; only cryptic information is offered about such matters as
technology, political structure, or social structure, even for that segment of
the population about whom it speaks. The brevity means that whole
centuries and substantial territories are passed over with no more than a
handful of words to characterize the events or cultures involved.

On the basis of this characterization of the Book of Mormon and its peoples
and lands, we can see what kind of expert is qualified to comment usefully
on how or whether the Book of Mormon account relates to the findings of
scientists. Our expert ought to be as highly-informed about the archaeology,
art, biological anthropology, linguistics, and history of southern and central
Mesoamerica in the Pre-Classic period as possible, with emphasis on
relating the results from dirt archaeology to an esoteric sacred text. At the
same time, our expert needs to be conversant with the cultural content of the
Book of Mormon record, concerning which a significant body of secondary
literature has been developed by Latter-day Saint analysts in recent years.
Needless to say few, if any, experts are qualified in these terms.

None of the handful of Smithsonian archaeologists is even a Mesoamerican


specialist, let alone a Pre-Classic specialist. Nor is there a hint of any of the
staff having examined the Book of Mormon in a sophisticated manner that
would ensure helpful comparison with scholarly results. One wonders, then,
who are the knowledgeable sources prepared to stand behind the SI
statement regarding the Book of Mormon.

Realizing that people have been expecting more of the SI's Department of
Anthropology than the folks there are qualified to deliver, we here offer
interim help in two ways. First, we will discuss difficulties in the SI letter
itself, point by point. Then we offer a draft of a new statement that is on
sounder ground than the existing handout.

Analysis of Nine Points in the SI Statement


Assertions one and nine are straightforward. Their substance is that the
Institution has never used the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide; their
archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New
World and the subject matter of the book; and, yes, there are copies of the
Book of Mormon in the Institution's library which they could consult should
they desire to do so. We could all hope that the pointless inquiries from the
public on those elementary matters of fact would cease completely in the
face of these statements.

Item two speaks of "the physical type of the American Indian," which is said
to be "basically Mongoloid." This is a standard textbook-level
characterization which avoids many significant issues connected with the
subject. Certain biological characteristics of the American native
populations are indeed generally, if not universally, shared throughout the
hemisphere, but there are not many such features. Dr. T. Dale Stewart, long
the Smithsonian's physical anthropologist, chose to emphasize what is
shared, as in his short book, The People of America.3 Other, equally-
respected experts, however, have observed significant variety among "the
American Indian." For example, Dr. Juan Comas, long Mexico's most
prominent physical anthropologist, asked the question in print, "Are the
Amerindians a biologically homogeneous group?" He answered with a firm
"no," and gave cogent reasons for his position.4

Research on blood groups led G. Albin Matson and associates to say, "the
American Indians are not completely Mongoloid."5 Professor Earnest
Hooton of Harvard strongly agreed and thought he saw Near Easterners as
a component.6 My mentor at UCLA, Joseph B. Birdsell, acknowledged that
"An important number of anthropologists have specifically included the
Mediterranean branch of the White race as having contributed genetically
to the American aborigines," and, "Phenotypically many American Indians
show morphological characteristics plausibly attributed to a Mediterranean
ancestry."7 Polish anthropologist Andrzej Wierçinski analyzed a large
series of skulls excavated at major sites in Mesoamerica and found much
variety. He considered there to be three "primary Amerindian stocks" which
came out of Asia (thus agreeing generally with Stewart), but he also found
evidence for features "introduced by . . . migrants from the Western
Mediterranean area."8 It is true, of course, that such views are considered
heretical by many U.S. physical anthropologists, but that may be a matter of
intellectual fashion or taste rather than a measure of their accuracy.
Item number two of the SI statement also maintains that "the ancestors of
the present Indians came into the New World—probably over a land bridge .
. . [at] Bering Strait . . .—in a continuing series of small migrations
beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago." Nowadays American
archaeologists are quarreling vehemently over almost every word and
phrase in that statement. This somewhat simplistic interpretation is quite
plausible as far as it goes, yet it is backed up by only equivocal
"archeological evidence," not the definitive sort which the SIs statement on
the Book of Mormon suggests. That is why controversy about "the origin of
the American Indians" continues.

A look at a recent discussion of that controversy is instructive in regard to


the Book of Mormon issue. E. James Dixon has noted certain anomalous
archaeological sites, such as Monte Verde in Chile, Pedra Furada rock
shelter in Brazil and Meadowcroft rock shelter in the eastern U.S. which do
not fit with the SI statement. He thinks they are perhaps "not to be
understood as part of a monolithic model of the peopling of the Americas
but are . . . the tangible remains of sporadic early colonization events that
were not connected to subsequent developments in New World prehistory."
Instead, they may stand as "silent testimony to early but unsuccessful
colonizations that failed, as did that of the Vikings thousands of years later."
It remains to be seen whether the bearers of those cultures were
"Mongoloid" and whether their genes continued to later times.

"The Norse phenomenon" mentioned is helpful in understanding that


definitive denials about the possible presence of Book of Mormon peoples
are on boggy theoretical and methodological ground. To Dixon, the Norse
settlement in "Vinland" "demonstrates that various groups of humans could
have attempted colonization of the American continents . . . only to
subsequently disappear" while "evidence of their passing would be
extremely difficult to detect in the archeological record." But he finds the
Norse settlement in Greenland to be even more instructive than the North
American mainland case. In Greenland archaeologists have found ruins of
at least 330 farms and 17 churches, thousands of artifacts, including
European-style clothing made of Greenland wool, as well as the skeletons of
the Vikings themselves. The colony persisted for about 500 years (half as
long as "the Nephites" of the Book of Mormon). The case provides "clear
documentation of a major and long-lived transoceanic colonization of the
Americas that ultimately failed." Furthermore, genes which descendants of
the Norse could have left behind would have been mixed among native
Greenlandic Inuit ["Eskimo"] populations so that they cannot now be
identified as distinctly European in origin. Consequently, "the original
Norse colonization of Greenland cannot be demonstrated ever to have
happened based on genetic analysis of living people."9

May it not be premature for archaeologists to say with the assurance


manifested in the SI statement on the Book of Mormon that no other cases
like the Norse wait to be found? In fact, other finds in recent years confirm
the need for an open mind. An entirely unsuspected settlement of Basque
whalers has been found on the coast of Labrador after being "forgotten for
almost 400 years." Their extensive settlement remains were not even
suspected by archaeologists until documents chanced upon in archives in
northern Spain revealed the existence of the outpost all the way across the
Atlantic from Basque country. Only when the story was made evident by
these historical records could archaeologists know where to look for and
find the settlement's material remains.10 Alison T. Stenger has reprised a
series of studies which suggest the arrival, and survival for a time, of what
may have been a group from Japan or Northeast Asia who reached the
territory of present Washington state.11 Meanwhile Otto J. Sadovszky has
presented extensive, convincing evidence from comparative linguistics and
ethnology (much more remains unpublished) for direct migrations from the
Ob-Ugrian (Vogul and Ostyak) speaking area of western Siberia to central
California in the first millennium B.C. Archaeological testing of his
proposition has not been attempted.12

Getting paradigm-comfortable experts of the anthropological establishment


to pay attention to such finds is, however, as Dixon warns us, difficult:
"Advances will . . . require courage on the part of researchers who discover
information that does not fit accepted scientific paradigms. These
researchers must risk criticism and rejection from other scientists as they
challenge accepted models and present alternative interpretations."13 if we
were to accept the SI statement on the origin of native Americans as a
dictum that rules out all non-Mongoloid alternatives, we would be
contradicting the very exploratory nature of science as well as overlooking
great amounts of data which just happen to be unfashionable in its
implications.

The third item in the SI statement concerns transoceanic voyagers to


America. It singles out the Norse (Vikings) as the first to make such a
passage. This hidebound view can be held nowadays only by those who have
failed to consider the massive evidence to the contrary. Thirty years ago,
when the SI statement may have originated, an excuse existed for such a
conservative position - the published materials relating to the question were
inconveniently scattered. By 1971, however, a standard anthropological
volume, Man across the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts,14 had
been published which put forward a substantial body of data and argument
in favor of (and also against) the idea that voyagers had the technical means
to cross the oceans and indeed had reached the Americas before the Norse.
The articles in that volume against the diffusionist position by no means
justified the SI in so totally dismissing the idea. But recently a far larger
body of literature was made accessible in Pre-Columbian Contact with the
Americas across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography.15 Of this work
Professor David H. Kelley of the University of Calgary said, "Nobody can
afford to offer an opinion on this subject from now on without having
carefully considered this essential volume." Dr. Betty J. Meggers, one of the
Smithsonian's own archaeologists, called it an "impressive bibliography and
monumental effort." In 1993 it is time the SI statement regarding the Book of
Mormon took into account the substantive nature of many of the 5600
entries in this bibliography (both pro and con) before peremptorily ruling
out all non-Viking voyages. In the Introduction, the bibliographers said
under the heading "interim conclusion" that, "It is likely that the
technological capacity for transoceanic voyaging has been available . . . in
the Old World fairly often in the past. [After surveying this huge literature]
it seems to us both plausible and probable that numerous voyages did cross
the oceans and in several places. Furthermore, available evidence from
cultural, natural scientific, physical anthropological, linguistic and other
studies can be plausibly mustered to support this view."16 Since these
authors now know this literature better than anybody else, their verdict of
"plausible" deserves to be entertained seriously, and the SI statement ought
to be cautioned by it.

Mesoamerican peoples reported to the Spanish explorers traditions that


their ancestors had come from across the ocean. For example, Fray
Bernardino de Sahagun recorded in 16th century Mexico that "Concerning
the origin of this people the account which the old people give is that they
came by sea . . . in some vessels of wood. . . ."17 Other traditional accounts
are to the same effect.18
Again, Dr. Meggers and the late Clifford Evans discovered evidence while
working under Smithsonian auspices that led them to conclude that Asiatics
had indeed completed at least one epic voyage from Japan to Ecuador.
Meggers continues to argue that position strongly.19

The least that must be said about item three in the SI statement is that it tries
to stonewall the issue of transoceanic voyaging by speaking as if there were
no issue. This is unsupportable for a responsible scholarly institution today
(individual diehard scholars continue to dodge the problem in just that way,
it is true).

Item four continues the line of thinking in the previous paragraph by making
over-simplified pronouncements about the nature of the evidence for inter-
hemispheric contacts. It says that none of the principal Old World
domesticated food plants or animals were in the Americas before the arrival
of the Spaniards. But when we examine the distribution of food plants and
animals within the eastern hemisphere, we observe that, for example, the
Romans lacked rice. So are we to conclude that they have had no contact
with, say, India? They did, of course. They also lacked camels, so was the
Middle East beyond their reach? Obviously not. This is misleading,
methodologically sloppy argumentation. Cultural items do not spread
automatically or inevitably even when people are aware of those items in
the hands of others. In the Old World, areas quite close to each other often
failed to share what we might ethnocentrically consider "'principal"
techniques or objects. Why this is so was discussed at length in the first
three articles in Man across the Sea (cited above). What is important as
evidence is what is shared, and the lists of features which support an early
connection between the hemispheres is extensive, including a substantial
number of crops.20 This item four is a red herring drawing attention away
from the serious methodological issues involved in responsibly addressing
this topic. It is difficult to believe that serious anthropologists at the
Smithsonian would have drafted such a naïve paragraph as this.21

Item five lists four materials said not to have been used in the New World
before A.D. 1492: "'iron," "steel," "glass," and "silk." These are words used
in the Book of Mormon text. Their use in the translation of the original
record to English has led many to suppose that the same substances were
used by the "Nephites" referred to in the book as come to our minds when
we encounter the terms today. Other translated terms used in the Book of
Mormon are in the same category, such as "wine," "horse," and "cattle."
But English words in a translation must, of course, be dealt with in the same
cautionary terms as words that translators utilize when treating any ancient
text. For example, some of the Hebrew words translated as the names of
certain metals in the Old Testament are problematical; several different
words have been translated as a single English term, "bronze" and "steel"
for instance.22 Anybody who has done translating realizes the difficulty,
and sometimes the impossibility, of finding equivalent terms.23

The problem is clear in the case of Book of Mormon "silk." It is simple-


minded to suppose automatically that the Nephites reported in that account
must, like east Asians, have had silkworms which fed on mulberry leaves in
order to account for the use of this word. Early Spaniards in the New World
encountered this very terminological difficulty. We learn, for example, that a
wild silkworm in Mexico spun a fiber which Indians gathered to make a
fabric.24 Should the European explorers have called this fabric seda ("silk")
or not? Classical scholars face a similar problem; Aristotle and other
Greeks describe a silkworm, but the reference is considered by modern
experts to be a conflation of information on two types of silkworm native to
southeastern Europe and having no direct connection to the Far East.25
Moreover, fine hair from the belly of rabbits of central Mexico was woven
into a cloth which the Spanish considered "equal in finish and texture" to
silk.26 A silk-like fiber (kapok) from the pod of the ceiba tree was gathered
in Yucatan and spun; this seems to be what Bishop Diego de Landa referred
to at one point as "silk." Clavigero said of this kapok that it was "as soft and
delicate, and perhaps more so, than silk."27 Yet cotton, the common textile
material in Mesoamerica, itself was sometimes woven so fine that Cortez
claimed textiles "made of silk could not be compared."28 Furthermore, fine
fibers were taken from the wild pineapple plant and from "silk-grass,"
Aecmea magalenae, that could qualify as "silk" for texture.29 So would the
Book of Mormon be in error in referring to "silk"? Not if Mesoamerica was
its scene.

Exactly the same situation prevails with the term "wine." Usage of this label
was looser in the English of earlier days; Joseph Smith's translation of the
Book of Mormon need not have used it in the narrow sense most people
recognize today. Samuele Bacchioccbi's research recently found that
biblical "wine" (whether from Latin "vinum," Greek "oinos", or Hebrew
"yayin") could refer to the juice of grapes, and even the grapes themselves,
in addition to the fermented beverage.30 But grapes need not be involved
for a drink to be called "wine" (although grapes were known and used in
pre-Columbian America31). Weston LaBarre's classic anthropological
survey of American beverages considered it useless to try to distinguish
"wine" from "beer" in the historical literature.32 The fermented juice of the
maguey plant, "pulque," was labelled "wine" by the Spaniards,33 and
plantings of the maguey cactus were termed "vineyards."34 But other
"wines" were made, according to Spanish writers: from bananas,35
pineapples,36 the trunk of the coyol palm,37 and the bark of a tree.38

This short excursion into the complexities of translating from an ancient


text39 is relevant to the "iron," "steel," and "glass" mentioned in the SI
statement as not found in ancient America. Before that question can be
addressed in terms of archaeological findings, textual issues, including
translation, must be dealt with. For instance, "glass" is mentioned just twice
in the Book of Mormon in English. The first use (2 Nephi 13:23) is in a
quotation from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (Isa. 3:23) where
"glasses" are mentioned as an item of decoration used by Israelite women.
However, modern translations of this passage prefer "mirrors," which could
anciently have been of polished metal as much as of "glass." Put another
way, the "glass" of Isaiah 3:23 and thus of 1 Nephi 13:23 is an anglicism
which need not refer to a vitreous substance. The other usage of "glass" in
the Book of Mormon is in Ether 3:1, which reports an event which took
place in the Old World. Thus the question of whether glass was or was not
present in the ancient New World is irrelevant; either critique or defense of
the term "glass" is pointless inasmuch as the text of the scripture makes no
clear reference to the substance "glass" in a New World context.

The translation problem haunts "steel" too. We can hardly be sure of its
referent substance in the Book of Mormon when "steel" in the King James
Version of the Bible "should often be read 'bronze' or 'copper.'"40
Moreover, meteoric nickel-iron has been termed "a type of steel,"41 and this
substance was well-known in Mesoamerica.42 Iron was used in
Mesoamerica, although. little technical testing has been done to determine
how much of it was smelted and how much meteoritic. Archaeologist
Sigvald Linne found a piece of smelted iron in a tomb at Mitla, Oaxaca,43
while at Teotihuacan, he excavated a pottery vessel which had been used for
melting a "metallic-looking"' mass which contained iron and copper.44 Iron
artifacts and minerals have appeared in numerous excavations and museum
collections in Mesoamerica and are mentioned in traditions. It is not out of
the question that this metal was used with some consistency before the
arrival of the Spaniards.45 Caution may be recommended in phrasing any
future statement front SI because of changing knowledge. Heather Lechtman
has said about metallurgy in South America, "it would be foolish to attempt
any generalizations or careful evaluations of . . . beginnings in Andean
metallurgy when we see that within the last thirteen years . . . bits and
pieces of information have slowly [been] collected to alter our previous
notions. . . ."46 The same applies to Mesoamerica. I have shown that well
over a hundred specimens are reported in the literature, but quite
systematically ignored by convention-minded archaeologists, which
definitely or possibly show metals in use earlier and more widely than the
received view allows.47

Thus the Smithsonian statement on the Book of Mormon can be faulted in


two ways in the matters it deals with in its fifth item: (1) it is uninformed
about finds that contradict its establishmentarian dictum that certain
materials were absent from Mesoamerica; and (2) it manifests naïveté in
handling the terminology in a potentially ancient text.

Item six in the statement returns to the question of transpacific voyages. It


says if they were made at all, they had little or no effect and could have
happened solely by accident. Negative statements of this kind are probably
impossible to document by their nature, yet it is evident, as indicated above,
that this offhanded dismissal is really based in ignorance, not in careful
survey and evaluation of the extensive evidence bearing on the matter. This
is the way of blind faith, not of science. Once more it is noteworthy that the
long list of careful scholars who refuse to be bulldozed to one side by such
sweeping denials includes as leaders Dr. Meggers, and the late Dr. Evans.
Both scholars, as well as numerous others, have been convinced that
transpacific trips were made from thousands of years ago.48 Among other
major contributors to the relevant literature, whose writings are surveyed in
the Pre-Columbian Contact bibliography cited above, we may mention as
worthy of special attention José Alcina Franch, George F. Carter, Robert
von Heine-Geldern, Stephen Jett, David H. Kelley, Ling Shun-Shêng,
Joseph Needham, and Paul Tolstoy. Any Smithsonian statement on the Book
of Mormon cannot be considered to be based on sound scholarship if it
dismisses out of hand such high quality work as theirs. Transoceanic
voyaging, including those journeys reported in the Book of Mormon, appear
within the realm of the possible according to a great deal of modern
research.
The seventh item in the statement concerns whether a connection existed
between Egypt and Mexico in pre-Columbian times. It is not clear why this
particular statement is included, since the Book of Mormon makes no claim
of direct connection with Egypt. Nevertheless, I am unaware of a single
Egyptologist who has paid enough attention to the necessary information on
both Egypt and Mexico to justify the negative statement, "'no connection."
There are, in fact, materials that point to a connection and which deserve to
be carefully considered when someone qualified actually attempts a valid
comparison.49

Paragraph eight is easier to agree with, in general. Finds of "ancient


Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in
preColumbian contexts" are, in many cases, subject to question. Few have
been carefully investigated, and some of the purported investigations and
translations of such inscriptions are indeed fanciful. Yet few conventional
archaeologists or epigraphers, such as the Smithsonian statement
apparently relies upon, have seriously studied these writings but have
rejected them out of hand in an arbitrary manner. In recent years two pieces
of scholarship of high critical quality have concluded that some of the
inscriptions are genuine and do show Old World writing systems in ancient
use in America.50 Others inscriptions remain in the realm of the possible.51
It is simply not possible at this time responsibly to rule out the possibility
that some inscriptions date from pre-Columbian times and are genuine. This
does not make any particular difference in terms of the Book of Mormon,
however. According to that volume, the writing system used in its production
was not known to any other group (see Mormon 9:34) so would not be
among those scattered widely in this hemisphere and claimed by "American
epigraphers" to have Old World origins. Obviously the Book of Mormon
script was not "Egyptian" as such, although it was considered conceptually
linked with ancient Egyptian glyphs by its users. Incidentally, Linda Miller
Van Blerkom of the University of Colorado has shown that "Maya glyphs
were used in the same six ways as those in Egyptian" writing.52

In summation, careful consideration of the Smithsonian Institution's


"Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon" and the anthropological and
related literature relevant to it indicates that while it was a justified attempt
to deal with a public information problem, the substance of the statement is
often unreliable and unduly narrow. It consistently oversimplifies, like a
busy professor speaking down to a curious and somewhat pesky child. The
answers it gives reveal no serious knowledge of the actual cultural claims or
implications of the Book of Mormon, while its facts concerning ancient
America or cultural process are seriously flawed.

Mormons and non-Mormons alike ought to leave the Smithsonian folks


alone and let them get on with the technical work for which they are
qualified. The myth deserves smothering that they are closet Mormons, on
the one hand, or highly-informed specialists on archaeology relevant to the
Book of Mormon, on the other. But inquiries are likely to continue;
therefore a new handout should be prepared which is more carefully
phrased. The following would be defensible:

1993 Draft "Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon"

Inquiries are directed to the Institution from time to time about the Book of
Mormon. This statement provides the information most commonly
requested.

1. Copies of the Book of Mormon, like other widely-published volumes, are


available to our staff should they wish to consult them.

2. The Book of Mormon is not and has never been used other than
incidentally in research conducted by Smithsonian scholars. Since the book
is primarily religious in nature, concern with it does not normally or
appropriately fall within the Institution's mission, anymore than the Bible or
the Koran.

3. Statements in the volume and interpretations of its content made by those


who accept it as sacred history do impinge upon matters concerning pre-
Columbian American cultures which are of normal professional concern to
Smithsonian and other scientists and scholars who do not accept the Book of
Mormon as historical. Latter-day Saint scholars who believe in the historical
nature of the record and have also done research on its text generally
maintain that it refers to events that took place in an area in the New World
only a few hundred miles in dimension, not the entire hemisphere as
Mormons once thought. These believing scholars further hold that all or part
of Mesoamerica (central and southern Mexico and northern Central
America) was this scene and that, therefore, the peoples and cultures of that
area alone within the western hemisphere should be compared with
statements in the Book of Mormon. If this position is correct, then only a
small number of experts trained in materials of the specific place and time
where the "Book of Mormon peoples" supposedly lived can answer some
questions on this topic. Few of those experts have invested the effort to deal
with those specifics, hence answers to some queries remain general.

In this context, the following statements reflect the position of the


Department of Anthropology on issues which have been raised:

Q. The Book of Mormon reports that several parties crossed the oceans to
settle in the Americas and to become culturally influential there. Do
anthropologists consider this scenario sound and is there convincing
evidence that such voyages succeeded and their parties colonize American
territory?

A. Most anthropologists and other scholars who deal with this subject
continue to maintain that convincing evidence is lacking for such voyages
and colonies, other than in the case of the Norse or Vikings. A minority of
scholars—many not evidently qualified by training to deal with this issue
but others with substantial qualifications—point to what they consider
significant parallels between Old World and New World cultures as well as
early nautical capabilities that support the idea that certain transoceanic
voyages could and did take place and which resulted in local cultural
impacts and perhaps more.

Q. The Book of Mormon claims that settlers from the land of Israel reached
America and became ancestors of American Indians. How does this stack up
against the findings of scientists about, the biological history of native
American groups?

A. American native peoples are generally considered descended from


Mongoloid groups which reached North America via the Bering Strait then
spread throughout the hemisphere. A significant minority of qualified
researchers say that a Mongoloid overlay of bodily characteristics obscures
the presence of some non-Mongoloids. The latter, they hold, are visible in
Mesoamerican and other American art and skeletal material from ancient
times and some of those may have arrived by transoceanic travel. The
scientific methods available for studying this topic are not adequate at this
time to establish one or the other view clearly.
Q. The Book of Mormon speaks of features that are claimed by scientists
expert on ancient American cultures not to be present in the New World,
such as "silk," "steel," and "horses." What is the public to believe about this?

A. There is no recognized evidence that silk of the specific type known in


East Asia, steel in the normal sense of that term, and horses were known or
used in ancient America. The same is true of certain other substances or
features reported in the Book of Mormon. Most experts hold that such labels
cannot be considered to reflect ancient American life accurately.

However, certain scholars who hold Latter-day Saint beliefs note that such
terms could be used to refer to materials or objects other than those familiar
to modern readers (e.g., a "horse" might have been a deer, the name not
being translated with clarity to English; there is fragmentary evidence that
deer may have been used, in Mesoamerica, in certain ways like horses). If
the text of the Book of Mormon is construed in this manner, then the issue
cannot be resolved by reference to normal scholarship.

Notes

1. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1985).

2. For a history of the research which establishes this point, see John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book
of Mormon Events: A Source Book., rev. ed. (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon
Studies, 1992).

3. T. Dale Stewart, The People of America (London: Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1973).
4. Juan Comas, Cuadernos Americanos 152 (Mayo-junio 1967): 117—25, See also his Antropologia de los
Pueblos Ibero-Americanos (Barcelona: Editorial Labor, 1974), 35—42 and 52ff.

5. G. Albin Matson et al., "Distribution of hereditary blood groups among Indians in South America. IV. In
Chile," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 27 (1967): 188.

6. Quoted in Harold Gladwin, Men out of Asia (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947), 63—65.

7. "The problem of the early peopling of the Americas as viewed from Asia," in Papers on the Physical
Anthropology of the American Indian, ed. W. S. Laughlin (New York: Viking Fund, 1951), 14; he himself
thought that this "'White" genetic component, while valid, probably originated from an early non-
Mongoloid population located in the Far East which had arrived in America via Bering Strait. That is not
the only possibility, of course.

8. "Inter- and intrapopulational racial differentiation of Tlatilco, Cerro de las Mesas, Teotihuacan, Monte
Alban and Yucatan Maya," Actas, Documentos y Memorias de la 36a. Congreso Internacional de
Americanistas, Lima, 1970 (Lim, 1970), 1:1, 231—48. Or see his "'Afinidades raciales de algunas
poblaciones antiguas de México," Anales del Instituto Nacional de AntropologÃa e Historia (México,
1972-73), 123—44.
9. E. James Dixon, Quest for the Origins of the First Americans (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1993), 130-32.

10. Brian Fagan, "Basques of Red Bay," Archaeology (Sept./Oct. 1993): 44—51.

11. "Japanese-influenced ceramics in precontact Washington state: a view of the wares and their possible
origin," in The New World Figurine Project, ed. Terry Stocker (Provo, Utah: Research Press, 1991), 1:111
—22.

12. See, among other publications, "The new genetic relationship and the paleolinguistics of the Central
California Indian ceremonial houses," Tenth LACUS Forum, Quebec City, 1983 (Columbia, South
Carolina: Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States, 1984), 516—0; and, 'The discovery of
California: breaking the silence of the Siberian-to-America migrator," The Californians 2/6 (1984): 9—20.

13. Dixon, 132.

14. Carroll L. Riley, J. Charles Kelley, Campbell W. Pennington, and Robert L. Rands, eds., Man across
the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971.

15. John L. Sorenson and Martin H. Raish, Pre-Columbian Contact with the Americas across the Oceans:
An Annotated Bibliography, 2 vols. (Provo, Utah: Research Press, 1990).

16. Sorenson and Raish, x.

17. Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España (México: Editorial Nueva España, 1946), 1:13.

18. See John L. Sorenson, "Some Mesoamerican traditions of immigration by sea," El México Antiguo 8
(1955): 425—38.

19. See, most recently, "El origen transpacifico de la cerámica Valdivia; una revaluación" BoletÃn del
Museo Chileño de Arte Precolombino 2 (1987): 9—31.

20. See, for example, George F. Carter, "Domesticates as artifacts," in The Human Mirror: Material and
Spatial Images of Man, ed. Miles Richardson (Baton Rouge; Louisiana State University Press, 1974), 201
—30. For an array of parallels in symbols, in some ways more telling than objects, see John L. Sorenson,
"The significance of an apparent relationship between the ancient Near East and Mesoamerica," 219—41,
in Man across the Sea.

21. Any future version of the statement on the Book of Mormon which discusses how scholars ought to
deal with evidences for transoceanic contacts should examine carefully Smithsonian scholar Betty Meggers'
paper: "The significance of diffusion as a factor in evolution," in Reprint Proceedings, Circum-Pacific
Prehistory Conference, Seattle, August 1—6, 1989, part VIII: Prehistoric Trans-Pacific Contacts (Pullman:
Washington State University Press, 1989). Also of value: Harold Schneider, "Prehistoric transpacific
contact and the theory of culture change," American Anthropologist 79 (1977): 9—25.

22. See, for example, Lenore O. Keene Congdon, "Steel in antiquity: a problem in terminology," in Studies
Presented to George M. A. Hanfmann, ed. David G. Mitten et al., Harvard University Fogg Art Museum
Monographs in Art and Archaeology II (Mainz: Philipp Von Zabern, 1971), 17—27.

23. The problems are exemplified and discussed at length in such publications of the United Bible Societies
as Jan De Waard and William A. Smalley, A Translator's Handbook on the Book of Amos (Stuttgart: UBS,
1979); consider for example the problems with "simple" terms like "cedar" and "oak" discussed on p. 224.

24. I. W. Johnson, "Basketry and textiles," in Archaeology of Northern Mesoamerica, Part 1, Handbook of
Middle American Indians (Austin. University of Texas Press, 1971), 10:312; cf. W. H. Prescott, The
History of the Conquest of Mexico (New York: Modem Library, n.d.), 84, citing Humboldt.
25. William T. M. Forbes, "The silkworm of Aristotle," Classical Philology 25 (1930); 22—26. Meanwhile
Gisela M. A. Richter holds that the thin, soft, diaphanous cloth called by the classical Greeks amorginon
was silk produced by certain wild moths on only two small Greek islands. See "Silk in Greece," American
Journal of Archaeology 33 (1929): 27—33.

26. H. H. Bancroft, The Native Races of the Pacific States (London: Longmans, Green, 1875), 2:484.

27. Alfred M. Tozzer, ed., Landa's Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, Harvard University Peabody
Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Papers No. 18 (1941), 201; he used the same term,
"silk," for the Asiatic fabric imported by the Spaniards. Also Francesco Saverino Clavigero, History of
Mexico 1, trans. Charles Cullen (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1817), 41.

28. Fernando Cortes, His Five Letters of Relation to the Emperor Charles V, ed. Francis A. MacNutt
(Gorieta, New Mexico: Rio Grande, 1977), 1:254.

29. Felix W, McBryde, "Cultural and historical geography of Southwest Guatemala," Smithsonian
Institution Institute of Social Anthropology Publication No. 4 (1947), 149; William E. Safford, "Food
plants and textiles of ancient America," Proceedings, 19th International Congress of Americanists,
Washington, 1915 (Washington, 1917): 17.

30. Wine in the Bible: A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Berrien Springs, Michigan:
Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 54—76.

31. Compare Tozzer, Landa's Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, 198, and F. V. Scholes and D. Warren,
"The Olmec region at Spanish conquest," Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 3, part 2, ed. G. R.
Willey (Austin. University of Texas Press, 1965), 784.

32. "Native American beers," American Anthropologist 40 (1938): 224—34.

33. For example, Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España (México:
Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1938), 1:313.

34. As in Thomas Gage, Thomas Gage's Travels in the New World, ed. J. E. S. Thompson (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1958), 76.

35. MeBryde, "Cultural and historical geography of Southwest Guatemala," 36.

36. Ibid., 144.

37. Gage, Thomas Gage's Travels, 76.

38. Widely used in the lowland Maya area as "balche"; see Tozzer, Landa's Relacion, 198.

39. On the ancient form and content of the Book of Mormon original source, see John L. Sorenson, "The
Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican codex," Newsletter and Proceedings, Society for Early Historic
Archaeology 139 (1976, Provo, Utah): 1—7; and, among many other publications, articles by Tvedtnes,
Szink, Goff, Welch, Seely, Ricks, and Ostler in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, eds. John L. Sorenson
and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon
Studies, 1991).

40. Robert J. Forbes, Metallurgy in Antiquity: A Notebook for Archaeologists and Technologists (Leiden:
E. J. Brill, 1950), 402.

41. Ibid.
42. Lincoln LaPaz, "Topics in meteorics. Hunting meteorites: their recovery, use, and abuse from
Paleolithic to present," University of New Mexico Publications in Meteoritics 6 (1969): 55—67; H. H.
Nininger, Our Stone

43. "Zapotecan antiquities," Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Stockholm, Publication 4 (n.s, 1938): 75.

44. "Mexican highland cultures," Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Stockholm, Publication 7 (n.s.,
1942): 132.

45. Dozens of references are given in the annotated bibliography, John L. Sorenson, Metals and Metallurgy
Relating to the Book of Mormon Text (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon
Studies, 1992).

46. "The Central Andes," in The Coming of the Age of Iron, ed. T. A. Wertime and J. D. Muhly (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 285.

47. Metals and Metallurgy, 58—74.

48. See as a fundamental statement of their position Evans and Meggers, "Transpacific origin of Valdivia
phase pottery of coastal Ecuador," Actas de la 36a. Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, Sevilla, 1964
(Sevilla, 1966), 1:63—7.

49. For example, see certain cultural parallels cited and documented in my article in Man across the Sea
cited earlier, as well as the interesting if uneven materials provided in R. A. Jairazbhoy, Ancient Egyptians
in Middle and South America (London: Ra Publications, 1981), and others of his writings abstracted in Pre-
Columbian Contact.

50. David H. Kelley, "Proto-Tifinagh and Proto-Ogham in the Americas," The Review of Archaeology
(Spring 1990): 1—9; and William R. McGlone et al., Ancient American Inscriptions: Plow Marks or
History? (Long Hill, Massachusetts: Early Sites Research Society, 1993).

51. See many works indexed in Pre-Columbian Contact, vol, 2, under "writing," particularly Jacques de
Mahieu, "Corpus des inscriptions runiques d'Amérique du Sud," Kadath 68 (Brussels, 1988): 11—42.

52. "A comparison of Maya and Egyptian hieroglyphs," Katunob 11 (August 1979):1—8.

Berry is wrong when he says that the Book of Mormon is claimed by


Mormons to be a history of ancient America. Wisely, he does not attempt to
provide any reference for that statement, and it is not true.

Whilst it is true that some portions of it are historical, it does not purport to
be ‘a history of ancient America’ in a complete sense, but rather a history of
specific groups of former inhabitants with specific on their religious life and
God’s dealings with them. It is only history in the same way that the
Gospels are a history of Palestine in that much of the actual history of that
area is ignored, for neither the Bible or the Book of Mormon were written to
be historical or scientific textbooks. They are religious texts, and any
description of them must focus on their religious and spiritual content.
Berry finds fault with the language in which the Book of Mormon’s original
monographs were written, for he returns to his earlier theme of Reformed
Egyptian being a language.

The Bible was given in the common language of the people, while the Book
of Mormon was supposedly translated from Egyptian Hieroglyphs.13

It is faitr to say that while the language of Judeans on their return from the
Babylonian captivity was decidedly Aramaic, that most in the eastern
Mediterranean are familiar with Koine, a precursor of modern Greek. So
while the common language was Aramaic, a cousin of Hebrew, most
writing, including the New Testament documents, were written in Greek. In
the same way, Lehi’s party would speak Hebrew, those of his descendants
charged with keeping the records wrote in Reformed Egyptian. I have
previously mentioned that my Cyprus journal was written in the English
language but in Greek characters. In my case it was a personal choice, in
Pepys case so doing was for privacy, in the New Testament monographs it
was a cultural habit, and in the case of the Book of Mormon the cause is
explained by the redactor and abridger, Mormon:

And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge,
in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being
handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if
our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but
the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in
Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.
[Mormon 9:32-33]

Mormon explains the choice of script as the most economical way of adding
text to the plates, although he says the language is their inheritance from
their Hebrew forebears. There is no mystery to solve, only a willingness to
read what is written.

Berry goes on to say,

The Mormons place all of their scriptures (including not only the Book of
Mormon but also Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price)
above the Bible in authority.14
13
Berry Op. Cit. p. 18
14
Ibid. p,. 19
Berry is wrong again. The Eighth Article of faith of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints sates:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated


correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.”

Whilst the acceptance of the Bible has a qualifying clause, and that
pertaining to the Book of Mormon does not, the same condition applies to
the word of God regardless of the Book in which it is written. Whilst
Mormons do not hold the Bible to be inerrant nor infallible, neither do we
regard the Book of Mormon as either. Mormon himself admits this in verse
33 of the passage referred to above, thus:

… if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no


imperfection in our record.

Moreover, Mormon used the same qualifier when he engraved the title page
to his abridgement:

“If there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not
the things of God."

Mormon admits the possibilities of imperfection and faults in the record


itself and in his abridgement of it to produce the Book of Mormon. It is held
to no different standard than the Holy Bible.

Ask a Latter-day Saint to list the Standard Works of the Church and he will
head the list of four volumes that he accepts as scripture with the Holy
Bible. The importance of the Bible is never diminished or held as inferior
by Mormons, although some critics make contradictory assertions in the
same way that Berry has done.15

The notion that the Holy Bible is inerrant and infallible is a recent
development and smacks of bibliolatry, placing the Bible as greater in
authority and more to be trusted than the Living God. The God of the Bible
was a revealing God; a God that spoke, conversed with men, and directed his
prophets in order to guide his people.

15
Ibid. p. 19
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his
servants the prophets. [Amos 3:7]

Mormons believe that this is as true today as it was when Amos wrote it. A
God that speaks is not bound or limited by what he has previously revealed.
If that were the case, then the majority of the Bible could not have been
written. Yet older books of scripture were added upon whenever God
deemed it necessary to reveal further light and truth to his people through his
chosen instruments, the prophets, seers, and revelators.

Notions of Bible completeness, meaning that with the closing of the biblical
canon God has reached the upper limit of his power and willingness to
reveal more to humanity, is denounced by The Holy Bible.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law,
happy is he. [Proverbs 29:18. AV]

This is rendered clearer in a modern version.

Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow
God's teachings.16

The inerrancy of the Bible can be quickly dealt with. A single error will
dispel that myth. Pointing out an error provides the means by which
inerrantists can revisit their conclusions that there is no error in our versions
of ancient documents that are not available for us so that we can make
comparisons with what was originally written with what we have of them
today.

Noting biblical errors of various kinds does no violence to the Bible itself.
What does violence to the Bible is believing it to be something it is not and
does not claim to be.

Most Bible Inerrantist are not sufficiently familiar with the text of the Bible
to recognise its errors. Yet, they are there ready for the keen eyed Bible
reader to see. Most of them are immediately recognisable provided that the
reader has not been divested of his honesty by swallowing the inerrancy
myth, hook, line, and sinker.
16
GOD'S WORD® Translation (1995)
For example, the Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 22:13, reads,

‘out of the brightness before him [God] coals of fire flamed.’

The identical verse in Psalm 18 is longer and reads,

‘out of the brightness before him [God] his thick clouds passed away;
hailstones and coals for fire.’

How does an inerrantist deal with these discrepant readings without


resorting to contortionism? A normal person will recognise the difference
between the sentences and will readily subscribe to the view that one makes
no sense but the other one does make sense. By this, the notion of inerrancy
is dissipated and we come face to face with the fact that the Bible is not
inerrant, and does not claim to be inerrant. If it did, with this error staring us
in the face, its claim would be unreliable because we have found an error,
but an ‘inerrant’ tome will not have one single error in the whole run of its
text.

The above is but one example of a textual error in the bible. It is most likely
an error made by a tired or inept copyist when he was copying one
monograph to make up another one and missed out part of the sentence that
made it make sense.

There are literally dozens of similar and discrete errors, most of them known
for centuries that have caused professors of an inerrant Bible to be held in
derision by Bible readers, preachers, and theologians, and continues to do so
to this very day. It is sad to see Inerrantists holding fast to a false position
because they do not know how to abandon it gracefully and not look silly for
holding opinions that are directly controverted by the facts on the page of the
Bible itself.

It is tantamount someone insisting that you are a Quaker when you know
full well that you are a Peculiar Baptist. No matter how many times they
call you a Quaker, it doesn’t make you one, and no matter how many time a
person says the Bible is free from error it does not expunge those errors.
Some will consider what I have written here as an ‘attack on the Bible.’ Is it
an ‘attack’ to describe something as it really is and not as it is mistakenly
held to be?

God’s Sacred Scriptures are not well served when we believe something
about them that is not correct. God is well served only when we undertake
to learn the truth and then to speak it as boldly as would an angel from the
realms divine. Therefore, we must accept that not only is the Bible not free
from errors, but also recognise that it does not claim to be, and neither is the
Book of Mormon, and Latter-day Saints do not claim it to be inerrant, but as
is clearly written therein, ‘If there are faults, they are the faults of men,’ just
as they are in the case of the Holy Bible.

When we consider that Harold Berry is a professor of Bible and Greek we


should consider how he can hold either an inerrantist or an infallible
position. Other scholars are less confidant.

Given the sacred nature of the Hebrew Bible in Judaism, those unaware of
the details dealt with in textual criticism might think that there are no
corruptions in the text, since these texts were meticulously transmitted and
written. And yet, as in the New Testament, in particular in the Masoretic
texts, changes, corruptions, and erasures have been found. This is ascribed
to the fact that early soferim (scribes) did not treat copy errors in the same
manner later on.17

While this writer does not necessarily adhere to all the conclusions reached
by ‘Alpha and Omega Ministries,’ it does furnish food for thought which
inerrantists would do well to consider.

Due to the hasty nature by which the early New Testament manuscripts were
transmitted, it is only to be expected that errors were introduced from the
earliest time. Especially in the first two centuries A. D., when there was
great pressure to make copies of the various New Testament books in a
short period of time, it was easy for hurried scribes to introduce many
typographical errors into the text that would perpetuate with subsequent
copying. Even after the establishment of Christianity under Constantine,
when reproduction of the Scriptures could be conducted under more
peaceful and stable circumstances, scribes were prone to err. Most works on
17
Tov, Emanuel (2001). Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress. ISBN 90-232-3715-
3.
the subject of textual criticism explore the various ways in which New
Testament manuscripts were corrupted. These are just a few of the more
important types of scribal error.

Faulty Vision or Hearing

Often errors crept into copies of the New Testament manuscripts simply as
a result of human frailty. The person copying would see or hear (if copying
by dictation) the next word, but mistake a crucial letter form or sound,
replacing the original word with what he thinks it is. This would present a
problem for future copyists who, without having access to the original
document, would be left wondering whether the word in the manuscript in
front of him was the original word.

For example, in Acts 15:40, did Paul choose Silas or receive Silas before
leaving? Some uncial manuscripts have the Greek word
ΕΠ Ι Λ ΕΞ ΑΜ Ε Ν Ο Σ while others have the Greek word
ΕΠ Ι ∆ ΕΞ ΑΜ Ε Ν Ο Σ .

The former word means having chosen and the latter having received. It is
evident from a careful examination of these two words how a short-sighted
scribe, who would not have had the modern aid of precise glasses or
contacts, could confuse one word for the other, especially when either could
fit the context of the sentence.

The scribe's poor eyesight would not have been helped by the fact that the
natural horizontal lines on the papyrus could affect the writing, possibly
suggesting a line at the bottom of the lambda (Λ ) making it into a delta
(∆ ), where the original scribe may not have actually written such a line.

Students learning classical or koine (New Testament) Greek today are at a


disadvantage with regard to pronunciation, since the native speakers of the
language did not leave a written account of the letter or word sounds. Most
of the time, modern New Testament Greek instructors will present a
pronunciation system that approximates the original and can help the
student with learning vocabulary.
For many, this is adequate since neither classical nor koine Greek function
as a spoken language today. Interestingly, manuscripts from the first few
centuries of the church give some indication of how koine Greek might have
sounded by reasoning from some of the spelling variations. For example, the
Greek words h`min (‘η µ ι ν ) and u`min (η υ µ ι ν ) often appear in
different manuscripts in place of one another. This indicates that, at least in
some regions if not generally, the Greek letters eta (η ) and upsilon (υ )
were pronounced the same way.

Since it was a common practice, especially post-Constantine, for copies of


the New Testament to be made by a group of scribes writing to dictation, a
scribe lacking precise enough hearing to distinguish η and υ would be left
making an educated guess.

Parablepsis and Homoeoteleuton

These two Greek terms refer to two similar scribal errors that are
certainly not peculiar to ancient writers. Parablepsis, or looking to the side,
occurs when a scribe's eye falls on a group of words further down the page
that resemble (or are identical) to the words he has just written, and
continues copying from that point, skipping over the intervening line or
lines.

Homoeoteleuton (similar ending) is a related phenomenon where the


scribe's eye alights on a word or a line whose ending is similar to, or the
same as, the ending of the word or line he has just written and he continues
writing from that point. Again, the result is the omission of any text in the
middle of the two similar-ending lines.

Many of the differences between manuscripts due to omission of words or


phrases have been ascribed to parablepsis or homoeoteleuton.

Harmonization and Conflation

From a study of the ancient manuscripts, it is clear that scribes often felt
at liberty to alter the text of the New Testament from which they were
copying, not out of malicious intent, but because the scribe sincerely felt
that the scribe whose work he was copying had erred in his work. Perhaps
he spotted what he considered to be a scribal error in the text and he sought
to correct it; or perhaps he was familiar with the passage and wanted to
"correct" the version in front of him according to the more familiar version.

From this it can be deduced that most of these copyists were not reading
these works for the first time. The fact of their familiarity with the New
Testament text, along with the sense of freedom the scribe felt to correct the
work of his predecessor, sheds light on the common practice of
harmonization. Especially in the case of the Gospels, scribes would often
feel free (maybe even obliged) to bring accounts recorded in more than one
of the Gospels into line with one other. Naturally, not all scribes would feel
this compulsion, and even those who did would not necessarily harmonize in
the same place and in the same way. This would, therefore, generate more
variations between manuscripts.

If a scribe is working from more than one manuscript, he may come across
a detail in one that appears to be missing in the other, or may be different in
the other. Since the scribe would probably not know the original reading, he
would face the dilemma of either including or changing the original word
for something else, or leaving out the original wording.

Often the resolution to the dilemma was to include both readings; this way
he could be sure that he was preserving the original, even if he had no way
of determining which one it is. This practice is known as "conflation," or "a
conflation of readings."

There are many more examples of scribal errors, and the reader is referred
to standard works on textual criticism for more details.18

I emphasise that Latter-day Saints love, study, and adhere to Bible teachings,
and while the Article of Faith qualifier ‘as far as it is translated correctly’ is
taught and believed, you will discover if you take the time and trouble to ask
that a very few Mormons that can point out where mistranslation or textual
errors have occurred. Only those having had academic training will be able
to illustrate this position.

On the whole, the Holy Bible King James Version is used, and its tenets
inform the spiritual life of Mormons as much as they do any other
Christians. On this, Henry Ward Beecher famously said:

18
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2587
" They say the Mormons do not believe in the Bible, but I know they do, and
they believe in it like thunder!"

He also said:

“If a literal rendering of the Scriptures was to be accepted, then


“Mormonism” is correct.”19

Professor Berry takes Latter-day Saints to task for not accepting the
Doctrine of the Holy Trinity as taught by historical Christianity since the
early days of the Roman Catholic Church.20 That is a fair statement. What
cannot be conceived as fair is his insistence that the Holy Trinity is a Bible
teaching, for clearly it is not. While space precludes our discussing this
here, the main reasons Mormons reject the Trinity is precisely because the
Holy Bible does not support it. The one verse that did support the Triune
God is the so-called Johannine Comma which is shown to be a forgery
interpolation whose inclusion in some Bible versions was precisely to
support the unsupportable.

Unless we violate the scripture by reading back into Hebrew texts where, it
is not found, we simply equivocate and mislead when we refer to the one
God of Hebrew monotheism as the 'one God' of the Holy Trinity. Collins
wrote on the relationship between the dogma of the Trinity developed at
Chalcedon and the model of Jewish monotheism,

"Non-Christians and many Christians who lack the appetite for


metaphysical reasoning may be forgiven for thinking that the assertion that
the Son is homoousious with the Father allows for some equivocation,
enabling Trinitarian Christianity to maintain contradictory positions
without admitting it. [...] The notion that God is three as well as one,
however, obviously entails a considerable qualification of monotheism." [in
"Jewish Monotheism and Christian Theology," in Aspects of Monotheism:
How God Is One, ed. Shanks and Meinhardt , Washington DC Biblical
Archeological Society, 1997, p. 104]

Most Latter-day Saints will happily discuss their version of the Christian
Godhead found in the Bible and the Trinitarian concept of God, but do not
wage war about it. Some Christians accept it and others do not, but entrance
19
http://www.yorkshiretales.com/allaboutmormonism/page_beecher_on_mormons_and_the_bible.html
20
Berry, Op. Cit. P. 20
into heaven is not doled out according to the results of a theological
examination.

I will address one further point raised by Berry. He says that God is a spirit,
and quotes John 4:24 in support of this. He says,

The Mormon scriptures say, however, ‘The Father has a body of flesh and
bones as tangible as a man’s.’21

While this is correct, he overlooks the statement made by the resurrected


Jesus when he surprised the eleven apostles in the upper room by appearing
to them suddenly. They were terrified because the thought he was a ghost or
spirit. Jesus disabused them of this notion saying,

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a
spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.22

The once dead Jesus had been resurrected and put on immortality so that he
could never die again: body and spirit were inseparably re-united and he
stood before them in a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s.

“Look!” Jesus said, “I have hands and feet and they are pierced with the
piercings of my crucifixion! These prove that it is I myself!”

“Touch me; feel my flesh, embrace me! Handle me, and see; for a spirit
hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.23

The Risen Christ was no phantom. He was no intangible, amorphous,


nebulous imponderable enigma, but a resurrected being of flesh and bone as
tangible as a man.

In proof of his substantial corporeality he invited his apostles to test him by


touch to feel for themselves that they were not deceived, but that he stood
before them raised from the dead as solid as he had been prior to his death,
but with the assurance that he would not die again, for he had conquered
death.

21
Ibid. p. 21
22
Luke 24:39
23
Luke 24:39
On that proof, Latter-day Saints establish their faith in Jesus Christ as One
risen from the dead as they shall also be raised from the dead in the same
terms as Jesus was, and in the same way that the ancient Job understood his
own resurrection would be.

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day
upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in
my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall
behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.24
Berry complains,

Mormon theology humanizes God and deifies man.25

Properly understood, Mormon theology places man in proper relation to


God, with God as the divine parent and making his human offspring26, but
having a divine destiny to become even as he is by being

‘ … joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be


also glorified together.”27

If we inherit what Jesus Christ inherited, and are also glorified together with
Christ, then are we partakers of the divine nature28 as promised. This is
exactly what the first Christians believed and taught during the time of
Jesus’ ministry and was, after his ascension, taught by his apostles.

The roots of the Christian doctrine of deification are essentially biblical,


beginning with the creation of making in the image and likeness of God,29
the Church Fathers saw deification intrinsic to concepts such as the
command to moral perfection and holiness,30 adoption as heirs of God,31 our
mystical union with God in Christ,32 and partaking in Christ's sufferings in
order to be elevated with him in glory.33

24
Job 19:25-27
25
Berry, Op. Cit. p. 21
26
Acts 17:29
27
Romans 8:17
28
2 Peter 1:4
29
Gen. 1:26-27
30
Lev. 19:1-2; Matt. 5:48; 1 Jn. 3:2; 1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Pet. 1:3-7
31
Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:4-7
32
John 17:11-23
33
Rom. 8:16-18; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16-18; Philip. 3:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:10-12
Deification is not a novelty introduced to the world bty Mormons, but a
forgotten and neglected doctrine of former Christians that has been laid aside
as too presumptuous a belief in an age when faith in God is such that his
greatest promises to us have been set aside as too unlikely. It is Christian
faith in God that has weakened to to point where his gretest promises cannot
be conceived as being real or, if real, then seen as attainable, rather than
doctrinal effrontery on the part of Latter-day Saints.

The truth is that from the second to eighth centuries, the standard Christian
term for salvation was theopoiesis or theosis, literally, "being made God," or
deification. This terminology survived occasionally in the mystical tradition
of the West before fading as God’s transcendence was given greater
emphasis, yet this view of salvation is still evident in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Athanasius summarised, "God was made man that we might be made


God."34

Church Fathers argued that deification does more than restores the image of
God lost in the Fall, by enabling mankind to transcend its human nature to
the extent that it comes to possess the attributes of God. In this vein, the late
fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus declared:

"I may become God as far as he became man."35

Berry, speaking of mankind, says that the Bible teaches that man did not
exist prior to his birth into mortality as described in the first chapter of
Genesis.36 Although these verses do not say that man did not exist prior to
his formation in Eden, other passages indicate strongly that he did.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth
out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the
nations.37

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return
unto God who gave it.38
34
On the Incarnation of the Logos 54
35
Orations 29.19
36
Genesis 1:26-27
37
Jeremiah 1:5
38
Ecclesiastes 12:7
Berry takes the word of Walter Martin and offers the so-called Adam-God
theory, interpreting in such a way that allows him to say that Adam is the
Father of Jesus Christ. Mormons reject this interpretation outright, and so
would Berry if he had done some simple research.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never formulated or


adopted any theory concerning the subject treated upon by President Young
as to Adam [being the Father of Jesus or being God the Father.39

BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson wrote:

Yet another way in which anti-Mormon critics often misrepresent LDS


doctrine is in the presentation of anomalies as though they were the doctrine
of the Church. Anomalies occur in every field of human endeavor, even in
science. An anomaly is something unexpected that cannot be explained by
the existing laws or theories, but which does not constitute evidence for
changing the laws and theories. An anomaly is a glitch.... A classic example
of an anomaly in the LDS tradition is the so-called "Adam-God theory."
During the latter half of the nineteenth century Brigham Young made some
remarks about the relationship between Adam and God that the Latter-day
Saints have never been able to understand. The reported statements conflict
with LDS teachings before and after Brigham Young, as well as with
statements of President Young himself during the same period of time. So
how do Latter-day Saints deal with the phenomenon? We don't; we simply
set it aside. It is an anomaly. On occasion my colleagues and I at Brigham
Young University have tried to figure out what Brigham Young might have
actually said and what it might have meant, but the attempts have always
failed. The reported statements simply do not compute—we cannot make
sense out of them. This is not a matter of believing it or disbelieving it; we
simply don't know what "it" is. If Brigham Young were here we could ask
him what he actually said and what he meant by it, but he is not here.... For
the Latter-day Saints, however, the point is moot, since whatever Brigham
Young said, true or false, was never presented to the Church for a

39
Charles W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam," Improvement Era (September 1902), 873. reprinted in Charles
W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam," Millennial Star 64 no. 50 (11 December 1902), 785–790. (this paragraph
from p. 789)
sustaining vote. It was not then and is not now a doctrine of the Church,
and...the Church has merely set the phenomenon aside as an anomaly.40

Berry also serves up the old and oft-rebutted story that Mormons believe
Jesus was married polygamously.41 Whilst it is true that Orson Pratt
believed this, another apostle might believe that Cadillacs are superior to
Rolls Royces, but that would not make it LDS Church doctrine.

I penned a short article on this subject some few years back after being
visited in my home by some Fundamentalist Mormons. I reproduce it here.

WAS JESUS MARRIED?


A consideration of the evidence
By Ronnie Bray

Was Jesus married? An interesting question that has never been raised in the
arena of scholarly Christology. Nevertheless, it raises interest by the very act
of asking the question. There are three main schools of thought about the
question: those who believe that he was not and could not have been. These
are in the main from the mainstream of Christian scholarship. For them, the
question is absurd. The absurdity may be seen as arising from the
perspective that celibacy is the superior way of life, required by the Roman
Church for several centuries. And while the Protestant churches have cast
off many of the trappings of Catholicism in their brief history, they have
never entirely divested themselves of Catholic attitudes to sexuality,
especially sexuality and spirituality and the bearing each has upon the other.
The second group are those who do not know whether he was or not. They
are, probably quire rightly, confused by the issues, and who can fail to be
confused? The issues are far from clear. The final group is that which is in
no doubt that Jesus was married. This is an interesting group because of its
composition. It is not found in the mainstream of Christianity. In fact, many
from this group do not belong to Christianity at all, but are what may be
described as side-line snipers; critics of Christianity (and most other
religions), whose main purpose is to discomfort Christians by expressing
volubly the unacceptable idea that Jesus was married and thereby enjoyed
40
Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company,
1993),18–21
41
Berry, Op. Cit. p. 25
normal intimate relations with a woman. Some Jewish scholars present this
perspective simply from the point of view that Jesus was a Jewish man
although admittedly an extraordinary one. To this group also belong some
early Latter-day Saint theologians and, it should be said, some later ones.
Their purpose is dictated by the need to demonstrate that Jesus must have
been married. This theological necessity is determined by the Latter-day
Saint understanding of exaltation and Godhood.
These three schools of thought are engaged in some sort of a debate without
communicating with one another. Their positions are firmly entrenched and
they do not yield. But, what evidence is there for these discrete positions?
Tatian, a Gnostic, and Basilides, an Alexandrian theologian with Gnostic
tendencies, are said by some (Joyce, Donovan The Jesus Scroll, Sphere
Books Ltd. London, 1973, p. 86) to have been the founders of the idea that
Jesus was not married. … What is the evidence for Jesus having been
married or not married? Is there any evidence? It has to be admitted that the
most often proposed argument in favour his having married is based on
arguments from silence. For obvious reasons, these are never satisfactory;
one has to jump to too many conclusions to accept them with any degree of
enthusiasm.

Jesus the Jew


Whilst the Judaic traditions required a father to ensure that his sons were
circumcised, redeemed, acquire an education, a trade, and a wife, it is by no
means certain that all Jewish boys were the beneficiaries of all these. Indeed,
some might have none at all. Not all the B’nei Yisrael were deeply religious
at the Meridian of Time, any more than the adherents or followers of any
religion are.
Sanders holds that Paul was probably a zealot who had no time for marriage.
( Sanders, EP Paul, OUP, 1981, Oxford) It could be argued that Jesus, like
Paul had a specific and individual mission to perform, and that his mission
precluded his marrying during mortality. That is, of course, speculative and
speculation is the enemy of scholarship and often leads us far from truth. …
Recognising that it was not unusual for Jewish boys to have their education
and religious and social duties overlooked by parents, together with the
recognition that Jesus was by no means ordinary and that his unusual destiny
was known to at least one of his parents, and probably to both according to
the scriptural records, there is little room to feel sure that his life would
follow the normative course for other boys of his generation. The Torah (the
Tanach was not in existence in Jesus’ day) laid duties upon fathers to
perform certain things for their sons. About Jesus, we can only be sure about
his circumcision, although his religious education does not appear to have
been neglected, as the interesting vignette of the twelve-year old shows.
If Jesus was married, why is there no reference to his wife or children?
References to his family are limited to his mother and his brothers and
sisters, although these have been carefully interpreted by Roman Catholics
to be children of the reticent Joseph by a previous marriage. This is a legal
fiction. Theological necessity produces many such fictions on the grounds
that "It has to be because it must be!" Similarly, if we have to have Jesus
married we will read the evidence, such as it is, to reach that conclusion.
This can not be done except at the cost of truth, so we need to be
circumspect and honest.
Orson Hyde taught that Jesus was married, and names Mary and Martha as
having been his wives.(Journal of Discourses, volume 2, 10 June 1854) The
reasoning behind his opinions is the same as those sideline snipers,(Baigent,
Leigh, and Lincoln Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Dell Books) who aim to
embarrass Christians. What is the weight of his evidence? Are the snipers
using sound judgement or creating a monster out of smoke? Both groups
claim that the wedding feat at Cana was one of Jesus’ marriages. As to his
others they are all strangely silent. Their reasons for Jesus being the
bridegroom at Cana are slight and unsure. They point out that Jesus was
summoned to the wedding, as a bridegroom would have been. However,
wedding guests were also summoned or invited to the feast, as detailed in
the parable of the wedding guests. This construction is less than convincing.
To support their viewpoint it is pointed out that Jesus’ mother asked him to
supply the wine. Since the bridegroom had the responsibility to supply the
wine, it is argued that the groom must indeed have been Jesus. However,
Mary approached her son in extremis, after the initial supply of wine)
supplied by the real bridegroom) had dried up. Although not expressed in the
narrative of the Fourth Gospel, she was clearly asking him to use his
supranatural power to provide further wine. He understood the request not as
a bridegroom who had failed to asses the number of guests expected at his
wedding – an unlikely event – but as one who had been called upon to
perform, not a mere miracle, but a sign of his divinity. The synopticists are
significantly silent about this event. If it had been the marriage of Jesus is it
likely that it would have failed to have been mentioned, at least By Matthew
who is at pains to demonstrate the Jewishness of Jesus as the promised
mashiach? …
Some scholars confine Jesus to marrying that Mary, who is identified by the
Roman Church as being the penitent woman, Mary of Bethany and the
Magdalene rolled into one. There is no textual or historical reason to confuse
the women except, perhaps, to manufacture a type of woman who, whilst
inferior to Mary the Virgin mother of Christ, is identifiable with all sinful
women – and apart from the "Blessed Virgin Mary" - there are only sinful
women. There are no reasons apart from doctrinal necessity that indicates
anything other than that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were other
than upright and righteous women. Neither is there anything to suggest that
Mary of Bethany was the husband of Jesus.
It is not insignificant that the appeal is again to the Fourth Gospel, the only
place where the raising of Lazarus is recorded. Much is made of the fact that
Mary remained in the house until she was ‘called’ by Jesus through the
voice of Martha. We do not know enough of the circumstances to determine
why Mary remained in the house. It is true that a wife would not run out of
the house to greet her husband until he bade her do so. However, it is equally
certain that unless Mary was aware that Jesus was outside she would remain
where she was unless she had good reason to do otherwise. Again, we must
remember that we are not reading biography, although much of the content
of the Fourth Gospel is historically accurate. Other parts may not be so
accurate as to be taken as verbatim accounts of events. … Who stayed where
is of little importance and is unreliable in forming an opinion as to the
marital state of either Jesus or Mary. Did she call him Lord? If she did, the
word has a wide semantic range. In Aramaic, the language of Jesus and
Mary, it is baal, meaning, lord, master, or husband, or anything in between.
The relationship between Jesus and the little family at Bethany was
obviously such that they knew his mission and destiny. Calling him master
was not unusual or inappropriate, even for those to whom he was not
married. Men also called him master.
Phipps argument from silence is flimsy and easy to controvert. He writes as
one who believes the Gospels to be biographical which they patently are not.
Each of the Gospels was written for a particular purpose, the material in
them being manipulated towards specific ends. This does not detract from
their value; rather it ensures that readers understand the points of view of the
believing community.
The title, rabbi, meant teacher. In the time of Jesus’ mortal ministry Judaism
was not yet formed. … The great age of rabbinism had neither yet dawned.
… Reading back present forms into ancient ones is likely to lead us further
from the truth rather than toward it.
Appeal to the authority of Celsus is self-defeating. This pagan philosopher
mounted a bitter attack on Christianity and would be likely to say anything
that put Jesus in a bad light, such as the kissing of a woman on the lips,
whether married to her or not. His True Discourse (c. 178) is the earliest
known literary swipe at Christianity that we know only through fragments
and through references to it in Origen’s response. To Celsus, the doctrines of
Incarnation and Crucifixion were repugnant. He was the first anti-Mormon
author!
The Gospel of Phillip is part of that literature – of which there is a mountain
– known as the pseudepigrapha, meaning writings claiming to have been
written by famous people, but which are known to be spurious. It is
unreliable in the extreme as anyone familiar with it has discovered. Its main
use is to show what later Christians, and sometimes non-Christians or
heretics, thought the Church ought to teach. Writings in the name of some
famous figure from the past were more likely to be accepted as authoritative
by believers. … You need to be circumspect when appealing to them for
they are not trustworthy. Likewise when relying on tombstone inscription to
determine who was buried in them or what the inscriptions really mean.
Martha and Jesus were common enough names and we need not imagine
that because the location seems right, that these inscription refer to
characters from the pages of scripture. …
Dr Udleys assertion that Simeon ben Jesus was Bishop of Jerusalem until his
death in AD 106 beggars belief. One would expect that a Master of
Theology would be aware that Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 by the
Roman Army under General Sylvius, and that the Jews in Jerusalem were
either slaughtered or taken into slavery, the city ploughed up, and that was
the end of the Jerusalem branch of the Church of Christ. It disappeared from
the stage of history. … One tends to suspect the Doctor’s academic
credentials!
Well, that’s a pretty good hatchet job on your essay! It still does not address
the question. Of whether Jesus was married. The answer to that question is,
"I don’t know!" I do know that we should be. Section 131 makes that
abundantly clear, and we have no excuse for non-compliance once we are
aware of the doctrine.

I know that Jesus will have to become married if he is not already. Could he
have been married before he came to earth through the Incarnation? "And
the Word was God." The scriptures are silent, and the inferences we may
draw may give us comfort, but may not be reliable. The indices of his
marital status are too slight to be safe. The argument from silence is never
satisfactory. Silence can be understood in so many ways.
I hope that you find my response of interest and that it will spur you to a
more profound study of a fascinating subject. I thank you for this
opportunity to respond. It was the kick from behind that I needed to get
writing again. I have been static too long. Feeling sorry for myself, I
shouldn’t wonder. Thank you for providing the impetus to open a few books
and brush away the cobwebs that have bound up my grey matter for far too
long.

© Ronnie Bray – 2000 – 2011

And there, as far as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is


concerned, the matter rests. Whatever we might believe or speculate, we
simply do not know.

Not quite done with Mormonism and polygamy, Berry continues by


asserting that Mormonism must be wrong because the Bible clearly teaches
monogamy.42 That will be a surprise to many Bile scholars that do not find
any condemnation of plural marriage when it was practised by the
Patriarchs. While plural marriage is not taught as a religious principle,
neither is it condemned. Had it been, the record of what God considers holy
abnd what he does not would have stated this. As it is wherever plural
marriages are mentioned it is never to condemn them, rather it is to regulate
them. A few examples will suffice:

Exodus 21:10

42
Ibid. p. 25
If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage,
shall he not diminish.

Tis does not refer to a second wife, but another wife, seemingly indicating
that in God’s eyes a man can marry an infinite amount of women without
any limit as to number.

2 Samuel 5:13:

And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he
was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to
David.

There is no condemnation here.

1 Chronicles 3:

1 These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron: The firstborn was
Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; the second, Daniel the son of Abigail
of Carmel; 2 the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king
of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; 3 the fifth, Shephatiah
the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah. 4 These six were
born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months.
David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, 5 and these were the children
born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four
were by Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel. 6 There were also Ibhar, Elishua,
Eliphelet, 7 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 8 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet—nine
in all. 9 All these were the sons of David, besides his sons by his concubines.
And Tamar was their sister.

1 Chronicles 14:3:

Now these were the sons of David, which were born unto him in Hebron; the
firstborn Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second Daniel, of Abigail
the Carmelitess: 2The third, Absalom the son of Maachah the daughter of
Talmai king of Geshur: the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith: 3The fifth,
Shephatiah of Abital: the sixth, Ithream by Eglah his wife. 4These six were
born unto him in Hebron; and there he reigned seven years and six months:
and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years. 5And these were born
unto him in Jerusalem; Shimea, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon,
four, of Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel: 6Ibhar also, and Elishama, and
Eliphelet, 7And Nogah, and Nepheg, and Japhia, 8And Elishama, and
Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. 9These were all the sons of David, beside the
sons of the concubines, and Tamar their sister.

Again, there is no hint of conmdemnation for his plural wives, merely a


recounting of his children to each of them

1 Kings 11:3:

And [King Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three
hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.

Concubines, has been interpreted by some Bible scholars to indicate


secondary wives. There is no condemnation of Solomon for the number of
his wives, only the remark that indicates some of his [strange] wives turned
away his heart from Israel’s God.

2 Chronicles 11:21

And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives
and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines;
and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)

Deuteronomy 21:

10 When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy
God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto
her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; 12 Then thou shalt bring her
home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 13
And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain
in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after
that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have
born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son
be hers that was hated: 16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to
inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved
firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

Plural marriage is seen here not only to be encouraged, but provision for the
children of such marriages is enjoined in the Law. The Old Testament
frequently mentions plural marriage as acceptable for the Israelites, and
many of the prophets and patriarchs had multiple wives, including Lamech,
Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Elkanah,
Ashur, Abijah and Jehoiada. Some suggest that Moses had a second wife in
Tharbis.

In addition to the many examples of plural marriage, the Pentateuch lists


guidelines and rules concerning the taking of multiple wives; noting as we
have seen that If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her
food, her clothing, or her marital rights.

Levirate Marriage makes it a legal obligation for men whose brothers have
left widows to marry them and support their families. This law imposed a
legal and religious obligation of Israelites to take plural wives.

5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife
of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother
shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an
husband's brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she
beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his
name be not put out of Israel. 7 And if the man like not to take his brother's
wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say,
My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel,
he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. 8 Then the elders of
his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I
like not to take her; 9 Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the
presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his
face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will
not build up his brother's house. 10 And his name shall be called in Israel,
The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.43

43
Deut 25:5–10
How then can a Professor of the Bible argue against plural marriage and
claim it is unbiblical? Berry uses s facile argument our of context to press
his point, saying,

Although some men in Bible times had many wives, this was not God’s will,
according to Deuteronomy 17:14-18. Instead of polygamy, the Bible
teaches the sacredness of the commitment of one man and one woman to
each other until death separates them.44

We have seen by the previous passages that Berry is wrong, since polygamy
is encouraged by the will of God, and the Bible says so.

Continuing to address plural marriage, Berry makes the extraordinary


statement,

It is interesting that Mormons now deny their church ever taught this
doctrine.45

What is interesting is that Berry provides no reference for his untruthful and
nonsensical claim. He can not do so because it is not true. Mormons know
their history and acknowledge plural marriage as taught and practised during
about fifty years of the first Mormon century, and was terminated to
conform to the ruling of the United States Supreme Court that held the
Edmunds-Tucker law to be constitutional.

Berry concludes that segment of his pamphlet with,

It is obvious that the Mormons have rewritten the Bible to match their
theology rather than taking their theology from the Bible.46

What is obvious is that in the first place plural marriage has been shown to
be not only approved, but also encouraged by the word of God, and in the
second place it is obvious that Professor Harold J Berry does not know his
Bible!

Not only does the Professor not know his Bible, but he does no know
Mormonism, yet has written many short pamphlets as described at the
44
Berry, Op. Cit. p. 25
45
Ibid. p. 25
46
Ibid. p. 25
beginning of this work in which he undertakes to tell his students what each
denomination or faith teaches. His failure as a scholar of Mormonism
reaches new depths each time he essays to address a different tenet or
principle of the Restored Gospel. For example, he writes:

For the Mormons, salvation depends on a person’s works. This is evident


from their doctrine of baptismal regeneration—the teaching that a person
cannot be saved without water baptism.47

Latter-day Saints do believe that water baptism is essential to salvation, not


because salvation is generated by the baptismal ritual, but because it is a
Bible teaching that,

Except a man be born again of the water and of the spirit he cannot enter
the kingdom of heaven.48

While Berry may pout and blame this idea on Mormons, for what reason I
leave to your imagination, but it is not a Mormon invention and he is wrong
to suggest otherwise. Evidently, Berry does not believe what is written in
the Holy Bible he worships and so discards water baptism as a required
ordinance or entrance rite into the Kingdom of God, but also as a direct
commandment of the Saviour, and goes as far as to say that baptism
achieves nothing and is unnecessary. Berry might find it impossible to hear
what a Mormon has to say, so I will let those closer to his own heart and
credo interpret the meaning of this verse spoken by Jesus Christ to all
believers.

Although the following are somewhat lengthy, since they speak from berry’s
side of the house, as it were, I shall quote them verbatim and at whatever
length the commentators thought necessary to express their understanding of
the sacred words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Be born of water - By "water," here, is evidently signified "baptism." Thus


the word is used in Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5. Baptism was practiced by the
Jews in receiving a Gentile as a proselyte. It was practiced by John among
the Jews; and Jesus here says that it is an ordinance of his religion, and the
sign and seal of the renewing influences of his Spirit. So he said Mark
16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
47
Ibid. p. 27
48
John 3:5
It is clear from these places, and from the example of the apostles Act 2:38,
Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12-13, Acts 8:36, Acts 8:38; Acts 9:18; Acts 10:47-48;
Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27, that they
considered this ordinance as binding on all who professed to love the Lord
Jesus. And though it cannot be said that none who are not baptized can be
saved, yet Jesus meant, undoubtedly, to be understood as affirming that this
was to be the regular and uniform way of entering into his church; that it
was the appropriate mode of making a profession of religion; and that a
man who neglected this, when the duty was made known to him, neglected a
plain command of God.

It is clear, also, that any other command of God might as well be neglected
or violated as this, and that it is the duty of everyone not only to love the
Saviour, but to make an acknowledgment of that love by being baptized, and
by devoting himself thus to his service.

But, lest Nicodemus should suppose that this was all that was meant, he
added that it was necessary that he should "be born of the Spirit" also. This
was predicted of the Saviour, that he should "baptize with the Holy Ghost
and with fire," Matthew 3:11.

By this is clearly intended that the heart must be changed by the agency of
the Holy Spirit; that the love of sin must be abandoned; that man must
repent of crime and turn to God; that he must renounce all his evil
propensities, and give himself to a life of prayer and holiness, of meekness,
purity, and benevolence.

This great change is in the Scripture ascribed uniformly to the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 5:5; 1 Peter 1:22.

‘Cannot enter into’ - This is the way, the appropriate way, of entering into
the kingdom of the Messiah here and hereafter.

He cannot enter into the true church here, or into heaven in the world to
come, except in connection with a change of heart, and by the proper
expression of that change in the ordinances appointed by the Saviour.49

49
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

‘Of water and of the Spirit’ - To the baptism of water a man was admitted
when he became a proselyte to the Jewish religion; and, in this baptism, he
promised in the most solemn manner to renounce idolatry, to take the God
of Israel for his God, and to have his life conformed to the precepts of the
Divine law. But the water which was used on the occasion was only an
emblem of the Holy Spirit.

The soul was considered as in a state of defilement, because of past sin:


now, as by that water the body was washed, cleansed, and refreshed, so, by
the influences of the Holy Spirit, the soul was to be purified from its
defilement, and strengthened to walk in the way of truth and holiness.

When John came baptizing with water, he gave the Jews the plainest
intimations that this would not suffice; that it was only typical of that
baptism of the Holy Ghost, under the similitude of fire, which they must all
receive from Jesus Christ: see Matthew 3:11.

Therefore, our Lord asserts that a man must be born of water and the Spirit,
i.e. of the Holy Ghost, which, represented under the similitude of water,
cleanses, refreshes, and purifies the soul.

Reader, hast thou never had any other baptism than that of water? If thou
hast not had any other, take Jesus Christ's word for it, thou canst not, in thy
present state, enter into the kingdom of God. I would not say to thee merely,
read what it is to be born of the Spirit: but pray, O pray to God incessantly,
till he give thee to feel what is implied in it!

Remember, it is Jesus only who baptizes with the Holy Ghost: see John 1:33.
He who receives not this baptism has neither right nor title to the kingdom
of God; nor can he with any propriety be termed a Christian, because that
which essentially distinguished the Christian dispensation from that of the
Jews was, that its author baptized all his followers with the Holy Ghost.

Though baptism by water, into the Christian faith, was necessary to every
Jew and Gentile that entered into the kingdom of the Messiah, it is not
necessary that by water and the Spirit (in this place) we should understand
two different things: it is probably only an elliptical form of speech, for the
Holy Spirit under the similitude of water; as, in Matthew 3:3, the Holy
Ghost and fire, do not mean two things, but one, viz. the Holy Ghost under
the similitude of fire - pervading every part, refining and purifying the
whole.50

We may observe,

1. That Jesus here lays down the preliminary conditions of entrance into His
kingdom, expanding and explaining His statement in John 3:3.

2. That this condition is here stated as complex, including two distinct


factors, water and the Spirit.

3. That the former of these two factors is not to be merged in the latter; that
the spiritual element is not to exclude or obliterate the external and ritual
element. We are not to understand with Calvin, the Holy Spirit as the
purifying water in the spiritual sense: "water which is the Spirit."

4. That water points definitely to the rite of baptism, and that with a twofold
reference - to the past and to the future. Water naturally suggested to
Nicodemus the baptism of John, which was then awakening such profound
and general interest; and, with this, the symbolical purifications of the Jews,
and the Old Testament use of washing as the figure of purifying from sin
(Psalm 2:2, Psalm 2:7; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1).

Jesus' words opened to Nicodemus a new and more spiritual significance in


both the ceremonial purifications and the baptism of John which the
Pharisees had rejected (Luke 7:30). John's rite had a real and legitimate
relation to the kingdom of God which Nicodemus must accept.

5. That while Jesus asserted the obligation of the outward rite, He asserted
likewise, as its necessary complement, the presence and creating and
informing energy of the Spirit with which John had promised that the
coming one should baptize. That as John's baptism had been unto
repentance, for the remission of sins, so the new life must include the real no

50
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
less than the symbolic cleansing of the old, sinful life, and the infusion by
the Spirit of a new and divine principle of life.

Thus Jesus' words included a prophetic reference to the complete ideal of


Christian baptism - "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the
Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26); according to which the two
factors are inseparably blended (not the one swallowed up by the other),
and the new life is inaugurated both symbolically in the baptism with water,
and actually in the renewing by the Holy Spirit, yet so as that the rite,
through its association with the Spirit's energy, is more than a mere symbol:
is a veritable vehicle of grace to the recipient, and acquires a substantial
part in the inauguration of the new life.

Baptism, considered merely as a rite, and apart from the operation of the
Spirit, does not and cannot impart the new life. Without the Spirit it is a lie.
It is a truthful sign only as the sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

6. That the ideal of the new life presented in our Lord's words, includes the
relation of the regenerated man to an organization. The object of the new
birth is declared to be that a man may see and enter into the kingdom of
God.

But the kingdom of God is an economy. It includes and implies the


organized Christian community. This is one of the facts which, with its
accompanying obligation, is revealed to the new vision of the new man. He
sees not only God, but the kingdom of God; God as King of an organized
citizenship; God as the Father of the family of mankind; obligation to God
implying obligation to the neighbor; obligation to Christ implying
obligation to the church, of which He is the head, "which is His body, the
fullness of Him that filleth all things with all things" (Ephesians 1:23).

Through water alone, the mere external rite of baptism, a man may pass into
the outward fellowship of the visible church without seeing or entering the
kingdom of God. Through water and the Spirit, he passes indeed into the
outward fellowship, but through that into the vision and fellowship of the
kingdom of God.

‘Enter into’
This more than see (John 3:3). It is to become partaker of; to go in and
possess, as the Israelites did Canaan.51

3:5 Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, etc. Jesus does not
reply directly to the question of Nicodemus, but proceeds to give more
explicit statement concerning the new birth. One must be born of water and
of the Spirit.

Whatever this may mean, it will be admitted by all

(1) that no one is a member of the kingdom of God until he is born again;
(2) that the Savior declares the impossibility of one entering who is not born
of water and of the Spirit. All agree that the birth of the Spirit refers to
the inward, or spiritual change that takes place, and all candid
authorities agree that born of water refers to baptism.

So Alford, Wesley, Abbot, Whitby, Olshausen, Tholuck, Prof. Wm. Milligan,


the Episcopal Prayer Book, the Westminister Confession, the M.E.
Discipline, and M.E. Doctrinal Tracts, and also the writers of the early
Church all declare.

Alford says:

All attempts to get rid of this have sprung from doctrinal prejudices.'

Abbott says:

We are to understand Christ as he expected his auditor to understand him.


John the Baptist baptized both Jew and Gentile as a sign of purification by
repentance from past sins. Nicodemus would then have certainly understood
by the expression, born of water, a reference to this rite of baptism.52

However, let it be noted that Harold J Berry – a voice in the Christian


wilderness – disagrees with this auguste company and foists his own
interpretation on two thousand years of Christian understanding, and then

51
Vincent's Word Studies
52
People's New Testament
blames it on the Mormons! Mr Berry, your scholarship failed because your
research did not take place. Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail!

3:5 Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit - Except he experience
that great inward change by the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism
can be had) as the outward sign and means of it.53


v. 5. ‘of water and of the Spirit’—A twofold explanation of the "new birth,"
so startling to Nicodemus. To a Jewish ecclesiastic, so familiar
with the symbolical application of water, in every variety of way
and form of expression, this language was fitted to show that the
thing intended was no other than a thorough spiritual
purification by the operation of the Holy Ghost.

Indeed, element of water and operation of the Spirit are brought together in
a glorious evangelical prediction of Ezekiel (Eze 36:25-27),
which Nicodemus might have been reminded of had such
spiritualities not been almost lost in the reigning formalism.

Already had the symbol of water been embodied in an initiatory ordinance,


in the baptism of the Jewish expectants of Messiah by the
Baptist, not to speak of the baptism of Gentile proselytes before
that; and in the Christian Church it was soon to become the
great visible door of entrance into "the kingdom of God," the
reality being the sole work of the Holy Ghost (Tit 3:5).54

The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also


probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all
those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new
birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be
subjects of the kingdom of heaven.55

53
Wesley's Notes
54
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
55
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
As to Berry’s reproach to Mormons for teaching that without water baptism
a person cannot be saved, it should be clear that Christians within and
without Mormonism, including our Lord Jesus Christ, are diametrically
opposed to Berry’s insistence that salvation is available without water
baptism. A Professor of Bible should know what it in the Bible he professes
to teach. Evidently he does not, and thus he falls out of step with the Holy
Bible and with those of his own persuasion.

Berry’s explanation of the original intent of 1 Corinthians 15:29 is risible in


its sheer folly. He chooses to teach us that baptism for the dead is nothing
more than new believers being baptised to replace old believers as they die
off.

Of all proffered explanations for this verse that most commentaries glide
past it as if it was not there, Harold Berry’s is the most ludicrous. It is a
verse that makes sense to Latter-day Saints because it highlights a doctrine
that has been lost to historical Christianity. Yet it is entirely consonant with
the characteristics of deity to seek to redeem the lost whether they are dead
or alive, and the doctrine of baptism and salvation for the dead that are not in
Christ is another evidence of how great is the father’s love for his children.
Let us read what the great commentators have had to say about it.

‘Else what shall they do ...’ - The apostle here resumes the argument for the
resurrection which was interrupted at 1 Corinthians 15:19.

He goes on to state further consequences which must follow from the denial
of this doctrine, and thence infers that the doctrine must be true. There is,
perhaps, no passage of the New Testament in respect to which there has
been a greater variety of interpretation than this; and the views of
expositors now by no means harmonize in regard to its meaning.

It is possible that Paul may here refer to some practice or custom which
existed in his time respecting baptism, the knowledge of which is now lost.

The various opinions which have been entertained in regard to this passage,
together with an examination of them, may be seen in Pool's Synopsis,
Rosenmuller, and Bloomfield.

It may be not useless just to refer to some of them, that the perplexity of
commentators may be seen:
(1) It has been held by some that by "the dead" here is meant the Messiah
who was put to death, the plural being used for the singular, meaning "the
dead one."

(2) by others, that the word "baptized" here is taken in the sense of washing,
cleansing, purifying, as in Matthew 8:4; Hebrews 9:10; and that the sense
is, that the dead were carefully washed and purified when buried, with the
hope of the resurrection, and, as it were, preparatory to that.

(3) by others, that to be "baptized for the dead" means to be baptized as


dead, being baptized into Christ, and buried with him in baptism, and that
by their immersion they were regarded as dead.

(4) by others, that the apostle refers to a custom of vicarious baptism, or


being baptized for those who were dead, referring to the practice of having
some person baptized in the place of one who had died without baptism.
This was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose. Such
was the estimate which was formed, it is supposed, of the importance of
baptism, that when one had died without being baptized, some other person
was baptized over his dead body in his place. That this custom prevailed in
the church after the time of Paul, has been abundantly proved by Grotius,
and is generally admitted. But the objections to this interpretation are
obvious:

(a) There is no evidence that such a custom prevailed in the time of Paul.

(b) It cannot be believed that Paul would give countenance to a custom so


senseless and so contrary to the Scripture, or that he would make it the
foundation of a solemn argument.

(c) It does not accord with the strain and purpose of his argument. If this
custom had been referred to, his design would have led him to say, "What
will become of them for whom others have been baptized? Are we to believe
that they have perished?"

(d) It is far more probable that the custom referred to in this opinion arose
from an erroneous interpretation of this passage of Scripture, than that it
existed in the time of Paul.
(5) there remain two other opinions, both of which are plausible, and one of
which is probably the true one.

One is, that the word baptized is used here as it is in Matthew 20:22-23;
Mark 10:39; Luke 12:50, in the sense of being overwhelmed with calamities,
trials, and sufferings; and as meaning that the apostles and others were
subjected to great trials on account of the dead, that is, in the hope of the
resurrection; or with the expectation that the dead would rise. This is the
opinion of Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, Pearce, Homberg, Krause, and of Prof.
Robinson (see the Lexicon article Βαπτιζω Baptizo), ̄ and has much that is
plausible. That the word is thus used to denote a deep sinking into
calamities, there can be no doubt. And that the apostles and early Christians
subjected themselves, or were subjected to great and overwhelming
calamities on account of the hope of the resurrection, is equally clear. This
interpretation, also, agrees with the general tenor of the argument; and is
an argument for the resurrection. And it implies that this was the full and
constant belief of all who endured these trials, that there would be a
resurrection of the dead. The argument would be, that they should be slow
to adopt an opinion which would imply that all their sufferings were
endured for nothing, and that God had supported them in this in vain; that
God had plunged them into all these sorrows, and had sustained them in
them only to disappoint them. That this view is plausible, and that it suits the
strain of remark in the following verses, is evident. But there are objections
to it:

(a) It is not the usual and natural meaning of the word "baptize."

(b) A metaphorical use of a word should not be resorted to unless necessary.

(c) The literal meaning of the word here will as well meet the design of the
apostle as the metaphorical.

(d) This interpretation does not relieve us from any of the difficulties in
regard to the phrase "for the dead;"56

56
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead’ - This is certainly
the most difficult verse in the New Testament; for, notwithstanding the
greatest and wisest men have labored to explain it, there are to this day
nearly as many different interpretations of it as there are interpreters. I
shall not employ my time, nor that of my reader, with a vast number of
discordant and conflicting opinions; I shall make a few remarks:

1. The doctrine of the resurrection of our Lord was a grand doctrine among
the apostles; they considered and preached this as the demonstration of the
truth of the Gospel.

2. The multitudes who embraced Christianity became converts on the


evidence of this resurrection.

3. This resurrection was considered the pledge and proof of the resurrection
of all believers in Christ to the possession of the same glory into which he
had entered.

4. The baptism which they received they considered as an emblem of their


natural death and resurrection. This doctrine St. Paul most pointedly
preaches, Romans 6:3-5 :

“Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were
baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into
death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, even so we also
should walk in newness of life: for, if we have been planted together in the
likeness of his death, we shall be also in his resurrection.”

5. It is evident from this that all who died in the faith of Christ died in the
faith of the resurrection; and therefore cheerfully gave up their lives to
death, as they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in
themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance,
Hebrews 10:34.

6. As is the body, so are the members; those who were properly instructed,
and embraced Christianity, believed that as all who had died in the faith of
Christ should rise again, so they were baptized in the same faith.

7. As so many of the primitive followers of Christ sealed the truth with their
blood, and Satan and his followers continued unchanged, every man who
took on him the profession of Christianity, which was done by receiving
baptism, considered himself as exposing his life to the most imminent
hazard, and offering his life with those who had already offered and laid
down theirs.

8. He was therefore baptized in reference to this martyrdom; and, having a


regard to those dead, he cheerfully received baptism, that, whether he were
taken off by a natural or violent death, he might be raised in the likeness of
Jesus Christ's resurrection, and that of his illustrious martyrs.

9. As martyrdom and baptism were thus so closely and intimately connected,


βαπτιζεσθαι, to be baptized, was used to express being put to a violent death
by the hands of persecutors. So Matthew 20:22, Matthew 20:23 :

"But Jesus answered and said, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall
drink of? etc." (Can ye go through my sufferings?) "They say unto him, We
are able. He saith unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of my cup," (ye shall
bear your part of the afflictions of the Gospel), "and be baptized with the
baptism that I am baptized with (that is, ye shall suffer martyrdom.)

See also Mark 10:38. So Luke 12:50; "I have a baptism to be baptized with;
and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" That is, I must die a violent
death for the salvation of men.

10. The sum of the apostle's meaning appears to be this: If there be no


resurrection of the dead, those who, in becoming Christians, expose
themselves to all manner of privations, crosses, severe sufferings, and a
violent death, can have no compensation, nor any motive sufficient to induce
them to expose themselves to such miseries. But as they receive baptism as
an emblem of death in voluntarily going under the water, so they receive it
as an emblem of the resurrection unto eternal life, in coming up out of the
water; thus they are baptized for the dead, in perfect faith of the
resurrection. The three following verses seem to confirm this sense.57

‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead,....’ The apostle
here returns to his subject, and makes use of new arguments to prove the
57
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and reasons for it from the baptism
of some persons; but what is his sense, is not easy to be understood, or what
rite and custom, or thing, or action he refers to; which must, be either
Jewish baptism, or Christian baptism literally taken, or baptism in a
figurative and metaphorical sense.

Some think that he refers to some one or other of the divers baptisms of the
Jews; see Hebrews 9:10 and particularly to the purification of such who had
touched a dead body, which was done both by the ashes of the red heifer
burnt, and by bathing himself in water; and which, the Jews say (l),
intimated , "the resurrection of the dead": wherefore such a right was
needless, if there is no resurrection; to strengthen this sense, a passage in
Ecclesiasticus 34:25 is produced,

"He that washeth himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it
again, what availeth his washing?"

But the phrase there used is different; it is not said, he that baptizeth or
washeth himself for the dead, but from the dead, to cleanse himself from
pollution received by the touch of a dead body: it is also observed, that the
Jews, as well as other nations, have used various rites and ceremonies
about their dead, and among the rest, the washing of dead bodies before
interment; see Acts 9:37 and this by some is thought to be what is here
referred to; and the reasoning is, if there is no resurrection of the dead, why
all this care of a dead body? why this washing of it? it may as well be put
into the earth as it is, since it will rise no more; but how this can be called a
baptism for the dead, I see not: rather therefore Christian baptism, or the
ordinance of water baptism is here respected; and with regard to this,
interpreters go different ways: some think the apostle has in view a custom
of some, who when their friends died without baptism, used to be baptized in
their room; this is said to be practised by the Marcionites in Tertullian's
time, and by the Corinthians in the times of the Apostle John; but it does not
appear to have been in use in the times of the Apostle Paul; and besides, if it
had been, as it was a vain and superstitious one, he would never have
mentioned it without a censure, and much less have argued from it; nor
would his argument be of any weight, since it might be retorted, that
whereas such persons were mistaken in using such a practice, they might be
also in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: others are of opinion
that such persons are intended, called Clinics, who deferred their baptism
till they came upon their death beds, and then had it administered to them;
but as this practice was not in being in the apostle's time, and was far from
being a laudable one; and though the persons to whom it was administered
were upon the point of death, and nearer the dead than the living, and were
as good as dead, and might be intended by them, for their advantage, when
dead and not living; yet it must be a great force and strain on words and
things, to reckon this a being baptized for the dead: others would have the
words rendered, "over the dead"; and suppose that reference is had to the
Christians that had their "baptisteries" in their places of burial, and by
being baptized here, testified their faith and hope of the resurrection of the
dead; but this was rather a being baptized among the dead, than over them,
or for them; and moreover it is not certain, that they did make use of such
places to baptize in; to which may be added, that the primitive Christians
had not so early burying grounds of their own: others would have the
meaning to be, that they were baptized for their dead works, their sins, to
wash them away; but this baptism does not of itself, and no otherwise than
by leading the faith of persons to the blood of Christ, which alone cleanses
from sin, original and actual; nor is this appropriate to the apostle's
argument.

Others imagine, that he intends such as were baptized, and added to the
church, and so filled up the places of them that were dead; but the reason
from hence proving the resurrection of the dead is not very obvious: those
seem to be nearer the truth of the matter, who suppose that the apostle has
respect to the original practice of making a confession of faith before
baptism, and among the rest of the articles of it, the doctrine of the
resurrection of the dead, upon the belief of which being baptized, they might
be said to be baptized for the dead; that is, for, or upon, or in the faith and
profession of the resurrection of the dead, and therefore must either hold
this doctrine, or renounce their baptism administered upon it; to which may
be added another sense of the words, which is, that baptism performed by
immersion, as it was universally in those early times, was a lively emblem
and representation of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and also
both of the spiritual and corporeal resurrection of the saints.

Now if there is no resurrection, why is such a symbol used? it is useless and


insignificant; I see nothing of moment to be objected to these two last
senses, which may be easily put together, but this; that the apostle seems to
point out something that was done or endured by some Christians only;
whereas baptism, upon a profession of faith in Christ, and the resurrection
from the dead, and performed by immersion, as an emblem of it, was
common to all; and therefore he would rather have said, what shall we do,
or we all do, who are baptized for the dead?

I am therefore rather inclined to think that baptism is used here in a


figurative and metaphorical sense, for afflictions, sufferings, and
martyrdom, as in Matthew 20:22 and it was for the belief, profession, and
preaching of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, both of Christ and
of the saints, that the apostles and followers of Christ endured so much as
they did; the first instance of persecution after our Lord's ascension was on
this account. The Apostles Peter and John, were laid hold on and put in
prison for preaching this doctrine; the reproach and insult the Apostle Paul
met with at Athens were by reason of it; and it was for this that he was
called in question and accused of the Jews; nor was there anyone doctrine
of Christianity more hateful and contemptible among the Heathens than this
was.

Now the apostle's argument stands thus, what is, or will become of those
persons who have been as it were baptized or overwhelmed in afflictions
and sufferings, who have endured so many and such great injuries and
indignities, and have even lost their lives for asserting this doctrine,

if the dead rise not at all? how sadly mistaken must such have been!

why are they then baptized for the dead? how imprudently have they acted!
and what a weak and foolish part do they also act, who continue to follow
them! in what a silly manner do they expose themselves to danger, and
throw away their lives, if this doctrine is not true! which sense is confirmed
by what follows: the Alexandrian copy, and some others, read, "for them",
and so the Vulgate Latin version; and the Ethiopic in both clauses reads,
"why do they baptize?"

(l) R. Bechai & Zohar apud Lightfoot in loc.

‘What shall they do’ (τι ποιησουσιν)


What will they effect or accomplish. Not, What will they have recourse to?
nor, How will it profit them? The reference is to the living who are baptized
for the dead.

̔ ρ τῶ
Baptized for the dead (βαπτιζομενοι υπὲ ν νεκρῶ
ν)

Concerning this expression, of which some thirty different explanations are


given, it is best to admit frankly that we lack the facts for a decisive
interpretation. None of the explanations proposed are free from objection.
Paul is evidently alluding to a usage familiar to his readers; and the term
employed was, as Godet remarks, in their vocabulary, a sort of technical
phrase.

A large number of both ancient and modern commentators adopt the view
that a living Christian was baptized for an unbaptized dead Christian. The
Greek expositors regarded the words the dead as equivalent to the
resurrection of the dead, and the baptism as a manifestation of belief in the
doctrine of the resurrection. Godet adopts the explanation which refers
baptism to martyrdom - the baptism of blood - and cites Luke 12:50, and
Mark 10:38. In the absence of anything more satisfactory I adopt the
explanation given above.58

{15} Else what shall they do which are baptized {o} for the dead, if the dead
rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

(15) The fifth argument taken of the end of baptism, that is, because those
who are baptized, are baptized for dead: that is to say, that they may have a
remedy against death, because baptism is a token of regeneration.

(o) They that are baptized to this end and purpose, that death may be put out
in them, or to rise again from the dead, of which baptism is a seal.
People's New Testament

15:29 Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead? Paul again
returns to the argument for the resurrection. This passage is difficult, and

58
Vincent's Word Studies
has received almost as many interpretations as there have been
commentators.

Some have held that there was a custom of baptizing living persons for the
benefit of persons who had died without baptism. Had that custom existed,
Paul would have rebuked it. It did arise afterwards, as an abuse from the
misinterpretation of this passage, among the followers of Cerinthis, and, in
our times, of Joseph Smith.

I will try to make clear its meaning: (1) All the Corinthians were baptized
(Ac 18:8). (2) Their baptism was a planting in the likeness of the burial of
Christ, and in the likeness of his resurrection (Ro 6:4,5). They were in, and
raised from, a watery tomb. (3) Their baptism in the likeness of the death
and resurrection of Christ was in hope of their own resurrection from the
dead through Christ's resurrection. (Η υ π ε ρ Ν ε κ ρ ο ο ν , for, or
on account of the dead, with the exception of resurrection from the dead.)

But if Christ has not risen, and the dead rise not, this memorial and
emblematic burial has no meaning. Why, then, are they baptized for the
dead? That is, for the sake of their own resurrection from the dead. This
interpretation harmonizes better with Paul's argument than any I have
seen.59

15:29 Who are baptized for the dead - Perhaps baptized in hope of blessings
to be received after they are numbered with the dead. Or, baptized in the
room of the dead - Of them that are just fallen in the cause of Christ: like
soldiers who advance in the room of their companions that fell just before
their face.60

Margin ‘dead’

i.e. who, through the introductory rite of baptism, are taking the places in
the ranks left vacant by Christians who have died.61
59
Geneva Study Bible
60
Wesley's Notes
61
Scofield Reference Notes

29. Else-if there be no resurrection. what shall they do?-How wretched is


their lot! they . which are baptized for the dead-third person; a class
distinct from that in which the apostle places himself, "we" (1Co 15:30);
first person.

Alford thinks there is an allusion to a practice at Corinth of baptizing a


living person in behalf of a friend who died unbaptized; thus Paul, without
giving the least sanction to the practice, uses an ad hominem argument from
it against its practicers, some of whom, though using it, denied the
resurrection:

"What account can they give of their practice; why are they at the trouble of
it, if the dead rise not?" [So Jesus used an ad hominem argument, Mt
12:27].

But if so, it is strange there is no direct censure of it. Some Marcionites


adopted the practice at a later period, probably from taking this passage, as
Alford does; but, generally, it was unknown in the Church.

Bengel translates, "over (immediately upon) the dead," that is, who will be
gathered to the dead immediately after baptism. Compare Job 17:1, "the
graves are ready for me." The price they get for their trouble is, that they
should be gathered to the dead for ever (1Co 15:13, 16). Many in the
ancient Church put off baptism till near death. This seems the better view;
though there may have been some rites of symbolical baptism at Corinth,
now unknown, perhaps grounded on Jesus' words (Mt 20:22, 23), which
Paul here alludes to.

The best punctuation is, "If the dead rise not at all, why are they then
baptized for them" (so the oldest manuscripts read the last words, instead of
"for the dead")?62

15:20-34 All that are by faith united to Christ, are by his resurrection
assured of their own. As through the sin of the first Adam, all men became
62
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
mortal, because all had from him the same sinful nature, so, through the
resurrection of Christ, shall all who are made to partake of the Spirit, and
the spiritual nature, revive, and live for ever. There will be an order in the
resurrection. Christ himself has been the first-fruits; at his coming, his
redeemed people will be raised before others; at the last the wicked will rise
also. Then will be the end of this present state of things. Would we triumph
in that solemn and important season, we must now submit to his rule, accept
his salvation, and live to his glory. Then shall we rejoice in the completion
of his undertaking, that God may receive the whole glory of our salvation,
that we may for ever serve him, and enjoy his favour.

What shall those do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at
all? Perhaps baptism is used here in a figure, for afflictions, sufferings, and
martyrdom, as Mt 20:22,23.

What is, or will become of those who have suffered many and great injuries,
and have even lost their lives, for this doctrine of the resurrection, if the
dead rise not at all?

Whatever the meaning may be, doubtless the apostle's argument was
understood by the Corinthians. And it is as plain to us that Christianity
would be a foolish profession, if it proposed advantage to themselves by
their faithfulness to God; and to have our fruit to holiness, that our end may
be everlasting life. But we must not live like beasts, as we do not die like
them. It must be ignorance of God that leads any to disbelieve the
resurrection and future life. Those who own a God and a providence, and
observe how unequal things are in the present life, how frequently the best
men fare worst, cannot doubt as to an after-state, where every thing will be
set to rights. Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us,
especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence. Let us
awake to righteousness, and not sin.63

There it is: it is a mixed bag, but more often than not commentators are led
inexorably to the correct conclusion which is that early Christians believed
that baptising a living proxy for a dead non-believer was effective in
assisting their entrance into the kingdom of God. Paul’s appeal to proxy
baptism for the dead buttresses his case that if there was no resurrection
from the dead, what point would there be to the practice?

63
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
I will end this subject with a blog entry by a Latter-day Saint who cites
another Mormon that has researched early Christian Baptism for the Dead
and deification.

Bryce Haymond writes:

This morning an article by Marvin R. VanDam on Meridian Magazine was


brought to my attention. VanDam most recently was the director for
temporal affairs of the Eastern European and Central Asian Area of the
[LDS] Church. In his article VanDam explores the studies of a well-known
Russian religious scholar, Sergey Antonenko, who finds many striking
parallels between Eastern Orthodoxy and the LDS Church.

Antonenko finds that, like the Latter-day Saints, Eastern Christianity has a
tradition of “taking care [concerned] about the deceased, instead of
forsaking [them].” Such a concern, he says, can be traced back to early
Christianity.

Most particularly, VanDam informs us that Antonenko finds that the


practice of baptism for the dead has its roots in ancient Christianity, citing
Paul in Corinthians as evidence:

‘Those who are advanced in the religious studies may conclude that
vicarious baptism existed in the history of the Christian Church. . . . Direct
[literal] meaning of the verse implies that “baptism for the dead” for the
ancient Christians was confirmation of their confession [faith] – of their
belief in resurrection.’

VanDam then cites striking examples that Antonenko gives of the practice of
baptism for the dead in Kiev, medieval Russia, an area which is now part of
Ukraine.

In contrast to the Latter-day Saint practice of vicarious baptism “for” the


dead, these baptisms were very literally baptisms “of” the dead, where the
bones of deceased relatives were exhumed, baptized, and reburied, such was
the overarching concern of these people for the salvation of their dead, but
citing precedence and reason for doing so from the early Christians.64
[Bryce Haymond, © - 2008]
64
http://www.templestudy.com/2008/03/03/baptism-of-the-dead-in-eastern-christianity/
In common with other thoughtless Anti-Mormons, Berry meets himself
coming back the other way.

Joseph Smith soon adopted the teachings of the Universalists—that all


mankind will eventually be saved.65

Then, quoting Hoekema,

One could … call Mormons virtual Universalists, since according to their


teachings the vast majority of the human race will attain some kind of
salvation.66

Universalism is a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually


be saved. Contrary to Berry’s claims, Mormonism does not teach that all
will besaved. It teaches that all may be saved by accepting Christ and
obeying what Jesus referred to as ‘the will of my Father.’

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.67

Mormons believe that doing the will of Jesus’ Father includes faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of
sins, and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 68 Doing the
will of the Father is interpreted and accepted by Latter-day Saints as being
obedient to whatever he commands. We have an exemplar on whom we are
to model ourselves, and he set the perfect example of obedience.

Jesus honoured the supremacy of His Father through his perfect obedience.
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ’s whole life and ministry were ordered
by His Father, and Jesus was precise in carrying out every constituent of
his father’s Plan in strict accordance with the will of His Father.

“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come . . . to do thy will, O God’”69

65
Berry, Op. Cit. p/ 30
66
Ibid. p. 30, citing Hoekema, Four Major Cults, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963, p.
74.
67
Matthew 7:21
68
http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng
69
Hebrews 10:7).
His Incarnation to mortal life and ministry was an act of obedience to and
compliance with His Father. His very being focused solely on the will of the
Father.

“That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me
commandment, even so I do.”70

All that Jesus did and said was that which His Father required Him to do
and say.

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent
Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.”71

As Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son of God followed the instructions of
and was obedient to the will of his Father, so too, our calling in God is to
follow the Son as closely as possible. That is what Latter-day Saints strive
to do, so it becomes a thing of wonder to us when we are told that by
seeking to emulate the Son of God, we are following Satan.

Yet, one of the noblest works by a Christian, ‘The Imitation of Christ’ (De
imitatione Christi et contemptu omnium vanitatum mundi) is a manual of
devotion meant to aid the Christian’s soul in achieving the holiness that
leads to communion with God. In all its reflections is found the admonition
of self-renunciation, thereby enabling the searcher for salvation to be fully
obedient to God.

The life of Jesus Christ is introduced as the highest contemplation possible


to humans, because the teachings of Jesus excel all others. What makes it
acceptable to most Christians is the emphasis it gives to Jesus Christ’s
centrality in Christianity, and, by our following his example as closely as we
can, the prospect of communion with Christ and with God.

Yet Berry finds fault with Thomas à Kempis’ universally accepted work,
and would describe it as seeking to gain one’s own salvation through works.
We conclude, therefore, that this Professor of Bile does not understand his
Bible, but has yielded to theological bias rather than let the Bible speak for
itself with its own voice.

70
John 14:31
71
John 12:49
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better
than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.72

That obedience to God is a Bible precept that was and is binding on


believers is shown in the Bible frequently.

‘Hath the Lord as great delight,’ etc. - This was a very proper answer to,
and refutation of Saul's excuse. Is not obedience to the will of God the end
of all religion, of its rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices?73

Without entering, therefore, into any discussion of the meaning of the ban,
as Saul only wanted to cover over his own wrong-doings by giving this turn
to the affair, Samuel put a stop to any further excuses, by saying, "Hath
Jehovah delight in burnt-offerings and slain-offerings as in hearkening to
the voice of Jehovah? (i.e., in obedience to His word.)

Behold, hearing (obeying) is better than slain-offerings, attending better


than fat of rams."

By saying this, Samuel did not reject sacrifices as worthless; he did not say
that God took no pleasure in burnt-offerings and slain-offerings, but simply
compared sacrifice with obedience to the command of God, and pronounced
the latter of greater worth than the former.

"It was as much as to say that the sum and substance of divine worship
consisted in obedience, with which it should always begin, and that
sacrifices were, so to speak, simple appendices, the force and worth of
which were not so great as of obedience to the precepts of God" (Calvin).

But it necessarily follows that sacrifices without obedience to the


commandments of God are utterly worthless; in fact, are displeasing to God,
as Psalm 50:8., Isaiah 1:11., Isaiah 66:3, Jeremiah 6:20, and all the
prophets, distinctly affirm.

72
1 Samuel 15:22
73
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
There was no necessity, however, to carry out this truth any further. To tear
off the cloak of hypocrisy, with which Saul hoped to cover his disobedience,
it was quite enough to affirm that God's first demand was obedience, and
that observing His word was better than sacrifice; because, as the Berleb.
Bible puts it, "in sacrifices a man offers only the strange flesh of irrational
animals, whereas in obedience he offers his own will, which is rational or
spiritual worship" (Romans 12:8).74

Therefore, Latter-day Saints will continue to strive to comply with God’s


demand for obedience from the faithful, whether Professor Berry finds it
biblical or not.

Berry complains,

The Mormons do not teach biblical truths regarding heaven or hell. The
Bible nowhere teaches that heaven contains various levels …75

He seems not to be aware of Paul’s testimony.

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I
cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an
one caught up to the third heaven.76

Berry knows not what the Bible teaches about a third heaven. In addition,
we might be permitted to speculate that as the Bible teaches there is a third
heaven, that there ought to be other two heavens at least at lower levels that
can be numbered one and two.

Berry delivers his unsurprising conclusion that

Mormons are not followers of the Christ of the Bible.77

I dare venture to suggest that if Berry were to study Mormonism rather than
what Walter R Martin, The Tanners, and Anthony Hoekema have to say
about Mormonism, then he might have written a different tract than the one
he cobbled together from the bric-a-brac of professional Anti-Mormons. It

74
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
75
Berry, Op. Cit. p. 30
76
2 Corinthians 12:21
77
Berry, Op. Cit. p. 32
is evident that he sought to please himself and his Anti-Mormon referents,
rather than serve the cause of truth, hewing to the line of right, wherever the
chips might fall.

As a scholar, teacher, and author of “Mormons—What They Believe,”


Harold Berry fails miserably. He does not weight, assess, or argue from for
and against material on Mormons and their belief system towards his
conclusion. Rather, he takes thirty pages to render his conclusion, and on
the final page and a quarter, he wallows in the mire of his own making and
considers he has performed his work.

If this is the standard of scholarship from this luminary of Grace College of


the Bible, I hesitate to ponder what standard of graduates they discharge
having had their heads filled with such arrant nonsense as is found in the
continuous serpentine flow of bigotry that is the effluvium of Professor
Berry’s offering.

Berry’s Parting Shot

Berry says – and one can almost hear his feigned exasperation,

If Mormons were Christians in the New Testament sense of the word, they
would accept what Jesus Christ says about Himself and what he says about
mankind. They would accept the fact that all of us have sinned and come
short of the glory of God and that the only way to obtain salvation is by
personally receiving Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 3:23; Acts 16:31).

Bray’s Parting Shot

Mormons are Christians in the New Testament sense of the word because
they do accept what Jesus Christ says about Himself and accept what he says
about mankind.

Latter-day Saints accept what Jesus Christ says about Himself in the New
Testament. Latter-day Saints do not accept what extras-biblical theologians
and philosophers have made of the Jesus of the Bible by converting him into
an enigma that no one can comprehend in the way they delineate Him in the
formal Creeds.

The Jesus found in the Creeds we reject.


The Jesus found in the Bible we totally embrace.

Mormons do accept the fact that all have sinned and come short of the glory
of God, and accept that the only way to obtain salvation is by personally
receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Further Reading

For those that still have doubts about the Jesus Christ of Mormons, there is
probably no better book than ’Jesus The Christ,’ by James E Talmage.

It can be downloaded free from Gutenberg Projects, or read online.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22542

It is a masterly dissertation about the Mormon Jesus who is the Jesus Christ
of the Bible. Read it and see for yourself without the intervention of the
Harold Berrys of this world that would direct you into wrong paths for
personal and vindictive ends.

Whatever your position within Christianity, reading this book will bless and
enrich your life and open to your understanding the person and work of
God’s only Son, our Saviour and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Risen Christ


By Greg Olsen – a Latter-day Saint

Further information available at: http://yorkshiretales.com/allaboutmormonism

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