Greg Bahnsen’s Critique of Mormonism (abridged)

Notes from Greg Bahnsen’s lecture series Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition: Mormons and Muslims, with assistance from my friend’s transcript.

It has been demonstrated from the historical records of Bain Bridge, New York that prior to Joseph Smith assuming the role of prophet of this new religion, he was tried and convicted as Smith the glass looker. He was a con-man who claimed if he looked through a particular glass he could find buried treasure. Mormons are very sensitive to this fact, because it is a way of ridiculing them. Before Smith became the prophet of God, he was a deceptive con-man. This raises the possibility that he used the Mormon religion as a method of deception. He was born in 1805 in Vermont. His family settled in New York when he was 11 years old. He did not join the Presbyterian church but his family did. Smith was very perplexed with all of these different denominations so he went into the woods to pray. At the age of 14, two persons appeared to him in the woods. One person said, “this is my beloved son; hear him.” He was told that he was to join no church because they were all wrong and all of the creeds were an abomination. In 1823 he had another alleged vision which was repeated twice in one night. A person named Moroni, appeared to him at his bedside and claimed to be the messenger of God’s presence. He said that there was a book written on golden plates giving an account of the former inhabitants of the continent of North America. The fullness of the everlasting Gospel which was delivered to these inhabitants was deposited in a hill outside of the village that Joseph Smith resided. So the next day Joseph Smith went outside and found them in a stone box and he could not take them with him. However, he had to return to the same place on the same date for the next 4 years. In 1827, he was given them for careful keeping. He had eloped with a woman named Emma Hale from Pennsylvania, because his father had refused to give him consent to a marriage with someone who was a glass-looker. Later, he returned to his father’s house because of persecution that he was facing. He began translating the plates. A New York farmer by the name of Martin Harris, proposed to publish this book that Joseph Smith was writing. However, he wanted assurance that the plates from which he was copying were genuine and were being properly translated. He gave the plates to Martin Harris and claimed that they were Reformed Egyptian. Martin Harris gave them to a professor named Charles Aton in New York City. The professor is said to have confirmed that the characters were Egyptian, Chaldean, Syriac, & Arabic.

In 1829 a former schoolteacher, Oliver Cowdrey became an amanuensis as Smith was translating. Cowdrey was not allowed to see the plates. They had to put up a sheet with Smith on one side doing the translating, and Cowdrey on the other side writing down what Smith said. A month later they went to the woods to pray and were conferred with the priesthood of Aaron by John the Baptist, who was descended as a heavenly messenger. They then began to prophesy and understand the Scriptures. Later Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek priesthood on them at the banks of the Susquehanna River. On March 26, 1830 the book of Mormon went on sale. On April 6 the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints was officially organized and incorporated with six members. The oldest being 31 years old, and within a month they had 40 members. They did missionary work among the Indians in Kirtland, Ohio, and it was at this point that it is said that Joseph Smith received the revelation of the Doctrines and Covenants. He revised the King James version of the Bible. Then he received a revelation that Jackson County, Missouri was “the land of promise and the place for the city of Zion.” For that reason many followers settled in the city of Independence, Missouri. However, mobs attacked them, which led them to change to the city of Far West, Missouri. The state militia intervened after a number of battles between settlers and the Mormons. Smith and a few other Mormon leaders were imprisoned. They escaped, and then moved to Illinois. In 1839 the city of Nauvoo, on the Mississippi River, was established. A small army, the “Nauvoo legion” was organized, and when an anti-Mormon newspaper published material that was unfavorable to the Mormons, Joseph Smith ordered the press to be destroyed and its copies burned. A complaint was brought to the governor of the state, and this led to Smith’s arrest. He was later released and then later rearrested with his brother. At that point, a mob attacked the jail in Carthage, Illinois and he was killed.

What is the authority for their teaching? Article 8 of their Articles of Faith says “We believe the Bible to be the word of God insofar as it is translated correctly.” This should tell us something. The manner of Mormon translation is not objective; it is not a publish issue. Authority for the Mormons comes down to further revelation. Only a certain individual can translate the text and no one can confirm whether he translated the tablets correctly. They go on to say, ”We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” Do you notice that there is no reservation given as to the book of Mormon’s translation? Why?According to them, the book of Mormon’s translation is inspired. They believe that Joseph Smith was inspired when he translated, and that that kind of puts it one step ahead of the Bible, because there is no inspired translation of the Bible. But Smith’s translation of the Bible is far more than a corrected version of the Bible. In fact, his version of the Bible is a simple rewriting of it in the light of his new “revelations”. Genesis 3 now includes Satan’s offer to God to redeem mankind, and his subsequent rebellion. Genesis 6 now includes Adam’s baptism by immersion. There’s a long prophecy given by Enoch. Smith’s translation of Genesis says that man’s ability to propagate sexually rests on his fall into sin. And in the 50th chapter of Genesis, we have the prediction of the future appearance of Joseph Smith in his “translation” of the book of Genesis.

There are many contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. According to Deuteronomy 13 and 18, we are to test any further revelation with God’s previous revelation because God does not contradict Himself. If God gives further revelation, He is not going to change His mind either. Does the Book of Mormon harmonize with the Bible, because Mormons do tell us that the Bible is God’s revelation.

Mormons teach that there are many gods and each have their own universe. Women who engage is celestial marriage will have the honor of baring children for all eternity. These baby souls will come inside human bodies. People who engage in celestial marriage and live up to the Book of Mormon’s teachings will have the potential to become gods and have their own universe. The god of this world is Adam according to Mormons. All gods are refined material beings and they undergo change. Does the Bible teach that God is a material being who changes? No. We must point out the contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon was given in a language that no one is able to understand or translate without another miracle. The Book of Mormon in 9:32 says that reformed Egyptian is not a human language. There are no manuscript copies for scholars to study and discuss. It comes down to taking one man’s word for the existence of reformed Egyptian, much less a miraculous and inerrant translation of it. 9:33 admits that Hebrew would have been the more perfect language, however, the plates were not large enough for the Hebrew script. We have no other instance of writing on metal plates from antiquity, yet allegedly the entire Old Testament was put on brass plates in about 600 B.C. There have been numerous changes made to since it was originally published in 1830. However, the original was said to be inspired. Why would you have to change an inspired translation? The Book of Mormon 9:34 states that no one knows that language. According to their own book, no one could be in a position to know that language. How, then, could Anton, who wasn’t even a Mormon, know that language as the Mormons claim?


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