The Book of Mormon

Anachronism KJV Only
White Supremacy Faith Alone
Dearly Beloved Last Chance
Strange Fire Secret Combinations
The Temple Mormon Doctrine
Modalism Literature


When Shakespeare describes a clock striking in his play Julius Caesar, that's an anachronism, because the ancient Romans told time with sun-dials which don't strike: "Brutus: 'Peace! count the clock.'" (Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 1, 201). It is tough for the historical novelist to avoid this kind of mistake. There are many features described in the Book of Mormon which are inappropriate for their time period, such as steel swords:

  • "And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade therefore was of the most precious steel."
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 4:9).

  • "And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel. . . "
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16:18).

The Old World archaeologist might not expect to encounter steel in the time frame specified, because high quality steel, like the fabled Damascus steel, lay in the future. The New World archaeologist does not expect to encounter it at all, at least not until the Conquistadors come on the scene. Yet it's in there:

  • "Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor, and gave battle unto his brother Corihor. . ."
  • (Book of Mormon, Ether 7:9).

  • "And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance."
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:15).

  • "And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war -- yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war."
  • (Book of Mormon, Jarom 1:8)

However, when exactly steel came into production is a matter of dispute, or rather of definition. How much carbon content must wrought iron have before you call it 'steel'? "Steel results from smelting ore to iron, hot-forging wrought iron, carburization to just the right composition, quenching, and finally tempering, and any one step can easily go wrong." (The Substance of Civilization, Stephen L. Sass, p. 88). One can easily produce the stuff by accident, as the first fabricator most likely did: "I can imagine the joy of the first blacksmith who impatiently plunged hot iron with just the right carbon content into water and was rewarded with steel." (The Substance of Civilization, Stephen L. Sass, p. 88). And as to when this happy accident first occurred, it might have been early: "Knife blades excavated in Cyprus are compelling evidence that as early as the eleventh or twelfth century B.C.E., blacksmiths were both carburizing and hardening steel." (The Substance of Civilization, Stephen L. Sass, p. 90). In time, strictly by a trial-and-error process, fabricators learned techniques for reliably producing high-quality steel, like the Damascus steel used in weaponry.

So perhaps this common objection to the Book of Mormon is putting too fine a point on the matter. While we don't expect to encounter 'steel' on the market as a commodity distinct from wrought iron until a later period, there is a continuum of carbon content, and determining where exactly the dividing point falls between iron and steel is a matter of judgment. "Perhaps the most convincing evidence that smiths in the eighth century B.C.E. strengthened steel by quenching comes to us from Book IX of the Odyssey, when Odysseus mentions this process. . .'As when a smith dips a great axe or adze into cold water, hissing loud to temper it — for that is strength to iron — so hissed his eye about the olive stake.'" (The Substance of Civilization, Stephen L. Sass, p. 88). Even this author calls the nineteenth century "the Steel Age" (p. 1), suggesting perhaps that, no, the Iron Age was not the Steel Age; in this miraculous age, the techniques for producing steel in large quantities were mastered and standardized.

It was not uncommon for nineteenth century dreamers and speculators to think they saw in the archaeological remains of the New World a civilization higher than that later found existing: "In the vast territory between Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico, the River Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, there certainlly existed, in remote ages, a nation which has left remarkable traces of its presence. The remains of buildings, the inscriptions engraved on rocks, the tumuli, the mummies, show that it had reached an advanced state of mental culture." (Arthur de Gobineau, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, p. 72). But as information advanced, those dreams went the way of the Fountain of Youth and El Dorado. No steel swords are found in the archaeological remains of Native American cultures.

The technology of steel-making was perfected in the east before it was known to the west. The process of making true steel was perfected in India:

"Around 400 BC, Indian metalworkers invented a smelting method that happened to bond the perfect amount of carbon to iron. The key was a clay receptacle for the molten metal: a crucible. The workers put small wrought iron bars and charcoal bits into the crucibles, then sealed the containers and inserted them into a furnace. When they raised the furnace temperature via air blasts from bellows, the wrought iron melted and absorbed the carbon in the charcoal. When the crucibles cooled, ingots of pure steel lay inside." (Popular Mechanics, The Entire History of Steel, Jonathan Schifman, July 9, 2018).

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, steel came into its own:

E. F. Skinner, depicting Steel Making by the Bessemer Process

In response, Mormons point out that "steel" weapons are mentioned in the KJV:

"He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms." (Psalm 18:34 KJV).

What did 'steel' meant to the King James Version translators? Did it mean a 'hardened alloy' of unspecified composition, or did it mean what contemporary readers understand it to mean: iron with a certain admixture of carbon? At the time, nobody knew that's what the stuff was! The composition of steel was discovered later: "Until the end of the eighteenth century, smiths did not even know that to become steel iron must contain carbon. . .In 1786, the French scientists Vandermonde, Berthollet, and Monge were the first to claim that carbon was the key to steel." (Stephen L. Sass, The Substance of Civilization, p. 205). By the time Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, everyone understood 'steel' to mean the latter, and so that is probably what he means by the term. Adam Clarke wrote his Bible Commentary in the early years of the 19th century, and he is aware that there had been of late great improvements in the art of steel fabrication:

"A bow of steel is broken by mine arms. — All the versions render this: “Thou hast made my arm like a brazen bow.” A bow of steel is out of the question. In the days of David it is not likely that the method of making steel was known. The method of making brass out of copper was known at a very early period of the world; and the ancients had the art of hardening it, so as to work it into the most efficient swords." (Adam Clarke Commentary, Psalm 18:34).

The modern versions read "bronze." Although Joseph Smith uses a KJV-oid style that would have struck his readers as just the style in which a Holy Book should be written, he was not writing in the seventeenth century but in the nineteenth; unlike Adam Clarke, he did not have a sophisticated historical perspective informed by literary study. So he probably meant by 'steel' what contemporary usage would have suggested, a specific super-hardened, high-carbon metal, whose production in mass quantities would shortly touch off a crescendo in the industrial revolution. Word meanings change over time. Did the KJV translators use the word in a vague sense, or as Adam Clarke understood it, which would put them in error? At the 'Meat Counter' in our local super-market, we expect to see cuts of animal flesh. In the KJV, 'meat' is 'food,' including Elijah's cake:

"And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. . .And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God." (1 Kings 19:6-8 KJV).

Someone who does not understand these changing word-meanings can end up looking foolish. Does Joseph with his steel swords? Perhaps not, but it's not as if any archaeologist ever has, or ever will, dug up a steel sword from pre-Columbian America, neither the super-hard modern type, nor whatever may have been on the market in ancient times.

Joseph Smith

KJV Only

The reader of the Book of Mormon encounters many familiar phrases borrowed from the King James Version's Elizabethan English, like "And it came to pass." Beyond scattered phrases, whole chunks of Isaiah and Malachi and other Bible books are imported into the Book of Mormon. These excerpts are often word-for-word replicas of the KJV.

This is odd when you think of it. The Book of Mormon was translated from the "reformed Egyptian:" "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." (Book of Mormon, Mormon 9:32). Their version of Hebrew has also been altered: ". . .but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also. . ." (Mormon 9:33). The KJV is translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text preserved by the synagogue. The KJV translators had no supernatural helps, neither peep-stone nor magic spectacles.

  • "But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 24:2-3; KJV Malachi 3:2-3).

In the passage above Joseph has made the same decisions as the KJV translators, even arguable ones like rendering 'YHWH' as "Lord." Yet when he prepared his inspired Bible translation, he did not copy the KJV word for word. He felt free to insert his own improvisations; the Mormons do not believe, as some people do today, that the King James is an inspired translation. Nor do the Mormons consider the KJV above criticism; 1 Corinthians 7:7 in the KJV says that Paul was not married, but they say that he was:

"Paul himself was married. Of this there is no question. . .It may well be that his expressions on marriage, as found in the King James Version of the Bible (1 Cor. 7), have come to us in changed and perverted form, as compared to what he originally wrote." (Bruce R. McConkie, 'Mormon Doctrine,' p. 119).

Although the Mormons consider the King James English translation to be flawed, this is evidently the form of the Bible in the hands of the New World prophets, who quote from it verbatim. Joseph is totally dependent upon it. There is another extended excerpt from Isaiah in 2 Nephi. There are small differences of punctuation and wording as might be expected in a dictated text: "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 18:14, Isaiah 8:14). The confusion between the 'Sun of righteousness' and the 'Son of righteousness' is easily understood if Joseph was reading aloud from his copy of the King James Bible: "But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall." (3 Nephi 25:2). This is a near quote of Malachi 4:2: "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." The Hebrew words for 'sun' and 'son,' 'shemesh' and 'ben,' are nothing similar, but the English words are homonyms.

It is easy to understand this word-for-word correspondence if Joseph is reading from a copy of the Bible he has in front of him. But this is not what he said he was doing. It requires a great deal of faith for Mormon commentators to avoid noticing what is going on before their faces: "Both Paul and Mormon wrote of charity in similar language. Either they both had the same words of some earlier prophet before them or the Holy Ghost revealed the same truths to them in almost the same words." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 122). The "same words" as what? As a Bible translation that would not be undertaken for centuries? Into the language of a far-off people which scarcely yet even resembled its mature Elizabethan form?

Joseph's further exploits after 'translating' the Book of Mormon included 'translating' the Bible. The fact that the King James English version, not the original text, remained his touchstone is illumined by the lesson he took from Revelation 1:6, "God and his Father:"

"The Prophet also taught — in explaining John's statement, 'And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father' (Rev. 1:6)— that there is 'a god above the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that he had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. . .Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that he had a Father also?' (Teachings, pp. 370-373.)" (quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, 'Mormon Doctrine,' p. 577).

Notice that Joseph is reading 'God and His Father' to mean 'God and God's Father'! To conclude from Revelation 1:6 that God the Father Himself had a Father, as Joseph does here, is conceivable from the Authorized Version, not from the Greek, which reads: "τω θεω και πατρι αυτου," 'to God even His Father.' "God and his Father — There is but one article to both in the Greek, therefore it means, 'Unto Him who is at once God and His Father.'" (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary). If both 'God' and 'Father' had their own article, Joseph's understanding would be possible, not otherwise. We see here a 'translator' trapped within a prior translation, who has no means of access to the original.

What makes it all the stranger is that Joseph himself 'corrected' this very 'and' in his 'Inspired Version,' which reads at Revelation 1:6:

"And unto him who loved us, be glory; who washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, his Father. To him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen." (Revelation 1:6, Joseph Smith Inspired Version).

Evidently Joseph forgot his own 'inspired' translation. Joseph's views were in rapid transition during this period, evolving from monotheism to polytheism; because the 'Inspired Version' is still rooted in monotheism, it is something of an embarrassment to the Salt Lake City Mormon Church.

White Supremacy

In the Book of Mormon, dark skin is understood to be God's curse on the unrighteous:

  • "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixed with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done."
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21-23).

  • "And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 12:23).

  • "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 3:6).

  • "And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles; for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been among the Lamanites, and this because of their unbelief and idolatry. . .They were once a delightsome people. . ."
  • (Book of Mormon, Mormon 5:15-17).

  • "Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites. . .And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites."
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 2:12-16).

What is the Bible's take on this matter of human origins and racial differences?:

Joseph Smith's understanding recalls a once popular, inventive Bible interpretation once popular amongst white racists, identifying the 'mark of Cain' with black skin. But go back to the text. Because there is no suggestion in the Bible text that 'black skin' is the mark of Cain, nor is the 'mark' placed upon Cain to his hurt, nor is it suggested to be heritable, this interpretation rests solidly upon the upper atmosphere. There is no one point at which it makes contact with the text. It requires a willing hearer, unperturbed by its arbitrary equivalences. Those who hold to it must be willing to overlook a great deal of information to the contrary, that God is no respecter of persons: "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.'" (Acts 10:34-35). Abolitionists used to ask, in a withering tone of voice, what island did Cain's descendants find to ride out the flood, when none other than Noah's descendants survived in the ark? There is no modern tribe or nation descended from Cain. To start down this interpretive road, we must first agree to reject the Bible's assertion that only eight human beings survived the great flood. An interpretive strategy that begins by denying one Bible truth will end by denying others: ". . .where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:11).

Joseph Smith accepted this Bible interpretation: "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them." (Book of Moses, Chapter 7, Section 22, Pearl of Great Price). He also accepted another theory, that Noah, a righteous man, cursed his grandson Canaan into perpetual slavery. Joseph dealt with the theory's defect: that Ham's son Cush ought to have been cursed instead of Canaan,-- by arbitrarily transforming Canaan into a black race: "For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people." (Book of Moses, Chapter 7, Section 8).

Joseph Smith, a farm boy from Vermont, was aware of Northern abolitionist sentiment, but leaned in other directions as his movement gravitated from one place to another. Vermont was one of the earliest states to outlaw slavery, though it did so while still a republic, not yet a state. By contrast, the Confederacy was founded on the premise of white racism:

Prior to the Revolutionary War, colonial American legislatures were not free to take action against slavery. Once they broke free of the British crown, their institutions were of their own choosing, and those states north of the Mason-Dixon line had all, prior to the Civil War, shut slavery down. America was a house divided. No abolitionist was unaware of vocal proponents of slavery, and no slave-owner was unaware that many disapproved of his chosen life-style. One cannot simply say that Joseph was a man of his time in drifting toward the pro-slavery side; why not drift toward the equally vocal abolitionist side? Besides, when dealing with self-proclaimed prophets, like Mohammed ibn Abdallah of seventh century Arabia, or Joseph Smith of nineteenth century America, it is not enough to excuse their foibles by saying they were men of their times. Mohammed married a nine-year old girl; perhaps that wasn't controversial in his day, as racism was in nineteenth century America. But if he was what he claimed to be, he ought to have known better. Shouldn't a prophet tower above his contemporaries? It is certainly not true that all white Americans of the day thought that blacks were inferior. John Wesley, albeit only a visitor to these shores, did not think so:

"They were no way remarkable for stupidity while they remained in their own country: The inhabitants of Africa, where they have equal motives and equal means of improvement, are not inferior to the inhabitants of Europe; to some of them they are greatly superior. Impartially survey, in their own country, the natives of Benin, and the natives of Lapland; compare (setting prejudice aside) the Samoyeds and the Angolans; and on which side does the advantage lie, in point of understanding? Certainly the African is in no respect inferior to the European." (John Wesley, Thoughts on Slavery, 1774, Section IV, Chapter 8).

What prevented Joseph from following Wesley's more benign view, rather than the vicious views he did adopt? Both were available in nineteenth century America. If Joseph was indeed a true prophet of God, then why did he sympathize with the wrong side in the conflict then boiling up, soon to engulf the country? There has recently appeared on the LDS website an apologetic piece, which admits the exclusion of black men from the priesthood goes back to the Southern 'black skin=mark of Cain' pro-slavery argument, but which assigns the blame to Brigham Young:

"The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah. According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel. Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin. Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father. Although slavery was not a significant factor in Utah’s economy and was soon abolished, the restriction on priesthood ordinations remained." (Race and the Priesthood).

African-Americans, of course, are not descended from the Lebanese nor from any surviving Canaanite inhabitants of the promised land. What is sometimes overlooked in these discussions is how very bad the old pro-slavery 'Bible arguments' were; they were accepted by those willing with a wink and nod, no more.

It takes a lot of interpretive heavy lifting to transform a Book which tells the story of God's liberating His people from slavery in Egypt, into a pro-slavery tract. The reader must overlook the exodus, the jubilees, and all like victories of freedom, in favor of a boundless faith in the power of Noah's curses, once appropriately redirected. The entire racialist paradigm of Bible reading is wrong:

Corporate Personality

Jacob Singular Pronoun
Abraham's Seed John the Baptist

While the offensive verses of the Book of Mormon remain in place, the Mormon church has thankfully stopped slapping African Americans in the face by denying them the priesthood. . .the males, at least. In this arena their teaching remains strange, to this outsider. Women who hope for a glorious eternity must first. . .marry well:

"At first, Hinckley seemed to qualify the idea that men could become gods, suggesting that 'it's of course an ideal. It's a hope for a wishful thing,' but later affirmed that 'yes, of course they can.' (He added that women could too, 'as companions to their husbands.')," (Gordon Hinckley, quoted in Time magazine article, August 4, 1997, Kingdom Come: Salt Lake City was just for Starters, by David Van Biema)

Women fly upward to godhood on their husband's coat-tails. Once ensconced in the heavenlies, they turn their attention to becoming baby factories, reproducing, literally, at a rate which would put lice to shame. But what about those women who marry poorly? Marrying is a little like buying a lottery ticket. Do you think Bill told Hillary, before their marriage, how he intended to behave after? Women find their hopes for eternal happiness hanging upon their husband's behavior. But is this Biblical? When has one mortal's eternal hope been held in the hands of another human being? The Lord taught,

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28).

But if Mormon teaching on the afterlife is true, one must fear one's spouse, who is able to drag one downward from the blessed hope otherwise attainable. Paul did not hint at such a state of affairs, when he counseled women married to unbelievers:

"And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him." (1 Corinthians 7:11).

The Bible teaches, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezekiel 18:20). There is no indication that your eternal happiness hangs upon the actions of another party, over whom you have effectively no control. Admittedly this strange teaching only arose years later and is not taught in the Book of Mormon.


Last Supper, Polish Salt Mine

Faith Alone

In the sixteenth century, a German monk named Martin Luther discovered, in Paul's letter to the Romans, a great Bible truth: that salvation is by faith alone. Church authorities at Rome objected; salvation, they explained, and later solidified into dogma at the Council of Trent, is by faith plus works.

In 1809 preacher Alexander Campbell came from Ireland to America to join his father's ministry. His message sounded novel to Protestant ears, though to Roman Catholics it would have sounded quite familiar. He argued from John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 that baptism was an essential precondition to salvation. He found in Acts 2:38 a three-step 'salvation plan:'

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38).

This argument imports into Peter's two commands and one promise in this verse the following logical structure: if you repent and if you are baptized, then and only then will you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the same as the new birth of John 3:5 without which no man can see heaven. This logic is absent from the grammar of the sentence, which fails to make any of the three elements contingent on any other. Moreover baptism is neither a necessary condition for the gift of the Holy Ghost: Cornelius and his people spoke in tongues without baptism (Acts 10:47), nor is it a sufficient condition: the Samaritans received water baptism without speaking in tongues (Acts 8:16). Moreover, realizing there is a diversity of gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4), it is not clear why Peter's "gift" would be identified with the new birth.

Except for those who have been long habituated to viewing Acts 2:38 as a 'salvation plan,' most readers can see no reason to identify it as such. Peter's audience asks, not 'What shall we do to be saved?' but simply 'What shall we do?' God's children eagerly obey Peter's two commands and treasure the promise he gave, but fail to see the merit in isolating this verse of scripture as a 'salvation plan.' Not only is Acts 2:38 nowhere identified as the 'salvation plan,' but neither the phrase 'salvation plan' nor 'plan of salvation' is anywhere found in the Bible.When inquirers do ask how to be saved, the answer is not the Acts 2:38 Salvation Plan but simply this:

"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:30-31).

Who holds the Biblical high ground on this question: the sixteenth-century monk Martin Luther, or the Catholics/Campbellites?:

Saved by Faith Righteousness from God
The Just Abraham
The Heart Ashamed
Tower of Babel Merited Favor?
What is Faith? What are Works?
Devils Antinomianism
Surely He has borne our Griefs Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Without One Plea Piece-Work
Everyone What must I Do?
What have you Got? Savior Will?
Altoona Ungodly
Justified by Faith Faith Plus Works
Whosoever Believeth Cannot Sin
Show Me The Work of God
Supernatural Lung Cancer
Wheelchair Watchmaker God
All our Works Nothing
Leopard's Spots His Mercy

Baptismal Regeneration

Dead Men Walking The Like Figure
Flag Factory Living Waters
Thief on the Cross Frozen Lake
Preach the Gospel Wind Blows
Martin Luther John Calvin
Answer New Lives for Old
Heart of Flesh Prayer Wheels
Born Again John Gill
Whosoever Believes Synonym
Nature of Sin Mark 16
Infant Baptism

Acts 2:38

Acts 2:38 "Salvation Plan"

 Is Acts 2:38 a "Salvation Plan"?

Salvation Plan No Faith
See Malta and Die What is the Question?
Go to Damascus Watch a Video
Messianic Expectations They Don't Get It
Into For
John the Baptist Savior Peter?
Fallacy of Composition Cornelius and the Gentiles

The author of the Book of Mormon is an acolyte of Alexander Campbell. The sought-after phrase, missing from the Bible, is here found: "For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation?" (Book of Mormon, Jarom 1:2). Moreover, said salvation plan follows the pattern laid down in Acts 2:38:

  • "And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism -- yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and should praises unto the Holy One of Israel."
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31:11-13).

  • "Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel. . ."
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:20-21).

  • "Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 30:2).

Notice that the logical structure which Alexander Campbell and his followers sought in Acts 2:38 but which is not present in the grammar of that verse, is here explicitly stated: if you are baptized, then you will receive the Holy Ghost. Campbell's associate Sidney Rigdon found here, at long last, the missing 'scriptural' justification for the celebrated three-step 'Salvation Plan.' Baptism is stated to be a necessary precondition of salvation in the Book of Mormon:

  • "And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it."
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9:23-24).

Alexander Campbell did not appreciate the 'help,' and made sure everybody knew it:

Joseph Smith's Writings

King Follett Discourse
Lectures on Faith
Letter re: Alexander Campbell
All is Matter
Revelation on Plural Marriage
On the Plurality of Gods
Prophecy of the Civil War
Revelation to the Shakers
The Wentworth Letter

Alexander Campbell made much of microscopic issues, like what should be painted on the sign-board out in front of the church. It just had to be:

  • "And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ."
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 26:21).

  • "Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?. . .And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit. . .And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward."
  • (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18:10-17).

  • "And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter.
    "And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day. . .Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
    "And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel."
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:3-9).

Holy, Holy, Holy

The affinity between the Book of Mormon and Alexander Campbell's teachings is so evident as to hatch 'conspiracy theories' assigning authorship to Campbellite convert Sidney Rigdon, though this is unnecessary.

The Book of Mormon is not the worst thing Joseph Smith gave the world, but one of the best. When chided on grounds of polytheism, the Mormons, disingenuously, challenge their critics to find polytheism in the Book of Mormon. It can't be found there, though readers of the Book of Abraham and King Follett Discourse know very well where it can be found. The theological error the Book of Mormon does teach, namely modalism, seems to 'rub off' on few of its readers. The Independence, Missouri Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches neither polygamy nor polytheism. Though their efforts to clear Joseph Smith of these heresies fail to convince, certainly he did not teach these errors in the Book of Mormon. Other religious communities have embraced pious forgeries without suffering lasting harm; Thomas Aquinas thought that the author who wrote as Dionysius the Areopagite was who he claimed to be.

Joseph's venture into the field answers a skeptical argument against the faith, namely: if Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, why were some races, indeed certain continents, not given the word? His answer: they were. Not only is this a skeptical argument against the gospel, it is also a point Calvinists dwell upon. As things stand, tragically, Joseph Smith's masterpiece serves too often to entice the gullible down into the polytheistic swamp of his later teachings.

It's interesting that Joseph predicted the American Civil War. But how many other people did the same thing? After a free-for-all in the House of Representatives, Alexander Stephens observed, "'All things here are tending my mind to the conclusion that the Union cannot and will not last long.'" (quoted p. 168, James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom). Fortunately the superannuated participants in the brawl failed to draw blood, lacking the ability not the will, as a contemporary reporter noted: "'. . .most of them incapable, from want of wind and muscle, of doing each other any serious harm.'"  (quoted p. 168, James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom).  Everybody and his brother 'prophesied' the American Civil War. Observing the signs of the times is not prophesy.

Dearly Beloved

In nineteenth century America, the language of the King James Version was already archaic, though still comprehensible. This weighty, beautiful and slightly strange language was just the way folks expected to hear God talk. Joseph delivered the goods. It would have been remarkable had he gotten the language just right, given its remove from his time and place. He didn't. Among other wonders, Joseph gives us 'beloved' as a transitive verb:

  • "For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 26:9).

  • "Now when Ammon and his brethren saw this work of destruction among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them -- for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God to save them from everlasting destruction -- therefore, when Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion. . ."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 27:4).

Last Chance

The Book of Mormon teaches that it is in this lifetime only that men can seek salvation:

  • "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 34:32-34).

His understanding on this point would later slip, under the pressure of the small number of followers attracted by his preaching.

Strange Fire

Lehi, American immigrant from Judaea, as told in the Book of Mormon, is a descendent of Joseph:

  • "And Aminadi was a descendent of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 10:3).

Under the law of Moses, only some are entitled to offer sacrifice:

  • "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. . .So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
  • (Numbers 3:5-10).

  • "And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
    Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the LORD, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.' So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the LORD, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the LORD had said to him through Moses."
  • (Numbers 16:35-40).

  • "'But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,' says the Lord GOD.
  • (Ezekiel 44:15).

In spite of not being qualified under the law of Moses to offer sacrifice, Lehi nevertheless does so, while sojourning in the Old World wilderness:

  • "And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.”
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 2:6).

  • "And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel."
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 5:9).

  • "And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him."
  • (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 7:22).

Perhaps these future migrants to the New World thought themselves under a different covenant, and in receipt of a special revelation? This possibility is ruled out by the Book of Mormon, which insists Lehi's descendants remained under Moses' law, even many years after migrating to America:

  • "And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.”
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:10).

  • "They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme.”
  • (Book of Mormon, Jarom 1:5)

When this predicament is presented to Mormons, they explain that Lehi was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. This great promise is made to the Messiah:

  • "The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
  • (Psalm 110:4).

But it is not apparent that this promise, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," is offered promiscuously to all those under the law of Moses who are otherwise disqualified for the priesthood. If it were, why had King Uzziah to remain a leper till the day of his death, for offering incense to the Most High?:

  • "But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, 'It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.'
    Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.
    "King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD."
  • (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

What persons were disqualified from officiating at the altar under the Mosaic covenant, if all could claim the rights of the patriarchal age? Yet plainly some were disqualified. It seems here we see our author peeping out at us, an ingenious, but unlearned, Bible student, 'caught' not knowing a descendent of Joseph could not offer sacrifice under Moses' law.

Secret Combinations

The Book of Mormon was written at a time of anti-Freemasonry polemics. Pamphleteers linked the Jacobin terror which had laid waste to France to this secret society. At the time he wrote the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith lined up with the anti-Freemasonry side:

  • "And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. . .Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction. Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit--Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. . .And behold, it is he who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of man."
  • (Book of Mormon, Helaman 6:22-30).

Joseph's argument is not that secret oaths and combinations are things neutral in themselves which became bad when the Nephites used them to conceal murder and robbery, but rather that these things are evil in themselves, suggested to mankind by Satan. Mormon 8:27 warns of "secret combinations and the works of darkness," as do many other verses as readers may verify by checking the 'secret combinations' listing in the Index of their Book of Mormon.

Yet in spite of the Book of Mormon's strong condemnation of secret oaths and secret combinations, Joseph ended his life a Freemason. Besieged by a mob in an Illinois jail, he called out for help from his fellow Masons, not his fellow believers. Masons report that many of the hand-signs, passwords and props of Mormon temple worship are cribbed from Masonic ceremony.

Men who hold themselves forth as prophets, as did Joseph Smith and Mohammed ibn Abdallah, may well be their own first converts, and sincerely believe God lent them their material. The reader still must examine whether He has spoken or has not spoken. Yet if the 'prophets' don't take their own vocation seriously, it is hard to see why anyone else should. If Joseph sincerely believed that God had condemned 'secret combinations' in the Book of Mormon, why would he then go and join one?

The Temple

Not only did Moses restrict what persons can officiate at sacrifices, his law restricts the places at which such offerings can be made:

  • "Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the LORD chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you."
  • (Deuteronomy 12:13-14).

This provision of the law is also ignored, without explanation, by Lehi and his descendants. They built their own temples in the New World and offered sacrifice there:

  • "And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine."
  • (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:16).

  • "And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, they they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them. . .And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, they they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses; and also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem..."
  • (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 2:1-4).

If they were indeed "offer[ing] sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses," they would be making these offerings at Jerusalem instead of the New World, as Deuteronomy 12:13-14 specifies. But the Book of Mormon claims that this group remained under the law of Moses for many years after their journey to the New World:

  • "Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses until it should be fulfilled."
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 30:3).

Today, Orthodox Jews do not offer the animal sacrifices of the old covenant, because the one place where this may lawfully be done was destroyed by the pagan Romans in 70 A.D. What did Lehi's tribe know that these people do not?

At the time he wrote the Book of Mormon, Joseph was not yet a polytheist. His later heterodox teachings have a surprising Hebrew ancestry:


Although Joseph Smith's speculations about the Hebraic origin of Native Americans ended up stranded and isolated, such conjectures were fairly common at the time when this work was written. A Jewish adventurer named Mordecai Manuel Noah actually tried to found a new state in upstate New York, under the misimpression that the American Indians were the ten lost tribes:

"So far Noah's career was merely adventurous. He now turned to solve the Jewish problem by attempting to organize a Jewish state in the heart of the United States! With the aid of friends he acquired a plot of territory near Buffalo and invited the harried and the persecuted of all lands to settle in the new Ararat, the city of refuge for the Jews. On September 2, 1825 the foundation stone for the state was laid with extravagant ceremony, participated in by federal and state officials, clergymen of all denominations, and Indians, whom Noah identified with the lost ten tribes of Israel. . .No settlers, however, flowed to Ararat, and the colony was soon abandoned." (Abram Leon Sachar, A History of the Jews, p. 305-306).

Though he applied to the Rothschilds and other Jewish financiers for backing, enthusiasm for his projected Jewish homeland in the neighborhood of Buffalo proved somewhat lacking. His proposal included an outreach to the native Americans to convince them they were the ten lost tribes: "In a public proclamation he announced that the new settlement, 'a Commercial City,' would provide Jews from all over the world with 'that peace, comfort and happiness which have been denied them through the intolerance and misgovernment of former ages.' Among these he included 'The Karaite and Samaritan Jews, together with the black Jews of India and Africa, and likewise those in Cochin, China and the sect on the coast of Malabar;' and he added: 'The Indians of the American continent. . . .being in all probability the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, which were carried captive by the King of Assyria, means will be adopted to make them sensible of their condition and finally reunite them with their brethren, the chosen people.'" (Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, pp. 367-368).

It used to be a common element of Jewish Messianic speculation to propose that the 'Lost Tribes' were out there somewhere, just beyond the River Sambatyon, wherever that is. They were identified with all manner of people groups, on the slenderest of evidence. But this avenue of inquiry leads nowhere: the American Indian languages are not Semitic, and the probable ancestry of this people group is Asian. The Book of Mormon is left alone promoting this out-of-left-field idea.

Mormon Doctrine

When he penned the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was still within the Christian orbit. Later he would fall under the influence of a Kabbalist (Kabbalism is a medieval revival of gnosticism) and read a book which ascribed eternal self-existence and other characteristics of deity to matter. Things changed. In time Mormon writers would say things like, "Every feeling or thought is the feeling or thought of solids. All the powers of the universe, from the almighty powers of Jehovah down to the most feeble powers that operate, are the powers of solid atoms." (Absurdities of Immaterialism, Orson Pratt, 1849.) Joseph Smith's late and extremely heretical doctrines have been woven into the fabric of the modern LDS religion:

It is possible to understand the viewpoint of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who recognized the earlier revelations, but not the latter. Effectively, the viewpoint of the Salt Lake City Mormons is to recognize the latter revelations in place of the former, overlooking the blatant contradiction between Joseph's later polytheism and the Book of Mormon. The pagan philosopher Aristotle stated the law of contradiction, a is not not-a. Of two contradictory alternatives, one must ultimately choose one and discard the other. Then add the Bible to the mix and realize this organization carries the burden of explaining how monotheism is really the same thing as polytheism. They are wedded to pretzel logic and verbal acrobatics for time though not eternity, as there comes an end of the road for bad religion, when reality intervenes and illusions are shattered.


The theological error found in the Book of Mormon is not the later polytheism that would come to characterize the Latter-day Saints, but modalism, the doctrine that Jesus Christ is both Father and Son, 'Father' with reference to His divine Spirit, and 'Son' with reference to the flesh of the incarnation. I doubt you can find another heretic who covers the same amount of turf, in running from extreme left field to extreme right field, in such a short period of time.


Some people reach a negative verdict about the literary quality of the Book of Mormon. As a rule they are looking for things not found there: it is true the Book of Mormon displays no psychological insight, no character development. . .but then neither does the Iliad. You have to give Joseph credit for originality; this is a book like none other. It is an ersatz Bible, but it is not like the Bible. There is nothing else in its category. He did not produce what the period demanded in terms of polished diction; but then neither did Emily Dickinson. I would not hesitate to describe Joseph as a 'genius;' but, sadly, he was not an honest man, there is nothing sound here. And in time things would get even worse as Joseph became a raving polytheist, an amorous Pied Piper leading his little band of followers down to Hell.