Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions

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Alleged Contradictions in Latter-day Saint Scripture

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Question: Why are there discrepancies between translations in the Book of Mormon, King James Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other. Critics ask why Joseph's earlier work (i.e., the Book of Mormon) generally followed the King James Version of the Bible closely while his later work (i.e., the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible) did not. Critics ask which translation did Joseph get right, implying that one is wrong, hence bringing his prophetic calling into question. Critics generally cite any of a number of passages from Matthew 5-7 from the King James Version and Joseph Smith Translation and 3 Nephi 12-14 from the Book of Mormon. A much celebrated example is:

Matthew 6:25-27 (King James Version)

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

3 Nephi 13:25-27) (Book of Mormon)

25 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Matthew 6:25-27 (Joseph Smith Translation)

25 And, again, I say unto you, go ye into the world, and care not for the world; for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues.
26 Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
27 And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations. This is not unique or unusual in scripture -- even the Bible. Hence, neither the Book of Mormon nor the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible can be discounted because of seeming discrepancies with each other or with the King James Version of the Bible.

Joseph Smith had different purposes in mind when bringing forth the Book of Mormon and the Joseph smith Translation. His purpose in bringing forth the Book of Mormon was to witness "the reality that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations". Departing from the King James Version, i.e., the translation familiar to those who would become the Book of Mormon's first readers, would have been a stumbling block in achieving its purpose. On the other hand, Joseph's later purpose in bringing forth the Joseph Smith Translation is largely understood to have been one of redaction, or inspired commentary -- to resolve confusion regarding biblical interpretation[1] Hence the different wording, and in some cases, even content.

Biblical Parallel

Gleason Archer, well known Evangelical Christian and the Author of a highly respected book called "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties", addresses the issue of Paul citing deficient Greek Septuagint translations that appear in our New Testaments today in lieu of better translations of the Old Testament he could have come up with. Archer says:

"Suppose Paul had chosen to work out a new, more accurate translation into Greek directly from Hebrew. Might not the Bereans have said in reply, “that’s not the way we find it in our Bible. How do we know you have not slanted your different rendering here and there in order to favor you new teaching about Christ?” In order to avoid suspicion and misunderstanding, it was imperative for the apostles and evangelists to stick with the Septuagint in their preaching and teaching, both oral and written.

"We, like the first-century apostles, resort to these standard translations to teach our people in terms they can verify by resorting to their own Bibles, yet admittedly, none of these translations is completely free of faults. We use them nevertheless, for the purpose of more effective communication than if we were to translate directly from the Hebrew or Greek."[2]

Archer's point is that it is more important in certain settings that Paul's writings be familiar rather than 100% precise.

Question: Do Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 and 2 Nephi 31:17 or 3 Nephi 12:2 contradict one another regarding the order in which one receives baptism and a remission of sins?

These scriptures are not contradictory, for at least three reasons

It is claimed that LDS scriptures such as DC 20:37 (first case) and 2 Nephi 31:17, 3 Nephi 12:2, and Moroni 8:11 (second case) are contradictory about the order in which one receives baptism and a remission of sins and that that "Mormon theologians" have ignored this issue.

As is typical in such charges of self-contradiction, the critics either:

  • misinterpret LDS scripture;
  • compare verses of scripture which are not speaking about identical issues;
  • read Protestant terminology or theology into LDS scripture.

In this case, the critics have committed all three mistakes. As such, it is not surprising if "Mormon theologians" have spent little on the issues. The critics are looking to find fault, and so strain at gnats. LDS thinkers understand LDS doctrine, and so see clearly that there is no contradiction.

These scriptures are not contradictory, for at least three reasons—any one of which is sufficient to disprove the critics' claim. We will first list the scriptural texts, and then discuss each of the three reasons for which they are not properly seen as contradictory.

Scriptures to be considered

The first case

And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church (DC 20:37).

The second case

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:17).

...Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins (3 Nephi 12:2).

And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins (Moroni 8:11).

Reason #1: The scriptures are discussing two slightly different issues

There is a difference between "received of the Spirit of Christ" (which is given to every man—see Moroni 7:16—but may be received or not depending on choices and heed paid to it) and the baptism of "fire and the Holy Ghost" which happens after baptism, as Joseph Smith taught:

There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. [3]

Reason #2: The audience and presumed intent for the audience are slightly different

Note too that those in the first instance have repented and expressed a desire to be baptized, which desire and sincerity can then lead to a remission of their sins, (i.e., the intent is what matters, and a willingness to follow through on that intent).

In the second case, Nephi is encouraging those who may not have accepted the Messiah to do so, and to obey the commandments and example given by the Messiah—including baptism. So, his target audience is those who have perhaps not yet "desire[d] to be baptized." When they have that desire (by hearkening to the Spirit of Christ), they will then repent and hearken to it, and will choose to be baptized. This decision to repent and follow Jesus will ultimately lead to forgiveness, and the baptism of fire and the purging out of sin that comes with the receipt of the Holy Ghost (after baptism).

In short, the audience in the first case is further along in the process than the audience in the second.

Reason #3: The question presupposes that "forgiveness" is a single, unique event, when in fact it is an on-going process

Here, we see that the critics are viewing this question through the lenses of conservative protestantism.

The critics are assuming that the Book of Mormon matches their view of salvation, in which someone is "saved" once and finally by some type of "altar call" or confession. By contrast, LDS theology sees salvation, repentance, forgiveness, and purification and transformation by the Holy Ghost as on-going processes. The experience begins before baptism, leads us to baptism, and is the fulfillment of the promises and covenants of baptism, which must then be persisted in as we "endure to the end."

As the second case scriptures explain, as we learn of Jesus we are humbled and desire to repent. Repentance requires that we appreciate that we have not kept all of God's commandments, and we regret not doing so. We become resolved to keep God's commandments from henceforth, and the first commandment which we can obey is to choose baptism. The baptism is an outward sign of our repentance and determination to keep God's commandments, and this willingness to covenant with Jesus allows us (as the first case notes) to "receive...of the Spirit of Christ," which begins the process of remitting our sins. If we do not persist in our intention to follow Jesus, however, and were to suddenly choose not to be baptized, we would have returned to sin.

When we have been baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which purifies us as if by fire, as sin and evil are burned out of us, and we walk in newness of life, following Jesus. We must then endure to the end, for if we do not, the remission of our sins (which we have only received because we have chosen to enter a covenant with Christ) will be null and void. The subsequent verses of 2 Nephi 31 explain this clearly:

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31:18-20).

Question: Are Mormon scriptures full of contradictions?

The supposed contradictions arise from 1) misinterpretation, 2) comparing two verses when are speaking of different things and 3) reading Protestant meanings into scriptural terminology

Many conservative Protestant critics have reproduced a table which purports to show how LDS scripture contradicts itself.

The table below examines the supposed contradictions, presents the scriptures cited in context, and demonstrates that claims of contradiction rest on:

  1. a misinterpretation of LDS scripture
  2. comparing two verses which are speaking about different things
  3. reading Protestant meanings into scriptural terminology

Supposed Contradictions in LDS scripture

Number Column A: Book of Mormon... Column B: "Contrasting" scripture... Response and Comments


One God Plural Gods
  • The scriptures in Column A all state that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Column B scriptures explain the nature of this oneness. Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17:22-23).

To learn more:


God is a Spirit God Has A Body
  • The scriptures in Column A describe missionary efforts to teach the pagan Lamanites about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries begin their efforts by explaining that what the Lamanites called "The Great Spirit" was God. This is not an attempt to give a theological description of God's nature, but to build on common beliefs.
  • To the Lamanites, being "The Great Spirit" did not preclude being corporeal—Ammon was mistaken for the great spirit, and yet he clearly had a body, could perform physical actions, etc. So, the concept of "spirit" used by the Lamanites is not (as the critics assume) the same as the "spirit" of Nicene trinitarianism.
  • The God to which the Column A scriptures refer is Jesus Christ, or Jehovah. In LDS doctrine, Jesus Christ was a premortal spirit that did not yet have a physical body when the scriptures in Column A were given. Thus, the description of Christ as a Spirit was accurate before His birth even in LDS terms.

To learn more


God dwells in the heart

...35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. 36 And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell....

God does not dwell in the heart

The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse [John 14:23], is a personal appearance; the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false."
  • Column B explains that when Jesus says that He and the Father will "make our abode" with those who "keep my words," this means that the righteous may physically behold them. It targets the false idea that God does not have any physicality, and cannot be seen.
  • Column A describes the fact that the spirit of Satan or the Spirit of the Lord (i.e., the Holy Ghost) will "possess" or influence mortals depending upon their choices. The Holy Ghost can dwell in the heart of man, since he is a spirit (see 2 Timothy 1:14 and DC 130:22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.


One God creates Multiple Gods create
  • As discussed in point #1, LDS doctrine sees God as one, but not one in substance. In LDS doctrine, God may be properly spoken of as one and as consisting of more than one person or being.
  • This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

To learn more


God Cannot Lie

God Commands Lying

...22 And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon; 23 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say—She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise: 24 Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live. 25 And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me—Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.
  • Abraham misled the Egyptians by not disclosing all the facts. He did not disclose that Sarai was his wife. It was, however, true that she was his sister—more specifically, she was what anthropologists call a "parallel cousin," who under Jewish levirate law was considered his sister.[4]
  • Conservative protestant critics are disingenuous in posing this question, since Abraham twice uses this tactic in the Bible (though God is not said to explicitly command it). God no where condemns Abraham for this supposed "lie." Furthermore, the explanation for Abraham's claim is also included in the Bible—see Genesis 11:25-29 and Genesis 20:11-12).
  • The Bible also contains similar examples of God commanding a prophet to make a "strictly true" statement intended to deceive the wicked and protect the lives of the innocent, and other cases in which God ratified a decision to withhold the truth to save innocents.[5]


God's Word Unchangeable

Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

God's Word Can Change

Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.
  • Column A speaks of "decrees of God"—the commandments which God has given about how to return to him, and the consequences for disobedience. The speaker is the prophet Alma, addressing a sinful son who has left the ministry in pursuit of a harlot.
  • Column B notes that humans may be in changing circumstances. Thus, God may give specific commands in one situation, and different commands in a different situation necessary for carrying out His work. God will not force men to obey—if some disobey, then God may need to alter commands. If he tells John to go on a mission, and John refuses, then God may need to "reassign" someone else to carry out John's former task. As the scripture says, the consequences of this will "be answered upon the heads of the rebellious"—there is still a penalty for disobedience, but God's plans cannot be thwarted by mortal disobedience.
  • Neither scripture mentions "God's word" (which conservative Protestants would associate with scripture), but this terminology allows the critic to give the misleading impression that the verses are discussing the alteration of scripture, instead of on-going revelation adapted to the good and bad choices which mortals make.


No Pre-Existence of Man

For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?
And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?....34 Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;
  • The scriptures in Column A say nothing about pre-mortal existence. Jacob 4 asserts that God spoke and created man's body "upon the face of the earth." Alma says that man's body was created after the image of God. None of these says anything about a pre-existence.
  • Abraham 4:27 goes on to describe the creation of the body of mankind after the image of God—the same doctrines taught in column A.
  • This criticism assumes creation out of nothing—creatio ex nihilo—another unbiblical doctrine which conservative Protestants criticize Latter-day Saints for not accepting. For the critics, any creation must be ex nihilo creation; Latter-day Saint doctrine does not require this.

To learn more:


Death seals man's fate
And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.
32 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. 33 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. 34 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. 35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
Chance for repentance after death
  • Column A scriptures speak of those who have had the opportunity to accept the gospel in this life, and have rejected it. Such people lose their chance for exaltation in LDS doctrine (see DC 76:73-78). They are those who "have known and...been taught all these things....[coming] out in open rebellion against God." Alma cautions those who "have had so many witnesses" against putting off the repentance and conversion which they know they need to undertake.
  • Column B describes those who have never had this opportunity.
  • If one cannot accept the gospel beyond the grave, then all those who have not heard of Christ in this life must be damned for all eternity—the critics may be comfortable with such an outcome, but the Latter-day Saints do not believe that a merciful God would condemn His children for that which they never had the full chance to receive.


Heathen Saved Without Baptism Baptism for the Dead
  • The scriptures in column B explain how the results in column A are accomplished. The heathen who choose to accept Christ will be saved, without baptism in their mortal life, because of vicarious baptism in their behalf, which they may accept or reject.
  • The scriptures are clear that without baptism, no one may be saved (John 3:5). Yet, the majority who have lived on the earth have not had the opportunity for baptism. Without vicarious baptism and preaching Christ in the post-mortal world, God would be said to eternally damn the majority of mankind for something they never had the chance to receive.
  • Note: 2 Nephi is not necessarily targeted at "the heathen"—it is targeted at those who have not been given the law. The Book of Mormon teaches elsewhere that all normal people have the spirit of Christ given them, and know good from evil (Moroni 7:16). "Heathen" peoples would still be responsible for the degree to which they observed the law which they had been given through the spirit of Christ, and would require forgiveness of sins against that law—through Christ and post-mortal acceptance of vicarious ordinances. Those who have not received any law would probably be restricted to little children, and others with physical or mental handicaps that render them essentially "child-like."
  • Note: Moroni 8 is likewise discussing little children and others who have no law, not necessarily "the heathen."

To learn more:


Only options are heaven or hell Three degrees of glory, with most people "saved"
  • The Book of Mormon teaches that one must accept Christ's sacrifice, or be damned: its focus is on either exaltation, or damnation. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how those who do not accept exaltation through Christ are judged according to their works. All who do not fully accept Christ will be blocked ("damned") from receiving some of the gifts which they could have enjoyed. Yet, it would be unjust for God to impose identical punishment on the vast range of human sins.
  • The Book of Mormon focuses the new or potential Christian on the absolute necessity of accepting Christ and His gospel. The Doctrine and Covenants explains how God remains merciful and just as he judges those who have not fully accepted Christ's gospel by their works.
  • Once again, we see the critics upset because more information which complements—not contradicts—earlier scripture is given.
  • The table is also misleading, since Latter-day Saints use the term "saved" in a variety of ways, and would not regard most of those discussed in the Column B as "saved" in the same sense discussed in Column A.

'To learn more:

  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55. off-site
    Elder Oaks discusses at least six senses in which Latter-day Saints use the term 'saved' in their theology.


Murder can be forgiven
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.
'Murder cannot be forgiven
...And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
  • Column A is addressed to those who have not yet accepted and covenanted with Christ—"ye Gentiles." Column B is addressed "unto the Church." Those who have a certain minimum of spiritual knowledge cannot commit murder and be completely absolved of the consequences. Those with less spiritual knowledge may be forgiven of murder following sincere repentance (Alma 24:9-11).
  • Once again, two different doctrines are being taught, but the critics ignore this.


Polygamy condemned Polygamy commanded
  • The critics are careful to omit the verse of scripture that explains this apparent contradiction, Jacob 2:30. This scripture from column A makes it clear that God may, under some conditions, command polygamy: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things."
  • Scriptures in column A show the "default" command to practice monogamy, which God may alter according to His plan and circumstance as described in column B.
  • This is a tired, well-worn anti-Mormon attack—its dishonesty should be clear.

To learn more:


Against Paid Ministries
...But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
...Yea, and all their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God."
For Paid Ministries
those working full-time in the Church's temporal affairs are "to have a just remuneration" for their work. [Bishops and councilors, at the time, were full-time jobs. Many bishops today would probably agree that such callings could be full time nowadays as well!]
  • Column A does not reject having someone be paid in a religious capacity. Column A insist that the motivation for those working must always be God's glory and the benefit of the Church. If they are working for money, or to get gain, there are grave spiritual risks for teacher and listener.
  • The second scripture in column A reflects this, since the religious community described had just escaped a wicked society in which a king and his hand-picked priests had used religion for gain and the satisfaction of their lusts, not teaching of the truth.
  • The second scripture also acknowledges, however, that there may be circumstances in which religious leaders may need financial help or support, as described in the Column B scriptures.
  • Again, these scriptures are complimentary and addressing different aspects of an issue.
  • The critics omit the scripture from the Book of Mormon that describe the problem:
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29)
  • The problem is priestcraft—to do religious acts for the purpose of getting gain or glory.
  • Priestcraft is a problem of attitude, and can happen whether one is paid or not.

To learn more:

  • David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning By Faith," (3 February 2006), Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion. off-site
  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign (October 1994), 15. off-site
    Elder Bednar and Elder Oaks discuss the risks of priestcraft for Church teachers, paid or unpaid.


Corrupt Churches Promise Forgiveness For Money
31 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. 32 Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Church Members Who Pay Tithing Will Not Burn
23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming. 24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
  • Column B has had the next verse (v. 24) omitted, which is need to properly interpret verse 23. Nothing in column B promises forgiveness of sins. Rather, column B points out that if members of the Church refuse to tithe, this is good evidence that they are proud and wicked—they remain committed to Babylon, a symbol of worldliness.
  • Tithing thus prepares us and helps transform us. It weans us from worldliness, and helps remake us into the type of people who will not be consumed at God's appearance. It does not purchase forgiveness—but, if offered in the proper spirit, it will transform us from the type of people who will not seek Christ's atonement with humility into those who will.
  • Churches described in column A offer forgiveness and absolution with no change in behavior or character. Column B calls for a change in behavior, which can transform character. Those thus transformed may then seek and receive forgiveness. The approaches are mirror opposites.


Adam in the Americas Adam in the Old World
  • Moses is based upon the Bible narrative of Genesis. While the Genesis/Moses account describes the Garden of Eden in relation to four rivers—Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. The first three rivers are related to the lands of Havilah, Ethiopia, and Assyria (see Genesis 2:11). This organization corresponds to no known geographical location, in the old or new worlds.
  • Since Genesis does not match a real world geography, rather than seeing these descriptions as literal, most Bible scholars have seen them as a symbolic tool to place Eden at the "center" of creation. Given that the Bible was written in the Old World, it is unsurprising that the symbols therein use Old World sites. Such symbols, however, are of little use in establishing a literal geographic location in either the Old or New World.

To learn more:

As we have seen, none of these paired scriptures contradict each other. This list misunderstands and misrepresents LDS doctrine.

See also: Question: How can one view contradictions in Scripture in a faithful way? and Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions

Question: Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17:22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

Question: How can one view contradictions in Scripture in a faithful way?

Introduction to Question

It is claimed that the Holy Bible and other scriptures in the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contain contradictions. In some cases, the essential argument being made by critics may have merit and, in others, may not. It may become the responsibility of Latter-day Saints from time to time to defend the high authority of scripture.

There Seems to be Historical Contradictions in Scripture

Some of the seeming contradictions in scripture may be termed historical contradictions.

  • The Death of Judas: Did he die by hanging (Matthew 27:5)? Or did he fall headlong and have his bowels gush out (Acts 1:18)? Academic attempts to harmonize these two passages ceased at least as early as the late nineteenth century. Scholars today generally see both accounts as irreconcilably contradictory.[6]
  • Jesus Calming The Sea: The Gospels differ in the succession of events when Jesus calms the storm at sea. In the Matthean account, the Lord chastises his apostles for not having enough faith and then calms the storm whereas in the Markan and Lucan accounts he calms the storm and then chastises his apostles. The Johannine account lacks the story.[7]
  • The Timing of the Savior's Crucifixion: The Gospels differ in their timing of the crucifixion of the Savior. Was it during Passover? Before Passover? Or after Passover? Scholars believe that the difference is ultimately irreconcilable, and one simply must choose which account to believe.[8] Generally, Mark is favored since it is considered the earliest to be authored.[9]

There Seems to Be Theological Tensions/Contradictions in Scripture

Some of the seeming contradictions in scripture may be termed theological tensions/contradictions.

  • High Christology and Low Christology: It has long been observed by scholars that the Markan account of the Savior portrays Jesus as more human—lowly, and mortal—than the Johannine account which portrays Jesus as godlike from the antemortal realm to the end of his life. Scholars generally believe that the Markan account holds what they term a “low Christology” and the Johannine account a “high Christology.”[10]
  • Performing Alms: How can we not perform our alms in public (Matthew 6:1) but also let our light shine before the world (Matthew 5:16)?
  • Becoming and Not Becoming A Child: How can we set childish things aside (1 Corinthians 13:11) and become as a child (Matthew 18:3)?

This article will outline principles and procedures for reconciling perceived contradictions in scripture. Many of the principles and procedures laid out in this article apply to the uncanonized teachings and revelations of top leadership of the Church. Thus, this article can also be considered a blueprint for defending the teachings of General Authorities.

Response to Question

Now let's lay out some principles and procedures to consider/follow when evaluating any contradiction.

1. Latter-day Saints should defend scripture as much as possible

It is our sacred duty as Latter-day Saints to defend the faith. For those that have entered the temple and received their endowment, you have pledged everything you have or will have in defending and sustaining the kingdom of God. Scripture admonishes us to always have a reason for the hope that is within us and to call upon our enemies to confound them both in public and private.[11] Thus, defending the faith is a duty we take on as we have covenanted with God to do so.

This is our duty as it relates to defending scripture:

We should seek to defend scripture as logically, historically, and theologically consistent as much as humanly possible. We should seek to defend scripture as morally justifed as much as humanly possible. We should seek to defend scripture as historically real (wherever historicity is asserted) as much as humanly possible.

Why is this our duty? Well first, as already mentioned, we have covenanted to defend the faith. But people also need to know that the spiritual guides that they look to are reliable as spiritual guides. We are not going to be able to retain members or gain converts by being passive to our critics and allowing them to paint the scriptures and prophets as unreliable spiritual guides. We need to uphold the scriptures and the prophets as reliable guides as much as humanly possible.

If we metaphorize every miracle recorded in scripture, we run the risk of making it appear as if God doesn't really intervene in this world and doesn't actually work miracles.

If we condemn a lot of scriptural morals, what morals of scripture can we actually rely on and trust as morals we should actually live by?

If we affirm every possible contradiction/tension in scripture, how does that affect the reliability of scripture?

Of course, this is not to say that the scriptures are infallible. It's only to say that we should defend it as much as possible. There may be times, as already noted, where it indeed is impossible to defend something as consistent. This isn't an issue. What is an issue is making seeing the flaws our first instinct. Our first instinct should be to defend scripture.

One way that Evangelical and Catholic apologists defend the Bible is by saying that a contradiction cannot be termed a contradiction until all other scenarios that make the two or more passages in question in conflict are ruled out. For instance, "Matthew 28:2 says there was only one angel at the tomb of Jesus, while Mark 16:5 [says] there was one young man clothed in a long white garment. Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 tells us there were two angels at the tomb."[12] But this may mean, instead of the passages being contradictory, that some accounts were simply more detailed in their relation of events after Jesus' resurrection from the tomb than others. The young man in the long white garment may just be a description of an angel that Mark decided to give. We can't say that a passage is truly contradictory until all scenarios for resolving the contradictions are ruled out. Latter-day Saints may consider whether this principle will be useful for them in defending the high authority of scripture.

Let's talk a little bit more about infallibility/inerrancy.

2. Latter-day Saints do Not Believe in Scriptural Inerrancy

Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of Scriptural Inerrancy where the scriptures must be completely historically accurate, contain no theological tensions, and have no contradictions. That said, Latter-day Saints tend to hold the scriptures with a high degree of authority. How can this be the case? We don’t believe that scripture is inerrant, yet we also don’t want others to believe that we seek to create a God after our own image (Doctrine & Covenants 1:16) or that we believe that truth cannot be found in scripture.

Using the principles below will reveal how we can believe in the reliability of scripture.

3. You need to have an intelligent way to study the scriptures and understanding the nature of prophetic revelation

As several Church leaders have cautioned, the scriptures must be read intelligently. You must have a method for getting the proper interpretation and understanding of scripture. We've outlined a method here. You also need to understand how Latter-day Saints understand the nature of prophetic revelation: how it will be given to us, when it will be given to us, and on what subjects. We've outlined that here.

Having this method in line will help you to recognize when two, seemingly contradictory accounts can either not be contradictory at all or both be equally right even if mentioning two different things.

For example, two friends, David and Michael, go the store. David can report this event to his parents as if only he went to the store: "Oh, this afternoon I went to Wal-Mart." Michael can report the same event as if only he went to the store. Both boys are equally right.

It should be remembered that the presence of contradiction in the relation of a historical event does not negate the occurrence of the event. One should focus on the essential reality of the event being described itself rather than the presence of contradictions in the relation of the event or the ahistoricity of one account of that event. The broad outlines of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and Book of Moses can be trusted as historically plausible.[13]

Similarly, scriptural authors may be writing from a historical perspective. Scholar Pete Enns gives the example of God’s opinion of the Assyrians: in the book of Jonah, God really likes the Assyrians and wants them to be saved; but in the book of Nahum, God destroys them. Is God contradicting himself? Or are biblical authors just writing from their distinct, historically-situated perspectives?[14] God may certainly like the Assyrians and want to save them, but that doesn’t mean that his justice won’t be brought down on them if they deserve it.

Sometimes differing and competing theological perspectives in scripture were meant to be brought into dialogue so that a synthesis of views could be abstracted. As the author of Proverbs tells us: “iron sharpeneth iron” (Proverbs 27:17).[15] This is one of many reasons that scripture should be read both contextually and holistically.

4. Line upon line and its two features

Citing scripture, Latter-day Saints frequently talk about how revelation comes through the prophets "line upon line, precept upon precept."[16] "Line upon line" has two features or functions:

  1. It reveals core truths over time directly to the prophet.
  2. It makes small addenda to previous revelations without threatening the core integrity of the first revelation. It's like reporting to one's parents that they went to the grocery store after school and then, getting futher into the conversation, reporting that one's friend also came with them.

Thus, rather than contradicting a previous passage, a subsequent passage may be complementing or supplementing the first.

5. God commands and revokes as seems good to him

In Section 56 of the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord states:

3 Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken.
4 Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.[17]

This scripture does not condone moral relativism. The Lord is indeed bound by a moral law that is factual. All this means is that there are sometimes multiple, equally good ways to bring about the same end, and that the Lord will choose between these ways as adaptions to the conditions of the world and his covenant people. Additionally, there are times where more emphasis needs to be placed one moral end over others. There are many times when—in our quest to bring about individual or communal flourishing—that we have competing moral goods that can be met. Sometimes, our best thinking and tools do not allow us to know what is the most important moral good to achieve and how to structure our behavior nor or in the future as well as individually or communally to achieve that good. Revelation may "contradict" itself and change as we fulfill those moral goods and then have other moral goods that we must meet.

Readers should keep this scripture in mind when evaluating "contradictions" in the commandments and covenants God has given his people throughout time.

6. What we know about the afterlife is likely contingent upon what will motivate us to repent.

Doctrine & Covenants 19:6–7, 10–12 states:

6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my glory.
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore
11 Eternal punishment is God's punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God's punishment.

Prior to this time, Joseph Smith's revelations seem to indicate that "endless punishment" might refer to something like eternal torment in a burning hell. This revelation shows us that what we know about the afterlife though is likely contingent upon what will motivate us to repent and to turn to God.

Readers should keep this in mind when evaluating what sort of "contradictions" exist about the afterlife in the scriptural record.

7. Apostasies and restorations can bring losses of knowledge. That knowledge may need to be restored gradually

Latter-day Saints believe in the concept of dispensations: periods of time in which God reveals his will through a prophet. A dispensation is inaugurated when God calls a prophet to receive revelation on behalf of the human family. A dispensation is ended when the general populace apostatizes or rebels against God. After the period of apostasy, God has called prophets anew.

With apostasies, knowledge about God can be lost from others. In ancient times, scriptural records were preserved on rolls of papyrus, clay tablets, and "writing-boards—flat boards of wood or ivory cut out in such a way that an inlay of wax could be written upon. The boards were hinged together to become a folding book."[18] These might not have been accessible to the next person that God deemed worthy to be called as prophet. Knowledge to that prophet would then have to be restored "line upon line" just as it was before.

8. The Scriptures in Question May Be Focusing on a Specific Question Rather than Historical Accuracy

The narratives of ancient scripture (especially the Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Book of Abraham) are often composed to tell one overriding message. The revelation to tell that message may have been short. "Hey, prophet, I need you to write about the importance of charity." The prophet/author(s) of the different books of scripture may then be composing their narratives around that message and historical consistency may not be their focus when writing. This may explain why some books in the Pentateuch say Horeb and others, Sinai as mentioned above. Indeed, authors of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Book of Mormon are often writing from the third person: talking about revelations received in the past by prophets and recounting them historically rather than receiving a dictated revelation in the style of Doctrine & Covenants. Scripture writers are often doing something closer to the work of historians and recounting what prophets have revealed in the past rather than doing the work of prophets and dictating revelation word for word as they receive it from God. They may be recounting this history based off of oral tradition (like people passing stories or rumors from one person to another) or written tradition (like typical documents that historians work from today to reconstruct the past). Any number of potential discrepancies can arise in a text then since the text is subject to the fallible human processes of historical reconstruction. In cases like these where contradictions arise because of the pitfalls of uncovering accurate history, we can elect to rely on the earliest account and the one with the least amount of bias. Knowing which account of an event is earlier and has the least amount of bias is the main work of scriptural source critics. Their work can be found in commentaries and other scholarly publications on the scriptures. We, as Latter-day Saints, can pay attention to this work in our efforts to learn everything we can from and about scripture.

This may be one of the reasons that the Book of Mormon so strongly emphasizes the importance of preserving records to accurately record how God has dealt with his children.

9. Scripture May Preserve Moral Fallibility So That We Can Learn From It

As an example of this, consider the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf regarding a scripture from Solomon:

The ancient King Solomon was one of the most outwardly successful human beings in history.[19] He seemed to have everything—money, power, adoration, honor. But after decades of self-indulgence and luxury, how did King Solomon sum up his life?

“All is vanity,” he said.[20]

This man, who had it all, ended up disillusioned, pessimistic, and unhappy, despite everything he had going for him.[21]

[. . .]

Solomon was wrong, my dear brothers and sisters—life is not “vanity.” To the contrary, it can be full of purpose, meaning, and peace.

The healing hands of Jesus Christ reach out to all who seek Him. I have come to know without a doubt that believing and loving God and striving to follow Christ can change our hearts,[22] soften our pain, and fill our souls with “exceedingly great joy.”[23][24]

One will notice that Elder Uchtdorf 1) declares Solomon wrong; and 2) uses scriptures to establish what he believed was the correct view. Indeed, Elder Uchtdorf uses many scriptures that contradict Solomon's view. But another important element of this is that Elder Uchtdorf didn't state that Solomon was wrong for expressing the view or that the scripture wasn't inspired for having a "wrong" view. Rather, he used Solomon's downtrodden state to illustrate an important principle of life.

Thus, there may be errors of perspective on doctrine and not doctrine itself in the scriptures.

This may be one option to consider when evaluating the contradictions of scripture.

10. There’s a Difference Between a Contradiction and a Paradox

There’s a difference between a contradiction and a paradox.

A contradiction is making a claim and then denying it: stating X and then denying X. If I say it’s raining outside and then say it’s not raining outside I am contradicting myself.

A paradox is making a seemingly contradictory statement but it’s actually just affirming two propositions that can both be true simultaneously: affirming X and then affirming Y. I can affirm that there is an unstoppable force and an immovable object and I won’t necessarily be contradicting myself. If I say there is an unstoppable force and then deny that there is an unstoppable force, then I am contradicting myself.

Scripture may contain paradox that is useful for our instruction.

11. Further revelation from modern prophets may resolve other contradictions in scripture

One of the glorious messages of the Restored Gospel is that the heavens are still open and God still speaks to his children through living prophets. We know that prophets can receive revelation that can then be canonized by the sustaining vote of the Church's membership. We may look forward to future revelation to resolve any uncertainties or seeming contradictions in scripture.

One example of this principle in action may be how the Doctrine & Covenants resolves a contradiction in the Bible. In Exodus 33:11 it is affirmed that "the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." Just nine verses later, Exodus 33:20 affirms that: "Thou [referring to Moses] canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live." As an even starker contrast from 33:11, John 1:18 affirms that "[n]o one has seen God at any time." 1 Timothy 6:16 (NIV) gives praise to the God who "alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen."[25]

Doctrine & Covenants 84:21–22 reads "And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live." These verses seem to suggest that without the power of godliness intervening and helping man to take in God's glory, no man can see God the Father. This passage makes sense of much of the others from the Bible and may be seen as revelation clarifying previous revelation and resolving an apparent contradiction.

12. There May Be Ideological Purposes Behind Contradictions. There Are a Couple of Principles to Keep in Mind When Dealing With These

There may be certain ideological purposes behind certain contradictions. For instance, some have proposed that David's slaying of Goliath may have actually been done by a man named Elhanan. The contradictions exist, some scholars propose, because writers either wanted to undermine or shore up David's credibility and legitimacy as king of Israel.

Assuming that this is true and that Elhanan was the one that actually killed David (just for the sake of argument), we can extract a several principles that may help us to understand how to deal with these types of contradictions/tensions:

  • It may be that one of the writer's position came via revelation from God and the other(s) writer's did not. It may be that the other writer is trying to undermine the first writer's position by arguing against it.
  • It may be that neither of the writers' positions came via revelation from God but that they were trying to do something good nonetheless. In this example and assuming that it is true, shoring up David's credibility/authenticity as king of Israel may have actually been a good thing, but the writer that credited Goliath's death to David was doing it the wrong way. One could assume the opposite: that Elhanan was credited with the death of Goliath wrongly but not for a nefarious purpose. We don't necessarily have to see the disagreement as something nefarious.
  • The best way to tell which writers' position came from God may be to read the rest of the scriptures and find if other authors agree with one of the writers. Perhaps if more writers agree with one over another, then we can take that position as the true/correct one. Scripture returns to the theme of establishing God's word in the mouth of two or three witnesses many times.[26] If there isn't as good of a consensus, perhaps we can synthesize the two positions somehow.
  • It may not be necessary to find consensus nor synthesize. In this case of David/Elhanan, perhaps we can just take the disagreement and find it to be an interesting aspect of the Bible. There really isn't anything major at stake in believing that Elhanan and not David killed Goliath. At most it just means that a tradition about David or Elhanan is wrong. It doesn’t change the more important fact that David was the king of Israel and that the Savior descended from David. The same principle could apply to other controversies: perhaps we don’t need to care whether there’s a contradiction since it doesn’t change more central and important facts about the Gospel.
  • We can know that something more important is at stake when the controversy in question centers around a moral/ethical question. Believers are more interested in knowing how to be a good person in the eyes of God. They need clear communication in knowing how to do that. They don't need to fret about every historical controversy about scripture.

13. Scripture Can Still Be Instructive and Valuable as Scripture Even When it Contains Contradictions

This is especially true when dealing with mere historical contradictions rather than moral and theological ones, but scripture can still be instructive and valuable as scripture even when it contains contradictions.

Scholars have argued, and not without merit (and also not without some informed pushback), that the story of Joseph being sold into Egypt in Genesis 37:18–36 can actually be divided into two separate, unified narratives about how Joseph was sold. There seem to be narrative hiccups as one reads the story as currently contained in the Bible and this can be resolved by disentangling the two accounts. Verses 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, 31–35 can function on their own as one account and the rest of the verses—18, 21, 22, 24–25, 28, 29–30, and 36—can function as another narrative. It resolves the contradictions and clunky narrative seams that seem to be present in the current account as contained in our Bibles today.

The two accounts, however, when separated out, can still be instructive and valuable on their own as scripture and teach us true doctrine. We shouldn’t need to demand a pristine text in order to consider the text true and instructive.

Further Insights

Further insights about how to understand contradictions/tensions will come as one understands how the biblical authors constructed narratives and thought about history. Two of the best books on this subject are Philips Long’s The Art of Biblical History and Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative. Suggested reading for any interested.


Using the principles and procedures laid out above, it is the author's belief that virtually all contradictions/tensions are reconciable and lead to a clear picture about God that we can use to become like him and adopt his nature.

Main article: Latter-day Saint scripture/Supposed contradictions

Question: Does Lehi contradict Jeremiah 27 and prove himself a false prophet?

Introduction to Question

One critic has claimed that Jeremiah 27 proves that Lehi wasn’t a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon’s authenticity is thus affected negatively.

Jeremiah 27 contains Jeremiah’s pleas before the kings of Israel to not fight back against Babylon. Babylon was forming a then-impending invasion on Israel. Certain prophets like Hananiah in Jeremiah 28 were prophesying that Jerusalem and Israel should fight back against Babylon and that the Lord would carry them to victory over Babylon.

Jeremiah receives revelation that those prophecies are not from the Lord. He is instructed to tell the kings of Israel to surrender willfully to Babylon and allow themselves to be carried away to Babylon for 70 years. As verse 8 of chapter 27 of Jeremiah says:

8 And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.

Further, any prophet claiming otherwise should not be listened to. Chapter 27 verses 12–18:

12 ¶ I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.
13 Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
14 Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
15 For I have not sent them, saith the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
16 Also I spake to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the Lord’s house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
17 Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?
18 But if they be prophets, and if the word of the Lord be with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.

Lehi, the critic asserts, is given revelation to leave Jerusalem. Thus, he remains outside of Jeremiah’s instruction from God via revelation to submit and be slaves to Babylon. Thus either both prophets aren’t actually prophets or one is right and the other is a false prophet.

Response to Question

It’s important to keep in mind exactly what Jeremiah is responding to. Jeremiah is responding to the wickedness of Israel and the city Jerusalem. He believes that Israel and Jerusalem are so wicked that the Lord must punish them and, indeed, he has received revelation from God that God is going to do just that: punish Israel via the Babylonian invasion. If they resist the Babylonian invasion, they face the sword, famine, and pestilence until they die. If they don’t resist, they face the 70 years of punishment via slavery in Babylon. Much nicer.

Lehi heard prophets in Jerusalem saying that “the people must repent, or that great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4). He also read a book in vision that said that Jerusalem “should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon” (1 Nephi 1:13). Jerusalem could be saved if they repented. As Lehi exclaimed “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty ! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish” (1 Nephi 1:14). Lehi told his contemporaries of this way out of destruction via repentance, but, according to Nephi’s account of Lehi’s ministry, Lehi was mocked and his people sought to take away his life (1 Nephi 1:20). Lehi is then commanded personally in a dream to take his family and depart into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:2).

Thus, Jeremiah is telling people to not actively resist the Babylonian invasion whether by violence or some other means but to submit to their rule. Otherwise they face destruction. Lehi is saying that if the people repent they don’t have to face each other. The two prophets don’t necessarily make it explicit in both of their messages that both of these options were available to the people, but that does not make their messages conflicting.


  1. Kevin Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85-102.
  2. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.
  3. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 199. off-site
  4. Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  5. See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.
  6. Kevin Barney, “The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible,” in The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 152–53.
  7. Thomas M. Mumford, Horizontal Harmony of the Four Gospels in Parallel Columns (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 48.
  8. Frank Daniels, "When was the Passover? When was the Resurrection?" Friktech, accessed August 10, 2021,
  9. James Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 1–3.
  10. Julie M. Smith, The Gospel According to Mark (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2018), 17–20.
  11. 1 Peter 3:15; Doctrine & Covenants 71:7–9.
  12. "How many angels were at the tomb of Jesus after His resurrection?" NeverThirsty, accessed September 26, 2022,
  13. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering Challenges to Evangelical Christian Belief (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016); K.H. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006); Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 2006); ESV Archaeology Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Crossway, 2018); Craig S. Keener, Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019); John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2013); Brant Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007); John Welch, ed., Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2017); Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997). For an overview of evidence for the Book of Abraham, see here. For evidence for the Book of Moses see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, In God's Image and Likeness (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2009); Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David Larson, In God's Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2014).
  14. Pete Enns (@theb4np), “Does the Bible contradict itself? From Pete Enns. #InstaxChallenge #theologytok #bibletok,” TikTok, March 27, 2022,
  15. A volume built on this insight has been created for Latter-day Saints. Julie M. Smith, ed., As Iron Sharpeneth Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).
  16. Isaiah 28:10, 13; 2 Nephi 28:30; Doctrine & Covenants 98:12; 128:21
  17. Doctrine & Covenants 56:3–4. Emphasis added.
  18. Lenet H. Read, "How the Bible Came to Be: Part 2, The Word Is Preserved," Ensign 12, no. 2 (February 1982): 32.
  19. An poll listed Solomon as the fifth richest person to ever live. “According to the Bible, King Solomon ruled from 970 BC to 931 BC, and during this time he is said to have received 25 tons of gold for each of the 39 years of his reign, which would be worth billions of dollars in 2016. Along with impossible riches amassed from taxation and trade, the biblical ruler’s personal fortune could have surpassed $2 trillion in today’s money” (“The 20 Richest People of All Time,” Apr. 25, 2017,
  20. See Ecclesiastes 1:1–2
  21. See Ecclesiastes 2:17
  22. See Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 24:7
  23. 1 Nephi 8:12
  24. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," Ensign 48, no. 11 (November 2018): 46–49.
  25. Emphasis added. For an insightful critique of the Evangelical interpretation of these verses, see James Stutz, "Can a Man See God? 1 Timothy 6:16 in Light of Ancient and Modern Revelation," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 8 (2014): 11–26.
  26. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:5; Matthew 18:15–16; John 8:12–29; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 2 Nephi 11:3; 27:12–14; Ether 5:2–4; Doctrine & Covenants 5:15.