The Bible/Scripture interpretation

  1. REDIRECTTemplate:Test3

Biblical scripture interpretation


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Question: How can a Latter-day Saint approach responding to criticism of the Church on biblical grounds?

Question: When the Bible talks about being "born again," what does this mean?

Latter-day Saints have unknowingly had the same interpretation as those early writers who came after the Apostles

These authors may have had a more clear picture of the apostles' interpretation of Scripture than a modern reader does.

To be sure, baptism must be accompanied by faith in Christ and repentance of sins, or it is of no worth.[1] But, to argue that baptism is unnecessary, or only a formality, does not seem to be in keeping with either scriptural or early Patristic testimony.

A witness of the Spirit pushes those who are truly born again to repent, change their lives, and obey the Lord's commandments insofar as they are able to do so: e.g., be baptized. This witness by the Holy Ghost of the truth of the restored gospel has been shared by millions of people of all nations, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and tongues, and is the primary reason that thousands choose to join the Church even in the face of defamatory material published against it.

1. Baptisms

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.(John 3:3-5)

Latter-day Saints believe this scripture should be interpreted as saying a man must be baptized in order to enter into the kingdom of God, while some conservative Christians often interpret this as saying that one need only believe in Jesus Christ to enter into the kingdom of God.

It is interesting to note that the LDS interpretation concurs with what the ancients taught and believed. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D) said the following:

For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.[2]

Irenaeus wrote:

‘And dipped himself,’ says [the Scripture], "seven times in Jordan." It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’[3]

The Clementine Homilies reads:

And do not think, though you were more pious than all the pious that ever were, but if you be unbaptized, that you shall ever obtain hope. For all the more, on this account, you] shall endure the greater punishment, because you have done excellent works not excellently. For well-doing is excellent when it is done as God has commanded. But if you will not be baptized according to His pleasure, you serve your own will and oppose His counsel. But perhaps some one will say, What does it contribute to piety to be baptized with water? In the first place, because you do that which is pleasing to God; and in the second place, being born again to God of water, by reason of fear you change your first generation, which is of lust, and thus you are able to obtain salvation. But otherwise it is impossible. For thus the prophet has sworn to us, saying, "Verily I say to you, Unless ye be regenerated by living water into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.[4]

The Apostolic Constitutions says:

Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: "Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven." And again: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."[5]

2. A "born again" experience?

In some religious traditions the term “born again” often refers to a strong emotional experience that is interpreted in that tradition as a manifestation that he or she who has experienced it has been saved. Latter-day Saints do not accept the idea that one can enter the kingdom of God on this basis alone; but do not deny the sincerity of those who feel that the experience is sacred to them.

It is not uncommon for a Latter-day Saint to have a personal spiritual experience, or witness, which is often intense but differing from mere emotion. This experience is often life-changing, affirming, and strengthening to those that experience it. Occasionally members of other religious traditions tell a Latter-day Saint who has had such a spiritual witness that he or she has instead had a “born again” experience, inferring that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false.

On the contrary, an actual spiritual experience affirms to the Latter-day Saint the truth and efficacy of the restored gospel. Latter-day Saints believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and that these may be experienced by any Latter-day Saint as appropriate to his or her faith and circumstance.

People who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but are investigating its truth may also experience a witness from the Holy Ghost that what they are being taught by missionaries, members, or the Book of Mormon is true. This enables them, by faith, to follow the Lord’s teachings and be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 11. ( Index of claims )


Question: Was the Gospel of Christ a mystery that was unknown until the advent of Christ?

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation: There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus

Members of the Church believe that the gospel of Christ has been known since the days of Adam. However, it is claimed by some Christians that the New Testament teaches that the Gospel of Christ was a mystery unknown until the advent of Christ. (In defense of this claim, they often cite such scriptures as Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 4:1; or Ephesians 3:1-10;

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation. There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus. If Moses, for example, had this mystery revealed to him, then it is fallacious for one to claim that no other pre-Christian prophets could have known of Jesus and his saving gospel.

It is an error to assume that the term "mystery" has the same meaning to the New Testament writers as it does to the modern creedal Christian

As a non-LDS Bible reference explains:

[A "mystery" is] [s]omething revealed by God, at least to a few. The meaning is different from the usual English sense of an unsolved problem....

Its principal occurrences [in the NT] are in Pauline literature, where it is found 21 times....

Paul's use of the term...[connects] it with Jesus' crucifixion rather than with esoteric forms of knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:1-7). For Paul the mystery that has been revealed is God's plan of salvation. In Ephesians 6:19 he speaks of the mystery of the gospel. Similarly, in Colossians 2:2 he calls God's mystery Christ himself. The mystery is ancient. According to Romans 16:25 it was kept secret for long ages, but in the following verse and in Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul indicates that it was revealed int he fullness of time. The mystery relates to the inclusion of the Gentiles as well as the Jews in God's plan of salvation (Romans 16:25-26, Colossians 1:26-27, Ephesians 3:3-6....

The word "mystery" is also used in a derivative sense in several passages where the terms to which it applies are significant in the divine plan of salvation which has been revealed....[6]

The LDS Bible Dictionary gives a similar perspective:

[The word "mystery"] [d]enotes in the N.T. a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now is revealed, and that, without special revelation, would have remained unknown. It is generally used along with words denoting revelation or publication (e.g., Rom. 16:25–26; Eph. 1:9; 3:3–10; Col. 1:26; 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16). The modern meaning of something incomprehensible forms no part of the significance of the word as it occurs in the N.T."[7]

Thus, a mystery is not necessarily something that is unknown or unknowable. Rather, it is truth that is known only through revelation. As the first quote indicates, one of the mysteries that Paul claims has been hid is the extension of gospel blessings to all, both Jew and Gentile. This does not mean, however, that the entire gospel was hid even from the covenant people of the pre-Christian era.

Indeed, the NT is clear that at least one Old Testament figure knew of Christ:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26} (italics added)

How can Moses have chosen the "reproach of Christ" if he did not have a knowledge of Christ? Yet, that knowledge was a "mystery"—a knowledge which could only be known through revelation.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers
  • Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers


Contents

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  1. REDIRECTUnderstanding biblical numbers and stories

Question: Does the Bible condemn genealogical research?

The Bible rejects the use of genealogies to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings

Critics charge that the Bible condemns genealogy, and therefore the Latter-day Saint practice of compiling family histories is anti-Biblical, often citing 1 Timothy 1:4 or Titus 3:9.

The Bible does not condemn all genealogy per se. Rather, it rejects the use of genealogy to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings. It also rejects the apostate uses to which some Christians put genealogy in some varieties of gnosticism.

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogical work so that they can continue the Biblical practice of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogy work so that they can continue the Biblical practice—also endorsed by Paul—of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead, such as baptism (See 1 Corinthians 15:29) so that the atonement of Christ may be available to all who would choose it, living or dead. See: Baptism for the dead

The Bible clearly does not reject all uses of genealogy

This can be seen through its many genealogical lists, including two such lists for Jesus Christ Himself. (See Matthew 1:1–24 and Luke 3:23–38.)

The condemnation of "genealogies" in Timothy and Titus likely came because:

  • the Christians perceived a Jewish tendency to be pre-occupied by "pure descent" as a qualification for holding the priesthood. Since only pure descendents of Levi could hold the priesthood, there was endless wrangling about one's pedigree—since Paul considers the Aaronic Priesthood to have been superceded by Christ, the great High Priest like Melchizedek (see Hebrews 5), this probably strikes him as pointless.
  • some Jewish scribes and other teachers claimed that their "traditions" were directly descended from Moses, Joshua, or some other prominent leader, and thus superior to the Christian gospel.[8]
  • some gnostic sects had involved accounts of the descent of the Aeons (up to 365 "generations" in one scheme) and other mystic or pagan variations thereon.[9]

Since all these genealogies were either speculative or fabricated, they could cause endless, pointless debate.[10] Rather Paul wants the faith (in Christ) which builds up ("edifying") testimonies and lives.

Learn more about alleged condemnation of genealogy in the bible
Online
  • Stephen R. Gibson, Why Don't Latter-day Saints Avoid "Endless Genealogy"?off-site
  • George H. Fudge, "I Have a Question: How do we interpret scriptures in the New Testament that seem to condemn genealogy?," Ensign (March 1986): 49.off-site
Print
  • Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), 353.
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Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  1. REDIRECTAlleged false prophecies of Joseph Smith#Why did Joseph describe the United Order in revelation as "everlasting" and "immutable and unchangeable" until Jesus comes?

Question: Why do Mormons use the Aaronic Priesthood, since Hebrews 7 states that the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood was "changed" to the unique priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek" held by Jesus Christ?

The idea that the Melchizedek Priesthood superseded the Aaronic Priesthood is a correct one, but this does not necessarily imply that there is no Aaronic Priesthood

As other Christians see it, the Aaronic Priesthood is like a small glass of water that is replaced by a fruit juice (the Melchizedek Priesthood). They are distinguished from each other, in most Christians' eyes, as quite separate things.

The LDS would use a different metaphor to explain things: they might compare the Aaronic Priesthood to a glass of water that is filled only part way. Instead of being replaced by an entirely different drink, more water is poured into it until it is a full glass (the Melchizedek Priesthood).

From a Mormon perspective, the two priesthoods are really the same substance: the power of God delegated to man

From whence do the two priesthoods originate? The same source—God. What is the purpose of the two priesthoods? They bring mortals to the Lord (note that only the Melchizedek Priesthood can do so entirely—see Hebrews 7:11—but the Aaronic Priesthood was instrumental in keeping ancient Israel holy and pure). The Aaronic Priesthood is merely a limited form of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or (as LDS scriptures call it) an "appendage" to it (D&C 107:13–14).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:

Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...][11]

Why does the Aaronic Priesthood persist in the Church?

So, if the Church possesses the Melchizedek priesthood, then why would the Aaronic Priesthood persist today? The Aaronic priesthood serves as a 'preparatory priesthood' (see D&C 84:26.) Just as the Levitical authority in ancient Israel acted as a "schoolmaster" to prepare Israel to receive Christ (see Galatians 3:24–25), in the modern Church the Aaronic priesthood serves to school young men for service in God's kingdom on earth.

The modern Aaronic priesthood's organizational structure follows the pattern established by the New Testament Church, and consists of Deacons (see Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12–13), Teachers (Acts 13:1,1 Corinthians 12:28–29), and Priests (see Acts 6:7), and countless references in the Old Testament to Levitical/Aaronic 'priests').

Each Aaronic priesthood office is trusted with more responsibility, providing LDS young men with the opportunity to progress and mature until they are ready to receive the priesthood in full—the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Aaronic priesthood duties and function similar to ancient Israel

Despite some modern differences from ancient Israel, the Aaronic Priesthood is not much different compared to ancient times.

The Aaronic priesthood performs two ordinances (some Christian groups would call these 'sacraments').

  1. Baptism: John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood, which holds the keys of baptism, and baptism is of course a fundamental part of salvation through Christ (see Acts 2:38).
  2. Sacrifice: The modern Church does not, of course, sacrifice animals because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, giving us the last great sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:2). Yet, the Church rejoices in and recalls His sacrifice for us by partaking of the sacrament ("communion" or "the Lord's supper" in other denominations) Matthew 26:26-29). Thus, the modern priest repeats a ceremony of atonement and sacrifice through the sacrament of the Lord's supper; this plays a similar theological role to the animal sacrifices offered by Aaronic priests anticipation of Christ's atonement and resurrection.

Separation of priesthood duties in the New Testament Church

It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).


Question: Is there a "Priesthood of All Believers" which eliminates the need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority?

Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood

It is claimed that there is no need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority since the Bible teaches that all believers hold the priesthood. However, Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood. Neither the Bible nor other early Christian writings support the idea that all Christians hold priesthood authority to govern the Church or administer its ordinances. Instead, this doctrine is a novelty necessitated by the protestant break with Rome.

Here, we examine some of the scriptural passages cited in defense of the concept of a priesthood of all believers.[12]

"A royal priesthood"

  • "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This was the principal passage cited by Martin Luther in defense of a priesthood of all believers. What Luther failed to note is that Peter was actually referring to an Old Testament passage, in which the Lord told the Israelites through Moses,

  • "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6).

Yet of the Israelites present at the mount of revelation, only the Levites were chosen for priesthood service.

The Gospels and Acts

Based on the belief in the "priesthood of all believers," a Protestant minister often feels that the Bible (or God) has called him to work. But Christ made it clear that this is not the way it works. He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-24).

Only a believer would prophecy in the name of Christ or, in his name, cast out devils. Yet the Savior said that he would cast out those he never knew. It is wrong to profess to do something in the name of Christ when one does not have the authority to do so. Note that Christ said that there would be "many" who would claim to have performed good works in his name who would be rejected, so this is not just an occasional person.

That specific authority was required to perform ordinances in the early Church is made clear by the story found in chapter 8 of Acts: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:14-20). Simon was not trying to buy the Spirit, but the "power" to "lay hands" on people so they could receive the Holy Ghost. This power is what we call "priesthood." Simon had already been baptized in the name of Christ, but this did not authorize him to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

At the last supper, Christ told his apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16). This ordination did not take place because they were baptized, but came after they had chosen to follow Christ. In Luke 6:13, we read that "when it was day, he [Jesus] called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." So only twelve of Christ's followers were chosen to be apostles. Mark gives more details concerning this event: "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils" (Mark 3:13-15). From this, it is clear that the apostles received, at that time, "power" that other followers of Christ did not have. He later gave that same power or priesthood to seventy others (Luke 10:1-20).

The account in Acts 19:1-6 is also instructive on the concept of authority to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost: "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."

These men (twelve in number according to verse 7), said they had been baptized "unto John's baptism," probably meaning by someone claiming authority from the John the Baptist, who had been killed by Herod Antipas long before the time of Paul. But Paul doubted the truth of this statement, knowing that John had told people of Christ who, coming after him, would baptize them with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11; John 1:29-34). So Paul taught them about Jesus, after which "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" and Paul "laid his hands upon them" for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Early Christian history

Christians in the first centuries do not seem to have endorsed the idea of a priesthood of all believers either—instead, this was a later idea developed by Luther to justify his break with Roman Catholicism, which claimed priesthood inheritance from the apostles.


Question: Why do Mormon's believe that ongoing divine revelation is necessary?

If revelation was meant to cease, it would have ceased after Jesus ascended to heaven, but the Bible teaches that revelations and visions didn't cease

It is claimed that there is no need for on-going divine revelation; some even charge that claims of visions from God or revelations to a modern prophet is a blasphemous idea. According to one ministry:

Jesus Christ, the final and complete revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) has made "further revelation" obsolete and unnecessary. To claim to have such a "revelation" is to say that Jesus really wasn't what and who He said He was, and who the Bible describes Him as being. In actuality, it is the simple fact that Mormonism's teachings cannot be supported from the Bible that drives the leadership to find another source of authority. Everything that has ever claimed to be "further revelation" has failed the test of Scripture, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price

—Copyright 2005-2006 Alpha and Omega Ministries

If revelation was meant to cease, it would have ceased after Jesus ascended to heaven, but the Bible teaches that revelations and visions didn't cease.

Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His love for His children by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.[13]

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

John 20:30-31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

We have the teachings of Jesus in the four gospels, why do we need the Book of Revelation, or the epistles of Paul? LDS scriptures clarify the importance of revelation.

What about Hebrews 1:1-3?

1 GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

It is true that Jesus' coming in the flesh was the most complete revelation of the divine nature. But, these verses do not say that revelation thereby ceased. None of the New Testament was written until well after Jesus died and was resurrected—the early Christians do not seem to have regarded his coming as a bar to on-going revelation and scripture. Even after Jesus' ascension, he continued to give revelation to those chosen to lead his Church. For example, the Lord revealed to John, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" Revelation 1:19

What about 1 Corinthians 13:8?

This scripture is not talking about the last days.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (KJV)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away(NIV)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away(NASB)

Our jobs will not be eternal; much of our formal education will be forgotten; our Church callings will come to an end[14]

Why do we need revelation today?

  1. New revelations and visions are necessary for our progression: time and circumstances always change
  2. So that we can have success in our own time and circumstances
  3. Despite the best efforts of Christian believers, the Bible has not proved capable of answering all questions in a universal way.[15] There are thousands of Christian groups, and each understands some scriptures differently than others. The unity that should prevail among believers does not, despite their best efforts. Clearly more revelation is needed.


Question: Do the Latter-day Saint "Three Degrees of Glory" have a basis in the Bible?

Summary: Seeing the post-mortal heavens as having multiple degrees was a common early Christian belief, lost over time.


Jump to details:


Articles about the Holy Bible

How did the authors of the Bible view the earth and the universe?

The authors of the Bible believed that the moon, sun, and other luminaries are fixed in a curved structure which arches over the earth

The standard reference work, the Anchor Bible Dictionary is cited below. We've added headings to aid in comprehension and navigation:

Diagram of the early Israelite view of the world. Note the underworld ("hell" = sheol) under the earth, and the rigid dome with "windows" through which God can allow rain or other blessings to fall.

The variety in date, origin, and scope of the Hebrew Bible's cosmological materials means that achieving a single, uniform picture of the physical universe is hardly possible. Still, sufficient overlap does obtain between the many accounts of the universe, however these may vary in their details, to allow for a few generalizations.

Overall shape of the earth

The earth on which humanity dwells is seen as a round, solid object, perhaps a disk, floating upon a limitless expanse of water. Paralleling this lower body of water is a second, similarly limitless, above, from which water descends in the form of rain through holes and channels piercing the heavenly reservoir.

The "firmament"

The moon, sun, and other luminaries are fixed in a curved structure which arches over the earth. This structure is the familiar "firmament" (raqiya) of the priestly account, perhaps envisioned as a solid but very thin substance on the analogy of beaten and stretched metal. Though some texts appear to convey a picture of a four-storied universe (Job 11:8-9 or Psalms 139:8-9), the great majority of biblical texts assume the three-storied universe so clearly assumed in other, ancient traditions.

Three "levels": heavens, earth, and underworld

Thus, the Decalog's prohibition of images specifies "heaven above," "earth below," and "water under the earth" as the possible models for any such forbidden images (Exodus 20:4). If we understand the common term "earth" (erets) as designating at times the "underworld," then the combined references in Psalms 77:19 to heaven, the "world" (tebel), and the "earth" ('erets) are another appeal to the universe as a three-storied structure (for other texts where 'erets may refer to the underworld, see Stadelmann 1970: 128, n. 678). Clearer reference still to the same structure is to be found in Psalms 115:15-17, where we find grouped together "the heaven of heavens," "the earth," and the realm of "the dead" (cf. Psalms 33:6-8 snf Proverbs 8:27-29).

Windows of heaven

The curving, solid structure which arches over the realm of humanity is sometimes called a "disk" or "vault" (hug; Isaiah 40:22, Proverbs 8:27). That which allows the heavenly abyss to water the earth are occasional interruptions in this solid structure, openings called variously windows, doors, or channels.

Pillars of the earth

In some texts, that which suspends the habitable earth above the underworld's waters (see 1 Samuel 2:8 for another reference to these rivers) are pillars or some such foundational structures. These seem envisioned in Job 38:4-5; Psalms 24:2; 104:5; Proverbs 8:29, and elsewhere.

The underworld

Finally, the realm beneath the arena of human activity is not only imagined as one of watery chaos but also given the specific designation "Sheol" (she'ol), usually translated "the underworld." In the different elaborations upon just what one should imagine Sheol as including, again there is little consistency. At times, Sheol is personified, with a belly or womb and a mouth (Jonah 2:3-Eng 2:2); Proverbs 1:23; Proverbs 30:16; and Psalms 141:7), while at others Sheol is rather more architecturally portrayed (Isaiah 38:10; Job 7:9-10; Job 14:20-22; Job 17:13; Job 18:17-18), as a dark and forgetful land or city (Stadlmann 1970: 1666-76).[16]

Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents?

Related article:Peleg
Summary: There is no serious biblical scholarship that reads these verses as implying a rapid drift of the continents—partly because such an idea would have been utterly foreign to writers in that time period. So what does it mean?

What’s the best way to understand the ages of pre-Flood patriarchs scientifically?

There is no consensus among biblical scholars as to how to interpret these ages. Scholars have generally separated the interpretation of the ages into three camps: the literal view, the symbolic view, and the blended view.

The literal view seeks to understand every age as literal historical, the symbolic view seeks to understand why the biblical authors might have used these ages to represent perhaps power or prestige, and the blended view seeks to find somewhere in the middle for their interpretation.[17]

What’s the best way to understand the Tower of Babel scientifically?

By all indications, we can believe that something happened. Though we should probably be aware that exaggerations very likely exist in the account

The science behind the Tower of Babel can be separated into two questions

  1. Was there a tower that could reach the heavens?
  2. Were languages actually confused?
    The Ur Ziggurat. Many Biblical scholars have argued that these types of ziggurats could have been the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible. This is one proposed location.


Both of those questions are addressed in this excellent article by Michael Ash who cites Hugh Nibley:

Last week I began discussing the Jaredites and the Tower of Babel, and how the story might be reconciled for those who believe that science and religion do not necessarily conflict. Some people, for instance, believe that the story of the Tower of Babel falls into the realm of fantasy rather than history. There are historical indicators, however, that suggest that the story is a myth in the scholarly sense.

While most people think of myths as fables (which is what the word actually means), scholars loosely define myths as culturally-shared narratives that bind, inspire, or help delineate a particular culture. In the academic world, the word myth "is detached from popular associations with falsehood." They equate to "legends," which may or may not be based on actual truths. Myths are often pre-scientific stories used to explain why things are as they are. They may represent "types" or models, or they might exaggerate a real event. They may conflate multiple events into a single story, and they typically make erroneous assumptions based on an incomplete understanding of actual facts.

'The Tower of Babel', Gustav Doré, La Grande Bible de Tours (1866)—one of a series of illustrations created for the extraordinarily successful 19th century French version of the Vulgate Bible.

Anciently, oral and written traditions were not "histories" in the modern sense. While such accounts were often based on actual events, historical accuracy was not a high priority. The main purpose was to share cultural events, heroes and villains intentionally selected to relate specific points. Tales of real events could be molded to help convey the moral of the story.

As detailed in a past issue, while I believe in actual Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites, I also believe we can better appreciate the scriptures when we realize that ancient societies — including prophets — recorded their narratives according to their own understanding of the world around them.

When we shine the light of science and scholarship on the Tower of Babel, we find some interesting things. First, the word "Babel" comes from an Assyro-Babylonian word that means "Gate of God" and is related to a Hebrew word that means "confusion." It appears that the author(s) of the Babel account are engaging in some word-play to make a particular point about the story. It’s also interesting to note that the book of Ether never mentions "Babel" but simply the "great tower."

In the Bible, we learn that some time after the days of Noah the land of Shinar (modern Mesopotamia) was ruled by the wicked Nimrod. In Genesis 10:9 he’s referred to as a "mighty hunter before the Lord." Early Judaic traditions, however, interpret this as a mighty hunter "in opposition to the Lord." Nimrod’s name, in fact, comes from the Hebrew word verb "let us revolt." Once again, we see Hebrew word-play utilized as a teaching tool. Nimrod was not a hunter of animals but of the souls of men. And according to ancient traditions, Nimrod was responsible for building the Tower of Babel.

In ancient Mesopotamia, from at least 3,000 B.C., we find the construction of ziggurats — stepped temple monuments. Ancient cultures believed that gods resided on the tops of mountains, and this belief was even incorporated into Greek mythology, which taught that Zeus lived atop Mount Olympus. Early prophets, including Abraham and Nephi, went up into the mountains to pray or commune with God. Likewise Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Temples were considered to be man-made cosmic mountains. As Dr. Nibley notes, they are the "‘binding-place of heaven and earth,’ where alone one could establish contact with the upper and lower worlds." The ziggurats of Mesopotamia were temples or towers built to reach the heavens or intended "gates" to God. While Nimrod’s connection to the Tower of Babel can only be inferred from the Bible, other ancient traditions support this inference. According to some of these ancient traditions, Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, acquired (stole — in many legends) the skin garment that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The garment supposedly gave Nimrod great power — God-like power. Nibley wrote:

Now I am not insisting for a minute that the legendary Nimrod ever existed. … I am only interested in the type of thing that happened, and after having examined hundreds of legends from all parts of the ancient world, all telling substantially the same story, I think that anyone would find it difficult, in view of the evidence, to deny that there was some common event behind them. It seems to have been a single event, moreover.

In ancient Judaic thought, Babylon (the ancient city-state of Mesopotamia) represented the wicked while Zion represented the righteous. Since the "priesthood" is God’s power bestowed upon mankind, an imitation God-like power would be a false priesthood and a tower associated with this power would be a false temple. The Tower of Babel, therefore would represent — either historically or mythically — the false temples and priesthoods of wicked men who opposed the true priesthood and the living God.[18]

To learn more about the Tower of Babel

What’s the best way to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot turning into a pillar of salt scientifically?

There is no consensus as to how to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife scientifically.

These things are reported as miracles, so it isn't really necessary to create a science-based view of how they came to pass.

There are a number of rock deposits located close to claimed locations of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, since we do not know the actual location of Sodom and Gomorrah, we cannot be sure about the rock/salt deposits that are formed in the shape of pillars at these claimed spots. Wikipedia offers valuable commentary on the historicity of the locations and of the story of Lot’s wife.[19]

A meteor airburst?

Interestingly, recent work in the region where Sodom and Gomorrah are said to have been located has found some intriguing evidence of what may lie behind the story:

At the time of the disaster, around 1650 B.C.E., Tall el-Hammam was the largest of three major cities in the valley. ...

Tall el-Hammam’s mudbrick buildings stood up to five stories tall. Over the years, archaeologists examining the structures’ ruins have found evidence of a sudden high-temperature, destructive event—for instance, pottery pieces that were melted on the outside but untouched inside. ...

The researchers concluded that warfare, a fire, a volcanic eruption or an earthquake were unlikely culprits, as these events couldn’t have produced heat intense enough to cause the melting recorded at the scene. That left a space rock as the most likely cause.

Because experts failed to find a crater at the site, they attributed the damage to an airburst created when a meteor or comet traveled through the atmosphere at high speed. It would have exploded about 2.5 miles above the city in a blast 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. ...

Seconds after the blast, a shockwave ripped through the city at a speed of roughly 740 miles per hour—faster than the worst tornado ever recorded. The cities’ buildings were reduced to foundations and rubble.

“None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived,” Moore adds. “Their bodies were torn apart and their bones blasted into small fragments.” ...

The archaeologists also discovered high concentrations of salt in the “destruction layer” of the site, possibly from the blast’s impact on the Dead Sea or its shores. The explosion could have distributed the salt across a wide area, possibly creating high-salinity soil that prevented crops from growing and resulted in the abandonment of cities along the lower Jordan Valley for centuries. ...

Whether Tall el-Hammam and Sodom were actually the same city is an ongoing debate. The researchers point out that the new study does not offer evidence one way or the other.

“All the observations stated in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic airburst,” says Kennett in the statement, “but there’s no scientific proof that this destroyed city is indeed the Sodom of the Old Testament.”[20]

To learn more about Sodom and Gomorrah
Key sources
  • Stephen O. Smoot, "Abraham and the Stranger at Sodom and Gomorrah: Reading the Bible and Navigating LGBT Identity," Proceedings of the 2021 FAIR Conference (August 2021). link
Wiki links
Navigators

What is the best way to understand the story of Jonah and the Whale scientifically?

The story of Jonah and the big fish is best seen as a beautiful Hebrew poem—the main point of the story coming in the last four verses in the last chapter

From the Latter-day Saint Bible Dictionary:

The present book of Jonah does not claim to be from the hand of the prophet; it describes an episode in his life and is due to some later writer. The key to the book is to be found in Jonah 3:10–4:11 in the reasons the prophet gives for his flight and unwillingness to preach at Nineveh. The writer is opposing a narrowmindedness that would confine the love of God to a single nation. He shows that Jehovah reigns everywhere, over sea and land; even in the gentile world the minds of men are conscious of sin and prepared to acknowledge that Jehovah is God. The book is a beautiful poem, whether it paints the humanity of the gentile sailors; the mourning of the prophet over the decay of the grass of the field; or the divine tenderness in ministering to the prophet with his imperfect conceptions or in pitying the little children of Nineveh. The story of Jonah was referred to by our Lord on two occasions when He was asked for a sign from heaven. In each case He gave "the sign of the prophet Jonah," the event in that prophet’s life being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and resurrection (Matt. 12:39–41; 16:4; Luke 11:29–30).[21]

Latter-day Saint biblical scholar Ben Spackman elaborates:

Jonah is four short chapters. I’ve done a lot with Jonah in the past, addressing the short book several times, from several angles, including the history question. In brief, if you’re focused on the "whale" instead of the last four verses of chapter 4, you’re entirely missing the point.

[. . .]

Jonah strikes me as very much as a satirical parable, and I explain this in the podcast. But what is ultimately important is the last few verses of the last chapter.[22]


Notes

  1. Articles of Faith 1:4
  2. Justin Martyr, "First Apology of Justin," in Chapter 61 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:183. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  3. Irenaeus, "?," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:574. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  4. Clementine Homilies, 11:25–26.off-site In Ante-Nicean Fathers 8:223–347. off-site
  5. Apostolic Constitutions, "?," in 6:15 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)7:456–457. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  6. Alice Ogden Bellis, "Mystery," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 931. ISBN 0802824005.
  7. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Mystery," 736. off-site
  8. George H. Fudge, "I Have a Question: How do we interpret scriptures in the New Testament that seem to condemn genealogy?," Ensign (March 1986): 49.
  9. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1811-1817, New Testament, "1 Timothy 1:4" & "Titus 3:9"
  10. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), 353.
  11. M. Russell Ballard, cited in Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 72.
  12. Part of this wiki article originally derived from John A. Tvedtnes, "Is There a Priesthood of All Believers?" FAIR link. Due to the nature of a wiki project, it has since diverged from the source material, due to other editors' additions or alterations.
  13. Preach My Gospel, 31–46.
  14. Jean Knight Pace, "The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood," Ensign (Jan 2006): 54–57.
  15. Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (Brazos Press, 2012).
  16. Anchor Bible Dictionary, at 1:1167-68, s.v. "Cosmogony, Cosmology."
  17. Andrew P. Kvasnica, "The Ages of the Antediluvian Patriarchs" 2005 Student Academic Conference, Dallas Seminary <https://bible.org/article/ages-antediluvian-patriarchs-genesis-5. (accessed 19 July 2019)
  18. Michael R. Ash, "Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Michael R. Ash: Is the Tower of Babel historical or mythological?" Deseret News, 27 September 2010. Accessed 29 March 2019. <https://www.deseretnews.com/article/700068940/Michael-R-Ash-Is-the-Tower-of-Babel-historical-or-mythological.html?pg=all>
  19. See Wikipedia "Sodom and Gomorrah" [1] and "Lot’s wife" [2]
  20. Livia Gershon, "Ancient City’s Destruction by Exploding Space Rock May Have Inspired Biblical Story of Sodom," Smithsonian Magazine (22 September 2021). This summary is based on the report found in Ted E. Bunch et al., "A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea," Nature Scientific Reports 11/18632 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-97778-3.
  21. See "Jonah"
  22. See "Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: Jonah and Micah"


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Question: Is it appropriate to celebrate holidays as a Christian?

Ancient Israelites celebrated holidays

It is commonly claimed by members of the Jehovah’s Witness organization that it is inapprorpriate to celebrate holidays. This is sometimes used as a criticism against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jews celebrate many holidays[1]. Among these is Purim which is a day that, among other things, children dress up in costumes and masks as characters from the Book of Esther and exchange food and drink, donate to charity, eat a celebratory meal, have a recitation of the Esther scroll, and so forth[2] There is no issue with seeking to increase devotion by not celebrating holidays. But there is no biblical evidence that definitively outrules the celebration of holidays as a doctrine of Christian living.


Question: Was Moses a real person?

Biblical scholarship still holds the possibility of a Moses-like figure in history, which is backed up by Latter-day Saint scripture

Some have wondered, based upon findings from Biblical scholarship, if Moses is an actual person from history. Biblical scholarship doesn’t rule out the possibility of Moses’ existence or of a Moses-like figure in history—it only doubts that a lot of the miracles ascribed to him occurred (which is a natural skepticism). Biblical scholars generally see several things that can help affirm some sort of existence. Among these are his authentic Egyptian name (“moseh”) meaning “is born”, the evidence for some form of Israelite exodus, and so on. It has been said that even if none of the traditions of the Pentateuch originated from Moses, scholars would still have to posit his existence since Israelite religion seems a deliberate innovation, not a natural outgrowth.[3]

As Latter-day Saints, we have further evidence of Moses in The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. He appeared in the Kirtland Temple and gave the keys of the priesthood he held to Joseph Smith in April 1836 (D&C 110).


Question: Does the practice of baptism for the dead have ancient roots?

There is considerable evidence that some early Christians and some Jewish groups performed proxy ordinance work for the salvation of the dead

The most obvious of these is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

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

There have been attempts to shrug this off as a reference by Paul to a practice he does not condone but only uses to support the doctrine of the resurrection. These claims are indefensible. Paul's statement makes no sense unless the practice was valid and the saints in Corinth knew it. This is easily demonstrated if we just imagine a young Protestant, who doubts the resurrection, who goes to his pastor with his problem. The pastor answers him, saying, "But what about the Mormons who baptize for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?" You know what the young doubter would say. He would say, "Pastor, they're Mormons! What's your point?"

In fact, we know that baptism for the dead was practiced for a long time in the early church. As John A. Tvedtnes has noted:

... historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the [Cerinthians]> of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:
“In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.) [4]

Thus, baptism for the dead was banned about four hundred years after Christ by the church councils. Latter-day Saints would see this as an excellent example of the apostasy—church councils altering doctrine and practice that was accepted at an earlier date.

Tvedtnes continues:

In early Judaism, too, there is an example of ordinances being performed in behalf of the dead. Following the battle of Marisa in 163 B.C., it was discovered that each of the Jewish soldiers killed in the fight had been guilty of concealing pagan idols beneath his clothing. In order to atone for their wrong, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and commander, collected money from the survivors to purchase sacrificial animals for their dead comrades:
“And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:43–46.) [5]

Collection of Other Sources that Can Support the Latter-day Saint Position

Other sources can give credence to the Latter-day Saint position on this matter. Below we list a selective compilation of quotes from scholars that can demonstrate that:

  1. Vicarious baptism was practiced by the ancients
  2. The practice wasn't condemned by Paul (even though that would be a natural thing to do given the corrective purposes of the first letter to the church at Corinth).
  3. The best translation of the original Greek refers to a practice of vicarious baptism.

The passage in the Bible is, at the very least, very short and cryptic. We can't know much about the practice accept the preceeding three assertions. Thus the following scholars would not affirm that the practice of vicarious baptism matches the modern Latter-day Saint conception of it i.e. that it was done on such a massive scale, for salvific purposes, etc. Some argue on linguistic grounds that this only had to do with catechumens (prospective converts to Christianity who died without baptism) but that is not fully substantiated by the text nor the historical context of the passage. Furthermore, as is noted by several scholars (a couple of which are included below), it is complicated by the fact that Paul spoke approvingly of believing Christians becoming vicarious, sanctifying vessels for non-believing spouses.[6] This could naturally be extrapolated to all kindred, non-believing dead.

There is much that we can't know from the text of the Bible itself following an exegetical approach. At some point, additional revelation is necessary to illuminate and expand on previous revelation. That would be the Latter-day Saint position. As Joseph Smith has said concerning the Restoration, it occured so that "a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times."[7] Latter-day Saints need not feel compelled to defend every last element of their theology from antiquity. Some elements may appear in seed and then be expanded on later by those "things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world[.]" What 1 Corinthians 15:29 can tell us without a doubt is that the practice is ancient and that it wasn't rejected by Paul or others of the earliest Christians. The Greek of the passage is unequivocally said to support the notion that vicarious baptism was performed. Other revelation outside of the Bible can expand on it in the Restoration.[8]

Following is our selective listing of sources.[9] All bolded text has been added by the editor of this article:

  • Søren Agersnap: "It cannot be denied that Paul is here [1 Cor 15:29] speaking of a vicarious baptism: one is baptised for the dead to ensure for them a share in the effect of baptism, and this must relate to a post-mortal life. It is also clear that Paul himself refers to this baptismal practice, and without distancing himself from it (This is the embarrassing perception which is the reason for some (comparatively few) interpreters making an imaginative attempt to ignore that this relates to a vicarious baptism)."[10].
  • Charles Kingsley Barrett: "The primary reference is to Christian baptism: certain people (οί βαπτιζόμενοι suggest a particular group, not all Christians) undergo the rite of Christian baptism—in what appear to be very strange circumstances. They are baptized on behalf of the dead. The second part of the verse follows clearly enough. If the dead are dead and are beyond recall, there is no point in taking this or any other action on their behalf. But what was the practice of baptism for the dead, and did Paul approve of it? An account of the history of the interpretation of this passage is given by M. Rissi, 'Die Taufe für die Toten (1962)'...It is very unlikely that with the adjective dead (νεκρός) a noun such as works (cf. Heb. vi. I) should be supplied. Throughout this chapter (and in Paul usually) ‘the dead’ are dead men. It is equally unlikely that on behalf of (ὺπέρ) is to be taken in a local sense, and that the reference is to baptism carried out over the dead, that is, over their graves. The most common view is that Paul is referring to some kind of vicarious baptism, in which a Christian received baptism on behalf of someone, perhaps a friend or relative, who had died without being baptized. There is evidence for some such rite among various heretics (among other quotations Lietzmann cites Chrysostom, on this passage: ‘When a catechumen among them [the Marcionites] dies, they hide a living man under the dead man’s bed, approach the dead man, speak with him, and ask if he wished to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer the man who is hidden underneath says instead of him that he wishes to be baptized, and so they baptize him instead of the departed), and there were precedents in Greek religious practices, though not close precedents (see Schweitzer, 'Mysticism', pp. 283 f.). Stauffer lays great stress on 2 Acc. xii. 40-5. Apart however from 1 Corinthians there is no evidence that a rite of this kind arose as early as the 50’s of the first century. This does not make it impossible; many strange things happened in Corinth. But would Paul have approved of it? It is true that in this verse he neither approves nor disapproves, and it may be held that he is simply using an argumenatum ad hominem: if the Corinthians have this practice they destroy their own case against the resurrection. This is the view held by some, and it is possible; but it is more likely that Paul would not have mentioned a practice he thought to be in error without condemning it. Of those who accept this position some draw the conclusion that vicarious baptism cannot be in Paul’s mind, others that, if he did not practice the custom himself, he at least saw no harm in it, since he too held an ex opere operato view of baptism that bordered on the magical…The idea of vicarious baptism (which is that most naturally suggested by the words used) is usually supposed to be bound up with what some would call a high sacramental, others a magical, view of baptism. Immersion in water is supposed to operate so effectively that it matters little (it seems) what body is immersed. The immersion of a living body can secure benefits to a dead man (at any rate, a dead catechumen). This however was not Paul’s view. He did not himself give close attention to baptism (i. 14-17), and though it is probable that most of the members of his churches were baptized it is quite possible that some of the Corinthian Christians had not been baptized, and by no means impossible (even if we do not, with Rissi, think of an epidemic or an accident) that a number of them may have died in this condition. There was no question of making these persons Christians; they were Christians, even though unbaptized. But baptism was was powerful proclamation of death and resurrection, and in this setting it is not impossible to conceive of a rite—practiced, it may be, only once—which Paul, though he evidently took no steps to establish it as normal Christian usage, need not actively have disapproved. And what would be the sense of it, if the dead are not raised?"[11]
  • Stephen C. Barton: "…Paul adds further ad hominem arguments against those who deny the resurrection of the dead (cf. 15:12). …the Corinthians’ own ritual practice (of surrogate baptism on behalf of the dead, a suggestive analogy for which appears in 2 Acc 12:43-45) testifies abasing denial of the resurrection of the dead and would be rendered meaningless apart from resurrection faith (15:29)."[12]
  • Richard E. Demaris: "The isolated character of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in its literary context and the lack of indicators in the verse as to the nature of the rite make it all too easy to propose a range of grammatically possible translations. But the highly speculative interpretations that result only underscore the need to place the text (and practice described therein) in the fullest possible context. Behind all attempts to remove vicarious action from baptism for the dead, one senses uneasiness about Paul or the early church’s association with a rite that appears to be 'superstitious' or 'magical' (Raeder 1955: 258–9; Rissi 1962: 89–92). (Understood vicariously, the practice would affirm that the living can ritually affect the dead.) But who is feeling the discomfort? Paul himself maintained that family members could act vicariously for each other (1 Cor 7:14), and he recognized an efficacy in eucharist that certainly appears to be 'magical' (Sellin 1986: 278; M. Smith 1980: 248): 'Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.' (1 Cor 11:28–30)...[The culture of Greco-Roman society was one] in which aiding the dead was all-important and which assumed that the world of the living could affect the world of the dead. In such a culture baptism undertaken by the living for the dead would have made perfect sense…At the very least, the adaptability of funerals to non-funerary situations opens the door to finding baptism other than where we might expect to find it, at the threshold of the church. Furthermore, two extraordinary types of funeral are noteworthy for how they elucidate baptism on behalf of the dead: (1) a replacement or substitute rite performed vicariously for the dead; and (2) funerals for the living. Both applications are imaginary rites, whose context indicates whether we further qualify them as honorary or mock. This, then, is the language for baptism on behalf of the dead that is both contextually and ritually sensitive: it was an imaginary rite of the honorary type...Isolating baptism for the dead, as Meeks did, made it mystifying to him (Meeks 1983: 162), but placing it in context has the opposite effect. Set alongside funerals for the living – those of Turannius and Pacuvius – baptism for the dead does not appear mysterious. In terms of who undergoes them, both rites reverse ordinary practice. Likewise, in light of surrogate or replacement funerals in which a person or community carried out a rite for someone in absentia – for Pertinax and the Lanuvium burial club member whose body could not be recovered – baptism on behalf of the dead falls within the typical range of ritual variation in the Greco-Roman world. In the context of other rites, therefore, baptism for the dead is, contrary to what New Testament scholars claim, not obscure."[13]
  • James D.G. Dunn: "Similarly he accepts a diversity of belief about baptism (1.10-16; 15.29). He does not insist on the sole legitimacy of his own view or of a particular view of baptism. Instead he plays down the role of baptism; it is kerygma that matters not baptism (1.17). And though in 10.1-12 he is probably arguing against a magical view of baptism, in 15.29 he shows no disapproval of the belief in vicarious baptism, baptism for the dead; on the contrary he uses the practice as an argument for the belief in resurrection...I Cor. 15.29 probably refers to a practice of vicari­ous baptism whereby the baptism of one was thought to secure the salvation of another already dead. Here then is indication of influ­ences shaping the theology of baptism and developing views of bap­tism which are far removed from anything we have already examined. And yet Paul addresses those who held such views as members of the Christian community in Corinth – these views were held also by Christians. In other words, as soon as we move outside that sphere of Christianity most influenced by the Baptist’s inheritance the diver­sity of Christian thinking about baptism broadens appreciably."[14]
  • Gordon D. Fee: "First, as already noted (n. 15), this unusual use of the third person plural, when elsewhere Paul always turns such references into a word to the community as a whole (e.g., vv. 12-13, 35-36), suggests that it is not the action of the whole community. On the other hand, there is no reason to deny that it was happening with the full knowledge of the community and probably with their approval. Second, Paul’s apparently noncommittal attitude toward it, while not implying approval, would seem to suggest that he did not consider it to be as serious a fault as most interpreters do. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine any circumstances under which Paul would think it permissible for living Christians to be baptized for the sake of unbelievers in general. Such a view, adopted in part by the Mormons, lies totally outside the NT understanding both of salvation and of baptism.[Fee is an evagelical scholar and thus is less open to scholarship that would support Latter-day Saints. There actually isn't evidence to support this view. See how he hedges in suggestion "(b) below.] Therefore, the most likely options are (a) that it reflects some believers’ being baptized for others who either were or were on their way to becoming believers when they died (e.g., as in 11:30), but had never been baptized; or (b) that it reflects the concern of members of households for some of their own number who had died before becoming believers. What they may have expected to gain from it is not quite clear, but one may guess that at least they believed baptism to be necessary for entering the final eschatological kingdom. In any case, and everything must be understood as tentative, this probably reflects the Corinthian attitude toward baptism in general, since 1:13-17 and 10:1-22 imply a rather strongly sacramental stance toward baptism on their part, with some apparently magical implications. Perhaps they believed that along with the gift of the Spirit baptism was their 'magical' point of entrance into the new pneumatism that seems to have characterized them at every turn. If so, then perhaps some of them were being baptized for others because they saw it as a way of offering similar spirituality to the departed. But finally we must admit that we simply do not know.[Interesting thing to conclude with considering his assertion before about Latter-day Saints.][15]
  • Rolf Furuli: "There can be no question that the most natural rendering of 'baptizomenoi huper tōn nekrōn' would be 'being baptized for the dead' or 'being baptized in behalf of the dead.' In almost every other context, such a rendering would have been chosen."[16]
  • David Bentley Hart: "The practice of Christians receiving baptism on behalf of other persons who died unbaptized was evidently a common enough practice in the apostolic church that Paul can use it as a support of his argument without qualification. And the form of the Greek (ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν [hyper tōn nekrōn]) leaves no doubt that it is to just such a posthumous proxy baptism that he is referring."[17]
  • Scott M. Lewis: "Verse 29 is one of the most vigorously disputed passages in the NT. On the surface, it seems rather simple. Using the statement of the opposition as a springboard—there is no resurrection—Paul points to the inconsistency and futility of a practice of the Corinthians, i.e., being baptized on behalf of the dead. Despite the numerous attempts to explain this passage away, or get out of the difficulties and discomfort it causes, it seems better to accept the obvious surface meaning of the passage: Some Corinthians practiced a form of vicarious baptism. What is meant exactly by that, and when and under what circumstances it was practiced is impossible to answer…"[18]
  • Andrew T. Lincoln: "With regard to the problematic verse 29 it is likely that the Corinthians’ confusion is at the root of the practice which has produced an even greater confusion among later commentators. One could guess that with their bewilderment about the fate of those who had died and their strong faith in the efficacy of baptism, some Corinthians were practising a baptism for the dead which they believed might still somehow ensure a place in the kingdom for deceased believers. An ad hominem argument by the apostle points out the futility of such a practice if the dead are not raised."[19]
  • Steve Mason and Tom Robinson: "The only reference among 1st-century Christian writings to proxy baptism on behalf of those who have died without having been baptized. Myriad alternative explanations that have been proposed reflect more the interpreters’ discomfort with the plain meaning of the words than any linguistic ambiguity. Paul simply uses this example without explanation and quickly discards it (see the angels of 11:10). We have no opportunity to determine what he thinks of the custom."[20]
  • Leon Morris: "This reference to baptism for (hyper) the dead is a notorious difficulty. The most natural meaning of the expression is that some early believers got themselves baptized on behalf of friends of theirs who had died without receiving that sacrament. Thus Parry says: 'The plain and necessary sense of the words implies the existence of a practice of vicarious baptism at Corinth, presumably on behalf of believers who died before they were baptized.' He stigmatizes all other interpretations as 'evasions . . . wholly due to the unwillingness to admit such a practice, and still more to a reference to it by S. Paul without condemnation.'[21]
  • John J. O'Rourke: "Nevertheless many ancient and most modern writers understand this as a vicarious baptism received by baptized Christians on belief of deceased catechumens. The obvious difficulty is that Paul does not appear to offer any objection to this practice, so prevalent later among heretics."[22]
  • William F. Orr and James A. Walther: "The allusion to the idea and/or practice of baptism on behalf of the dead is unique in the New Testament in this passage. . . . Close inspection of the language of the reference makes all attempts to soften or eliminate its literal meaning unsuccessful. An endeavor to understand the dead as persons who are 'dead in sin' does not really help; for the condition offered, if the dead are not being raised at all, makes it clear that the apostle is writing about persons who are physically dead. It appears that under the pressure of concern for the eternal destiny of dead relatives or friends[,] some people in the church were undergoing baptism on their behalf in the belief that this would enable the dead to receive the benefits of Christ’s salvation. Paul remarks about the practice without specifying who or how many are involved and without identifying himself with them. He attaches neither praise nor blame to the custom. He does take it as an illustration of faith in a future destiny of the dead."[23]
  • Stephen E. Potthoff: "Cult of the ancestral dead in classical Greece has been thoroughly documented, and scholars have also identified the early Christian ritual of baptism for the dead mentioned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15.29) as an outgrowth of the longstanding cult of the departed in Corinth (Garland 1985: 107–120; Johnston 1999: 36–81; DeMaris 1995: 663–671)."[24]
  • Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright: "One of the most controversial and difficult texts in all of Pauline literature is the reference to baptism for the dead. It is not my purpose to canvas the various interpretations proposed, nor does the view argued for in this essay depend in any way upon the interpretation proposed here. What the verse suggests, however, is that baptism was considered to be indispensable for believers. The plethora of interpretations indicates that the original meaning of the verse is not easily accessible to modern readers. The difficulty of the verse is not entirely surprising, for Paul does not explain the meaning of baptism here, but instead appeals to the baptism of the dead in support his theology of the resurrection. Any baptism performed for the sake of the dead is superfluous, Paul argues, if the dead are not raised. Strictly speaking, Paul does not praise or condemn the practice of baptism for the dead, and hence a theology of baptism for the dead can scarcely be established from this verse. It seems most likely, in my judgment, that baptism for the dead was practiced when someone became a believer and died very quickly thereafter—before baptism was possible. What this verse suggests, despite its obscurity, is the importance of baptism. Baptism was considered to be the standard initiation rite for early Christians, and hence some believers at Corinth thought that baptism should be done for the sake of the dead."[25]
  • John Short: "The point is that there would be no sense in the procedure if there were no resurrection. Whatever doubts some members of the church had concerning it, there were others who were such firm believers in the Resurrection that they submitted to this rite of vicarious baptism on behalf of certain of the brethren, probably catechumens, who had passed away before they had been baptized and received into the full membership of the church. Perhaps also they had a feeling, natural enough at that stage of Christian understanding among those who had so recently been pagans, that unbaptized believers at the resurrection would not be so near to their Lord as those who had undergone the rite. Or they may have done it to ensure as far as possible that nothing would be lacking in respect of the eternal bliss of the redeemed. At its best, the vicarious ceremony was a tribute to the spirit of fellowship, of unity, and of solidarity in the community, and as such it would be sure to commend itself to Paul. There are still some survivals of this ancient Christian practice, though in the main it has fallen into disuse. In a sense it might be compared with prayers offered for the dead. They too may for some signify the deep spiritual solidarity of the Christian fellowship in heaven and on earth, in which all are one in Christ Jesus. Whatever the effect of such practices on the joy of the saints in heaven, they do reflect a kindly, generous, and Christian spirit on the part of those on earth in the desire for the continued and increasing wellbeing of those who have passed beyond the veil. Perhaps it is well to leave the matter there. Paul is content to do so, merely pointing to this ancient rite, and incidentally giving us another glimpse into the customary procedures of the early Christian fellowship as they illustrated the truth of the Resurrection. If Christ is not raised, and if therefore no resurrection of the dead, what could such baptism mean?"[26]
  • William Tabbernee: "In mainstream Christian circles, 'vicarious baptism' may have been practiced as early as the time of St. Paul (1 Cor 15:29). It was almost certainly practiced, from the second century C.E. onwards, by the Cerinthians.[27]
  • James D. Tabor: "For Paul baptism is not a symbolic ritual but a powerful spiritual activity that effected real change in the cosmos. Paul, for example, refers to some who 'baptized in behalf of the dead,' evidently referring to a practice of proxy baptism for loved ones who had died before experiencing their own baptism (1 Corinthians 15:29). Whether Paul endorsed the practice or not we cannot be sure, but it would be unlike Paul to refrain from condemning a practice he did not at least tolerate. After all, there is a sense in which all baptism is 'for the dead' since it represents a 'burial' of the dying mortal flesh in preparation for receiving the life-giving Spirit. Whatever the case, this practice of 'baptism for the dead' shows just how efficacious the activity was understood to be as a means of invoking the Christ-Spirit—even for those who had died!"[28]
  • Jeffrey A. Trumbower: "Paul alludes to a practice of some Corinthian Christians in 1 Cor. 15:29, 'Then what are they doing, those who are baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why are they baptized on their behalf?' Paul does not here object to this practice, whatever it is, and he uses it to convince the Corinthians that if they are baptized on behalf of the dead, they must also believe in the resurrection as Paul understands it. Enormous vats of ink have been emptied in both pre-critical and critical scholarship speculating on precisely what those Corinthian Christians were doing, why they were doing it, and Paul’s attitude toward it. A thorough 51-page survey of opinion from the second century down to 1962 was assembled by Mathis Rissi; there is no need to rehearse that entire history here. I agree with Rissi and Hans Conzelmann (and, for that matter, with Mormon prophet Joseph Smith), that the grammar and logic of the passage point to a practice of vicarious baptism of a living person for the benefit of a dead person."[29]

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Baptized for the Dead"

Kevin L. Barney,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (August 31, 2020)
This thorough treatment of the mention of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29 gives a meticulous analysis of Paul’s Greek argument, and lays out the dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of theories that have been put forth with respect to its interpretation. Barney concludes that “the most natural reading” and the “majority contemporary scholarly reading” is that of “vicarious baptism.” Therefore, “the Prophet Joseph Smith’s reading of the passage to refer to such a practice was indeed correct.”

Click here to view the complete article


Question: What are the common objections to a belief in God's corporeality?

Most other Christians interpret the Bible differently than we do on this point

Obviously, most other Christians interpret the Bible differently than we do on this point, and they put forward several standard objections to this kind of “anthropomorphism.” However, these objections do not hold up under close scrutiny. This will be shown for several common objections to the LDS doctrine, most of which can be found in a tract published by Catholic Answers, Inc., entitled, Does God Have a Body?[30]

Objection: “Being ‘in the image of God’ means humans have a rational soul.”

“And God said, Let us make man in our image [Hebrew tselem], after our likeness [Hebrew demuth]” (Genesis 1:26). This statement in the first chapter of the Bible seems pretty clear to Latter-day Saints. However, our fellow Christians will often say that this is to be interpreted figuratively, in the sense that humans have “rational souls,” which set us apart from the animals. However, just a few chapters later the author of Genesis repeats "God created man, in the likeness [Hebrew demuth] of God made he him" and then adds some interesting commentary about the birth of Adam's son Seth: "And Adam lived an hundred thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness [Hebrew demuth], after his image [Hebrew tselem]; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:1-3).

Adam was created in God’s image and likeness, and one of Adam’s sons had Adam’s image and likeness. Exactly the same words were used to describe both scenarios by the same prophetic author only one verse apart. Either Adam looked like God, or Seth was the only one of Adam’s sons who possessed a “rational soul.” If there is a good reason to interpret one passage in one way, and the other in another way, the critics must provide it. Only a prior commitment to refusing to see man in the form of God (or God in the form of a man) would lead one to interpret the terms differently.

Objection: “The Bible also says God has wings, etc. ”

Of course, it is true that the Biblical writers employed numerous metaphors when talking about God. However, just because some statements about God are metaphorical doesn’t mean that every statement is. When the Psalmist speaks of God covering us with His feathers, and giving refuge under His wings, the metaphor is completely clear. As Jesus said, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37.) Exactly what is the metaphorical interpretation of God’s “back parts” that Moses saw? When Stephen reported his vision, the text gives no clue as to any metaphorical interpretation; he simply reported what he saw, as did the others.

Objection: John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit."

See also: FAIR Wiki article God is a Spirit

There are several problems with this objection. First, Paul wrote, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). To say that God is “a spirit” is grammatically equivalent to the statement that a man joined to the Lord is “one spirit,” and yet, Christians obviously have bodies as well as spirits.

Second, there are no indefinite articles (“a” or “an”) in ancient Greek, so the passage can be translated “God is a Spirit” or “God is Spirit.” Most modern translations have chosen the latter, because John’s statement “God is Spirit” is parallel to two passages in his first epistle, “God is light” (1 Jn 1:5) and “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). In context, all of these passages seem to be referring to God’s activity toward men rather than to the nature of His “Being,” and of course we would never say that God is “a love” or “a light.”

Furthermore, Christopher Stead of the Cambridge Divinity School (another non-Mormon scholar) explains how such statements would have been interpreted within ancient Judaism:

By saying that God is spiritual, we do not mean that he has no body … but rather that he is the source of a mysterious life-giving power and energy that animates the human body, and himself possesses this energy in the fullest measure.[31]

It must always be remembered that the Bible was written by Hebrews, and the New Testament writers were all Jews. We saw at the beginning of this article that the Hebrews consistently pictured God in human form.

As another commentator noted:

That God is spirit is not meant as a definition of God's being—though this is how the Stoics [a branch of Greek philosophy] would have understood it. It is a metaphor of his mode of operation, as life-giving power, and it is no more to be taken literally than 1 Jn 1:5, "God is light," or Deuteronomy 4:24, "Your God is a devouring fire." It is only those who have received this power through Christ who can offer God a real worship.[32]

Finally, Latter-day Saints do not believe that “spirit” is incorporeal (i.e. “without substance”), and neither did the earliest Christians. The great Protestant historian, Adolf von Harnack, wrote,

God was naturally conceived and represented as corporeal by uncultured Christians, though not by these alone, as the later controversies prove.[33]

For instance, the great Christian writer, Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.) wrote,

For who will deny that God is a body, although ‘God is a Spirit?’ For Spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form.[34]

Why did Christians start believing otherwise? J.W.C. Wand, a historian and former Anglican bishop of London, writes that one of the Greek philosophical schools (Neoplatonism), which was popular in the days of the Roman Empire, exerted a particular influence in this respect. (See below for more information about the influence of the Greek philosophers.):

It is easy to see what influence this school of thought [Neoplatonism] must have had upon Christian leaders. It was from it that they learnt what was involved in a metaphysical sense by calling God a Spirit. They were also helped to free themselves from their primitive eschatology and to get rid of that crude anthropomorphism which made even Tertullian believe that God had a material body.[35]

Objection: Christians have always believed that God is an unchangeable, simple, immaterial spirit essence.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Origen (circa A.D. 225) wrote,

For it is also to be a subject of investigation how God himself is to be understood—whether as corporeal, and formed according to some shape, or of a different nature from bodies—a point which is not clearly indicated in our teaching.[36]

Origen (who did not believe in corporeality) nevertheless admitted there was considerable confusion among Christians of that era about this very question, but why?

Origen gives us another clue in a sermon on the book of Genesis:

The Jews indeed, but also some of our people, supposed that God should be understood as a man, that is, adorned with human members and human appearance. But the philosophers despise these stories as fabulous and formed in the likeness of poetic fictions.[37]

The Jews, and Christians who followed the standard Jewish interpretations, believed that God had a body in human form. Why did Origen reject this? Simply because the philosophers thought it was silly. For instance, the Middle Platonist philosopher Plutarch wrote the following:

Socrates and Plato held that (God is) the One, the single self-existent nature, the monadic, the real Being, the good: and all this variety of names points immediately to mind. God therefore is mind, a separate species, that is to say what is purely immaterial and unconnected with anything passible [i.e. changeable].[38]

Another Greek philosopher, Empedocles (ca. 444 B.C.) claimed that God

does not possess a head and limbs similar to those of humans…[He is] a spirit, a holy and inexpressible one.[39]

Greek converts to Christianity wanted to make their faith more appealing to people in their own culture, and so they adopted a definition of God from the Greek philosophers, whose thought was widely respected at the time. The temptation is always there to make one’s faith more popular by “modernizing” it, but the Apostle Paul had warned against exactly this kind of thing. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). What was the “philosophy” current in Paul’s day? Greek philosophy. Similarly, Father Jean Daniélou, a Catholic historian and later a Cardinal, wrote that,

If we now examine the forms of thought and philosophical systems current at the time when Christianity first made its appearance in the world, it is clear that they were by no means ready to assimilate this Christian conception: on the contrary, they were wholly antagonistic thereto.[40]

However, within a few generations that had all changed, and philosophy ruled Christian theology.[41] Latter-day Saints understand this process as one consequence of the Great Apostasy.

Objection: John 1:18 says, “No man has seen God at any time.”

See also: FAIR Wiki article: No_man_has_seen_God

Some mainstream Christians object that the passages in the Bible that describe God’s human form must be taken figuratively, because Jesus said, “No man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Similarly, God told Moses, “there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Of course, God said that to Moses right before he told him that He would pass by so Moses could see His “back parts,” but not his face (Exodus 33:21-23), and God was angry at the time, so it may have been a special circumstance. Still, this presents an odd problem, considering the number of times the Bible reports that people did see God. Samuel Meier, Associate Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Semitics at Ohio State University, writes of this problem:

A deity’s physical manifestation is seen by human beings. The appearance of gods and their involvement with humans are common motifs in ancient Near Eastern and classical mythology. That similar phenomena are found in the Bible seems problematic at first, for a persistent tradition in the Hebrew Bible affirmed that death comes to any human who sees God (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 32:30; Genesis 24:10-11; Genesis 33:20; Deuteronomy 5:24-26; Deuteronomy 18:16; Judges 6:22-23; Judges 13:22; cf Exodus 20:19; Isaiah 6:5). In most of these contexts, however, the narration undermines this sentiment by depicting the pleasant surprise of those who survive. The text presents this perspective as a misperception to which human beings subscribe, for no humans in the Bible ever die simply because they have seen God. On the contrary, throughout the Bible God wants to communicate intimately with humans. The problem of how God can adequately show himself to humankind without harm is a conundrum that is never really resolved in the Bible.[42]

Latter-day Saints can harmonize these passages with those that describe visions of the Father by referring to Moses’ vision of God, as described in the Pearl of Great Price. “And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence … [Moses said] For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him” (Moses 1꞉2,14). An identical solution is offered by Peter in an early (second or third century) Jewish Christian work called the Clementine Homilies:

For I maintain that the eyes of mortals cannot see the incorporeal form of the Father or Son, because it is illumined by exceeding great light … For he who sees God cannot live. For the excess of light dissolves the flesh of him who sees; unless by the secret power of God the flesh be changed into the nature of light, so that it can see light.[43]

In the same document, another conversation between Peter and Simon Magus is reported:

And Simon said: ‘I should like to know, Peter, if you really believe that the shape of man has been moulded after the shape of God.’ And Peter said: ‘I am really quite certain, Simon, that this is the case … It is the shape of the just God.[43]

The point of these passages is not that no one has or will have a vision of God’s person, but rather that men cannot see God as He is. We must be changed and protected by the grace of God to withstand His presence, and even then we cannot fully comprehend His majesty. However, this will not always be the case. As John further wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn:3).


Question: Does the doctrine that God has a physical body contradict the Bible?

A growing consensus of scholars recognizes that God, as depicted in the Bible, is embodied

The overwhelming academic consensus is that God, as depicted in the Bible, is embodied. Several books that you can read bare this out:

  • Kamionkowski, S. Tamar and Wonil Kim, eds. Bodies, Embodiment, and Theology of the Hebrew Bible. New York: T&T Clark International, 2010.
  • Halton, Charles. A Human-Shaped God: Theology of an Embodied God. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021.
  • Wilson, Brittany E. The Embodied God: Seeing the Divine in Luke-Acts and the Early Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Wagner, Andreas. God's Body: The Anthropomorphic God in the Old Testament. Trans. Marion Salzmann. New York: T&T Clark, 2019.
  • Markschies, Christoph. God's Body: Jewish, Christian, and Pagan Images of God. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2019.
  • Sommer, Benjamin D. The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Stavarakopolou, Francesca. God: An Anatomy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.

This last book, God: An Anatomy, was helpfully reviewed by Latter-day Saint scholar and apologist Daniel C. Peterson. Peterson commends and gives some cautions regarding the book that may apply more generally to the books just listed. We recommend seeing his review cited below.[44]

It is incorrect to imply that God cannot be in human form, since a fundamental doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus is God, made flesh

Mormons believe that God has a physical body and human form. Does scripture which says that "God is not a man" (e.g. Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hosea 11:9) contradict this idea?

These scriptures read (emphasis added):

  • "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man [i.e., a human being], that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" - Numbers 23:19
  • "And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent." - 1 Samuel 15:29
  • I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. - Hosea 11:9

The first passage, in Numbers, not only says that "God is not a man", but it also says that God is not "the son of man." If a Christian were to claim from this passage that God is not a man, they would have to consistently claim that God is also not a "son of man." This of course contradicts many New Testament statements about Jesus (who is God) to the contrary. Though there are many examples, one should suffice. Jesus says, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:40 Therefore, we know that the passage from Numbers is not suggesting that God is fundamentally not a "son of man", but rather that God is not a "son of man" in the sense that God doesn't have need for repentance. The next logical step requires us to conclude that the passage is not suggesting that God is fundamentally "not a man", but that God is not a man in the sense that God does not lie.

These verses say nothing about the nature or form of God—they merely assert that God is not like man in certain ways

God will not lie or change his declared course, unlike humans. As the NET translation of 1 Samuel says, "The Preeminent One of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.”

It is incorrect to imply that God cannot be in human form—the fundamental doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus is God, made flesh. One would have to assume that these verses also apply to Jesus, when they clearly do not. Jesus may be in human form, but he will not sin, or change his mind from doing his father's will.


Question: Why do the Latter-day Saints believe God has a body?

Latter-day Saints believe God has a body in human form simply because our scriptures and our prophets unanimously testify on this point

One thing that sets Latter-day Saints apart from nearly all of the rest of Christianity is the doctrine that God the Father possesses a body in human form. In fact, many of our Christian brothers and sisters see this belief as positively strange, and some even question our claim to the title “Christian” because of it.

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones, as tangible as man’s; the Son also” (D&C 130꞉22).

In other words, if we want to know what kind of being God is, who better to believe than those who have actually seen Him? There are multiple Biblical examples, such as:

  • the prophet Ezekiel, who described his vision of God by saying he saw “high above all, upon the throne, a form in human likeness” (Ezekiel 1:26, New English Bible.).
  • Stephen, whose last words were, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56.).
  • John, who saw God sitting on the throne in heaven (Revelation 4:2).
  • Moses was not allowed to see God’s face in one vision (God was angry at the Israelites at the time), but God said he would “cover thee with my hand while I pass by; and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:22-23).
  • Moses did see God previously, however: “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
  • Jacob “wrestled a man” one night in the wilderness, and after this encounter “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [Hebrew for “the face of God”]: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:24-32).

Some of these references may refer to visions of God the Son, but some of them, like Stephen’s and John’s, certainly refer to the person of the Father.

Edmond LaB. Cherbonnier of Trinity College (a non-Mormon scholar) summarizes this phenomenon as follows:

In short, to use the forbidden word, the biblical God is clearly anthropomorphic (i.e. “in the form of man”)—not apologetically so, but proudly, even militantly.[45]

Christopher Stead (another non-Mormon scholar) of the Cambridge Divinity School agrees that

The Hebrews…pictured the God whom they worshipped as having a body and mind like our own, though transcending humanity in the splendour of his appearance, in his power, his wisdom, and the constancy of his care for his creatures.[46]

The LDS doctrine of God’s embodiment rests primarily on eyewitness testimony. We believe God has a body in human form because everyone who has seen Him has described Him in this way.


Question: What Biblical scriptures discuss the doctrine of the deification of man?

Theosis or deification is discussed in the following biblical scriptures

In regard to the Mormon doctrine, non-LDS scholar Ernst W. Benz has observed:

One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. [47]

For more quotes about theosis see: Primary sources:Theosis



Specific alleged contradictions in scripture

The challenge of Latter-day Saint scripture and an open canon to the rest of the christian world means that there is a long history of polemics targeted at the Church of Jesus Christ. These are well-worn "chestnuts" and standard biblical issues that have been repeatedly "asked and answered" for Latter-day Saints over nearly two centuries.

Table summary

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

1

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:

2

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

3

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 D&C 130꞉22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.

4

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

5

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.[48]
  • 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.[49]

6

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.

7

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;
Pre-Existence
  • 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:

8

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 D&C 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.

9

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:

10

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.

11

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.

12

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:

13

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.

14

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.

15

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.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
The table is found, with few if any variations, on multiple internet sites. FAIR does not link to anti-Mormon sites, but a Google search makes it easy to find.

Some sources credit the initial table to:

  • Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).

Other sources that use it, with and without attribution to Tanner, include:

  • Bill Donohue, "The Book of Mormon Contradictions [sic] Itself; The Book of Mormon contradicts other Standard Works!" 2004; (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Richard Deem, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," Evidence for God from Science (accessed 22 May 2009)
  • Ex-Mormons for Jesus, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries, "H.I.S. Ministries-Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • ICARE (Institute for Christian Awareness and Responsible Evangelism) Ministries, Inc., "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • The Interactive Bible, "The Book of Mormon contradicts Itself! The Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible!" (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Jesus Christ Saves Ministries, San Diego, California; "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • "Mormon Theology: Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith," at Religion & Spirituality at Squidoo (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • RiverValley Church, 1331 High Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; On-line in section "Other religions," where "we will from time to time publish documents that look at what other religions believe and how they contradict Christianity. Use these resources to understand what others believe and strengthen your belief in our holy and good God. Please do not use these documents as tools to segregate or cause prejudice against others with opposing beliefs." (italics in original) No author, "Investigation into Mormonism," 3-4 (the table is followed by a pages 5-10, which contain Sandra Tanner, "Sharing Your Faith with Latter-day Saints.") (accessed 22 May 2009)

Details on alleged contradictions

Alleged contradictions in the Doctrine and Covenants


Do D&C 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 D&C 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 (D&C 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. [50]

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 1 explain this clearly:

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. 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. 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 FatherYe shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31꞉18-20).

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 207. ( Index of claims )
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
    Rather than contrasting the Book of Mormon and D&C, this author contrasts the D&C with Parley P. Pratt's Voice of Warning, 105 which echoes the Book of Mormon.
Past responses

Alleged contradiction between Book of Mormon, Book of Moses and Book of Abraham on number of Creators

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

Summary: 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.

Does Lehi contradict Jeremiah 7 and prove himself a false prophet?

One critic has claimed that Jeremiah 7 proves that Lehi wasn’t a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon’s authenticity is thus affected negatively.

Jeremiah 7 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 8 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:

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꞉12-18:

¶ 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. 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? Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. 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.

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 Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and livewherefore should this city be laid waste? 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.

Why does the Church teach that man first existed as spirits in heaven when 1 Corinthians 15:46 says that the physical body comes before the spiritual?

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected. We refer to God's role as our Heavenly Father before our mortal lives.

Biblical statements indicate that God is the father of our spirits and we were known to him before our birth (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5). This is a separate doctrine from the doctrine of a glorious resurrection, which is clearly Paul's topic.

It is unfortunate that critics find it necessary to distort and twist the clear meaning of scripture in an attempt to make the Latter-day Saints "offenders for a word."

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead. For example, earlier in the chapter he has written:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christwhom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own orderChrist the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. .. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die... (1 Corinthians 15:12-36)

Paul clearly believes, then, that the physical body with which we die will be resurrected.

He then tells the Saints that:

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption... It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:40-43.)

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:52-53.)

The "natural" body is the weak, corruptible mortal body that is "sown in weakness." The "spiritual body" is the glorified, resurrected body "raised in power." But, this does not mean that it is not also a physical, or corporeal body—Paul has just spent several verses insisting upon the reality of Christ's resurrection, and using Him as a model for the resurrection of the Saints. And, clearly Jesus' body was tangible and physical following the resurrection:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have''. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. (Luke 24:39-42, (emphasis added).)

Learn more about premortal life
Key sources
  • Kevin L. Barney, "On Preexistence in the Bible" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, Chapter 3. FAIR link
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," Proceedings of the 2007 FAIR Conference (August 2007). link
Online
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," FAIR Conference 2007 off-site
  • Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "Premortal Life and Mortal Life: A Fearful Symmetry," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 60/0 (15 March 2024). [vii–xxii] link
  • Dana M. Pike, "Formed in and Called from the Womb," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/8 (30 November 2020). [153–168] link
  • Russell C. McGregor, "The Anti-Mormon Attackers (Review of The Mormon Defenders: How Latter-day Saint Apologists Misinterpret the Bible)," FARMS Review 14/1 (2003). [315–320] link
Print
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, 2nd edition (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2013).
  • Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
  • Terryl L. Givens, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Richard R. Hopkins Biblical Mormonism (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994).
  • Truman G. Madsen in Eternal Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966).
  • Boyd K. Packer in Our Father's Plan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984).
  • Joseph Fielding Smith in Man, His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954).
  • Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988).
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers

How is John 4:24 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church's doctrine of God having a body?

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof

King James Version

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4꞉24

Other translation(s)

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (NASB)

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is." (TEV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. (CEV)

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof. The Latter-day Saint belief that God is an embodied spirit is perfectly consistent with the passage in question and critics are in error to insist that the passage must be interpreted as "God is a disembodied spirit."

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrine of the corporeal nature of God. Critics argue that this passage proves that God does not have a physical body.

Commentary

The context of this verse is that Jesus is explaining to a Samaritan woman how one must worship. Jesus teaches that the place of worship, whether Samaria or Jerusalem, is not important, but rather the way one worships. By teaching attributes of God, Jesus teaches how His children can and should relate to Him and worship Him. Latter-day Saints emphatically agree that God is indeed spirit, just as He is love 1 Jn 1:5, light 1 Jn 4:8, and a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24, but He is not only spirit, love, light, or fire.

The Greek language has no indefinite article ("a" or "an") and so the translator must decide whether to include that word in the English text. But for Latter-day Saints, the presence or absence of the article makes no difference. Latter-day Saints believe both that God is spirit (as an attribute) and that God is a spirit (as a statement of His nature). Similarly, Latter-day Saints believe that all people are also spirits, but spirits housed within a physical body.

In the chapter immediately preceding this scripture, in John 3:5-6 , Jesus says the following:

John 3꞉5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3꞉6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NASB)

It is clear from the above verse that Jesus considered it entirely possible for a mortal human with a physical body to be spirit. Likewise, it is not inconsistent to believe that God the Father simultaneously has a physical body and "is spirit."

Learn more about God as embodied
Online
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
Print
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "Does God Have a Body In Human Form?"
  • Carl W. Griffin and David L. Paulsen, "Augustine and the Corporeality of God," Harvard Theological Review 95/1 (2002): 97–118.
  • Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Baker Academic, 2001), 33–34.
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "On the Motif of the Weeping God in Moses 7," in Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 285–317. ISBN 0934893713.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83/2 (1990): 105–116.
  • Edmond LaB. Cherbonnier, "In Defense of Anthropomorphism," in Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978), 155–173. ISBN 0884943585.
  • James L. Kugel, The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible (Free Press, 2003), xi–xii, 5–6, 104–106, 134–135.
  • Roger Cook, "God's 'Glory:' More Evidence for the Anthropomorphic Nature of God in the Bible."
  • Roland J. Teske, "Divine Immutability in Saint Augustine," Modern Schoolman 63 (May 1986): 233.
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "The Doctrine of God and the Nature of Man," in Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
Navigators

How is Isaiah 43:10 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church doctrines of humans' ability to become like God through Christ's atonement?

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshipped

King James Version

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43꞉10

Other translation(s)

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (NIV)

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrines of the plurality of gods and the deification of man. It is claimed that this verse proves that there never has been or ever will be another being who could properly be called a god.

Commentary

This passage and other similar proof texts from the Hebrew scriptures are misused by critics. When read in context, it is clear that the intent of the passage is to differentiate YHWH from the foreign gods and idols in the cultures surrounding the Jews.

Verses 43꞉11-13 are a continuation of the statement by God:

I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" (NIV)

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshiped.

In addition to misapplying this passage, critics also fail to recognize the growing body of evidence that shows that the Jewish religion was not strictly monotheistic until quite late in its development, certainly after the era in which Isaiah was written. When this evidence is considered, it appears that Judaism originally taught that though there are indeed other divine beings, some of whom are called gods, none of these are to be worshiped except for the God of gods who created all things and who revealed Himself to Moses.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
Bibliography on human deification
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Divinization,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 102-7.
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Sanctification. A Conversation between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 87-109.
  • Allchin, A.M., Participation in God. A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition (Connecticut 1988).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, Homo vivens. Incorruptibilite et divinisation de l’homme selon Irenee de Lyon (Paris 1986).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, “Mysteres, unification et divinisation de l’homme selon Denys l’areopagite,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica (Rome) 63 (1997): 273-332.
  • Arroniz, J., “La immortalidad como deificacion en S. Ireneo,” Scriptorium Victoriense (Vitoria, Spain) 8 (1961): 262-87.
  • Asendorf, Ulrich, “The Embeddedment of Theosis in the Theology of Martin Luther,” in Luther Digest 3 (1996): 159-61; English abridgment from Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990).
  • Aubineau, M., “Incorruptibilite et divinisation selon saint Irenee,” Recherches de science religieuse 44 (1956): 25-52.
  • Bakken, Kenneth L., “Holy Spirit and Theosis. Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 409-423.
  • Balas, David L., Metousia Theou. Man’s participation in God’s Perfections according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Studia Anselmiana, volume 55 (Rome 1966).
  • Bardy, Gustave, “Divinisation: According to the Latin Fathers,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, ascetique et mystique doctrine et histoire (Paris 1957): 3, Columns 1389-1398.
  • Baur, L., “Untersuchungen uber die Vergottlichungslehre in der Theologie der grieschischen Vater,” Theologische Quartalschrift 98 (1916): 467-91; 99 (1917): 225-252; 100 (1919): 426-444; 101 (1920): 28-64, 155-186.
  • Bielfeldt, Dennis, “Deification as a Motif in Luther’s Dictata super psalterium,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997): 401-420.
  • Bilaniuk, Petro B.T., “The Mystery of Theosis or Divinization,” in The Heritage of the Early Church. Essays in Honor of the Very Reverend Georges Vasilievich Florovsky, ed. David Nieman and Margaret Schatkin; Orientalia Christiana Analecta, volume 195 (Rome 1973): 337-359.
  • Blowers, Paul M., “Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Concept of ‘Perpetual Progress,’” Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992): 151-71.
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How is Genesis 3:5 used by critics who claim that the doctrine of deification (theosis) is a teaching of Satan?

The use of Genesis 3 to counter the doctrine of deification/theosis has two problems associated with it:

First: Satan never claimed that Adam and Eve would be gods, just that they would be "as gods, knowing good and evil."


King James Version (KJV)

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

For God sees that on the day when you take of its fruit, your eyes will be open, and you will be as gods, having knowledge of good and evil.

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used by critics to attempt to show that the LDS doctrine of deification is a teaching of Satan.

Commentary

The critics seriously misunderstand and misinterpret this passage of scripture.

Note that the serpent makes two claims:

(1) "ye shall not surely die" and

(2) "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

But if one looks forward to Genesis 3:22:

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:"

Second problem: The second and bigger problem is that Satan was, in fact, telling the truth on this point, as God confirms.

God announces that Adam and Eve did indeed become as gods, knowing good and evil. As usual, Satan mixes lies and truth. In this case he said that Adam and Eve wouldn't die (a lie) but he also said that their eating would make them "as gods, knowing good and evil" (a truth).

So the lie of Satan in the Garden of Eden was that transgressing God's law would not bring death (with the implication that Adam and Eve could have the god-like ability to know good and evil without paying a terrible price).

This chapter isn't even relevant to beliefs about deification.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
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  • Plass, Paul, “’Moving Rest’ in Maximus the Confessor,” Classica et Mediaevalia 35 (1984): 177-90.
  • Popov, I.V., “Ideja obozenija v drevne-vostocnoi cerkvi” (‘The idea of divinization in the Ancient Eastern Church’), in Voprosi filosofij i psixogij 97 (1909): 165-213.
  • Posset, Franz, “’Deification’ in the German Spirituality of the Late Middle Ages and in Luther: An Ecumenical Historical Perspective,” Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte 84 (1993): 103-25.
  • Preuss, K.F.A., Ad Maximi Confessoris de Deo hominisque deificatione doctrinam abnotationum pars I (Schneeberg 1894).
  • Rakestraw, Robert V., “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 257-69.
  • Randenborg, G. van, Vergottung und Erlosung (Berlin).
  • Rechtfertigung und Verherrlichung (Theosis) des Menschen durch Jesus Christus (‘Justification and Glorification (Theosis) of the Human Person through Jesus Christ’) (Germany, 1995).
  • Ritschl, Dietrich, “Hippolytus’ Conception of Deification,” Scottish Journal of Theology 12 (1959): 388-99.
  • Rius-Camps, J., El dinamismo trinitario en la divinizacion de los seres racionales segun Origenes (Rome 1970).
  • Rondet, Henri, The Grace of Christ (Newman Press 1967; Paris 1948). Chapter Five: “The Greek Fathers: The Divinization of the Christian”: 65-88; and passim.
  • Rondet, Henri, S.J., “La divinization du Chretien,” Nouvelle Revue Theologique, 71 (1949): 449-476; 561-588; reprinted and expanded in Rondet, Essais sur la Theologie de la Grace (Paris 1964): 107-200.
  • Rufner, V., “Homo secundus Deus,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 63 (1955): 248-91.
  • Rusch, William G., “How the Eastern Fathers understood what the Western Church meant by Justification,” Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, ed. H.G. Andersen, T. A. Murphy, J. A. Burgess (Augsburg Press 1985): 131-142, notes 347-8.
  • Russell, Norman, “’Partakers of the Divine Nature’ (II Peter 1.4) in the Byzantine Tradition,” in J. Hussey Festschrift (1998). off-site
  • Ryk, Marta, “The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Deification of Man according to Contemporary Orthodox Theology,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 10 (1975): 24-39; 109-130.
  • Saarinen, Risto, Faith and Holiness. Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogues 1959-1994 (Gottingen 1997).
  • Saarinen, Risto, “Salvation in the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue. A Comparative Perspective,” Pro Ecclesia 5 (1996): 202-213.
  • Saarinen, Risto, “The Presence of God in Luther’s Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 8 (1994): 3-13.
  • Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis 1992)
  • Sartorius, B., La doctrine de la deification de l’homme d’apres les Peres grecs en general et Gregoire Palamas en particulier, (Doctoral Thesis, Geneva 1965).
  • Schmitz-Perrin, Rudolf, “’Theosis hoc est deification’. Depassement et paradoxe de l’apophase chez Jean Scot Erigene,” Revue des sciences religieuses 72 (1998): 420-445.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, From Death to Life. The Christian Journey (Ignatius Press 1995; 1st German 1988). Chapter Two: “Is Man to become God? On the meaning of the Christian Doctrine of Deification”: 41-63, and passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, God’s Human Face: The Christ-Icon (Ignatius Press 1994; 1st French 1976, 1978; 2nd German 1984). Passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “L’homme est-il fait pour devenir Dieu? Notes sur le sense chretien de la ‘deification’ or ‘divinisation’ de l’homme,’ Omnis Terra 22 (1983): 53-64.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “Uber die richtige Fassung des dogmatischen Begriffs der Vergottlichung des Menschen,” Jahrbuch fur Philosophie und Spekulative Theologie (Freiburg) 34 (1987): 3-47.
  • Schurr, George M., “On the Logic of Ante-Nicene affirmations of the ‘Deification’ of the Christian,” Anglican Theological Review 51 (1969): 97-105.
  • Schwarzwaller, Klaus, “Verantwortung des Glaubens,” in Freiheit als Liebe bei Martin Luther, ed. Dennis Bielfeldt and Klaus Schwarzwaller (Frankfurt, 1995): 133-158.
  • Sheldon-Williams, I. P., review article of M. Lot-Borodine, La Deification de l’Homme, in Downside Review 89 (1971): 90-93.
  • Slenczka, Reinhard, “Communion with God as Foundation and object of theology--deification as an ontological problem,” Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 149-53.
  • Snyder, Howard A., ”John Wesley and Macarius the Egyptian,” The Asbury Theological Journal (Wilmore, Kentucky) 45 (1990): 55-60.
  • Staniloae, Dumitru, “Image, Likeness, and Deification in the Human Person,” Communio 13 (1986): 64-83.
  • Steely, John E., Gnosis: The Doctrine of Christian Perfection in the Writings of Clement of Alexandria (Th. D. Dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky 1954).
  • Stephen E. Robinson, "The Doctrine of Deification," in Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993),60–65. off-site FAIR link
  • Stolz, Anselm, The Doctrine of Spiritual Perfection (St. Louis 1946; 1st German).
  • Stoop, Jan A. A., Die Deification Hominis in Die Sermones en Epistolae van Augustinus (Leiden 1952).
  • Strange, C. Roderick, “Athanasius on Divinization,” Studia Patristica 16 (1985): 342-346.
  • Stuckwisch, Richard, “Justification and Deification in the Dialogue between the Tubingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II,” Logia. A Journal of Lutheran Theology 9 (2000): 17-28. off-site
  • Telepneff, Gregory, and James Thornton, “Arian Transcendence and the Notion of Theosis in Saint Athanasios,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32 (1987): 271-77.
  • Theodorou, A., “Die Lehre von der Vergottung des Menschen bei den grieschischen Kirchenvater,” Kerygma und Dogma (Zeitschrift fur theologische Forschung und Kirchliche lehre) 7 (1961): 283-310.
  • Thunberg, Lars, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Open Court 1995; 1st Sweden 1965): especially 427-32.
  • Thuren, Jukka, “Justification and participation in the Divine Nature,” Teologinen Aikakauskirja (Theological Journal of Finland: 1977): 483-99.
  • Tsirpanlis, Constantine N., Greek Patristic Theology, Volume I: Basic Doctrine in Eastern Church Fathers (New York 1979); Chapter entitled: “Aspects of Athanasian Soteriology”: 25-40.
  • Turcescu, Lucian, “Soteriological Issues in the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification: an Orthodox Perspective,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38.1 (2001): 64-72.
  • Turner, H.E.W., The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption. A Study of the Development of Doctrine during the First Five Centuries (London 1952).
  • Union with Christ. The new Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans 1998). Several papers, by Mannermaa, Peura, Raunio, Juntunen, Jenson, Braaten, Bielfeldt, all dealing with Theosis.
  • Vandervelde, George, “Justification and Deification—Problematic Synthesis: A Response to Lucian Turcescu”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38.1 (2001): 73-78.
  • Volz, Carl A., Faith and Practice in the Early Church. Foundations for Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis 1983). Volz has a section entitled “Christ, the Giver of Deification”: 76-9.
  • Wakefield, Gordon S., “Perfection,” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Gordon S. Wakefield (Philadelphia 1983): 297-9.
  • Walland, F., La grazia divinizzante (Asti 1949).
  • Watson, Nicholas, “Melting into God the English Way: Deification in the Middle English Version of Marguerite Porete’s Mirouer des simples ames anienties,” in Prophets Abroad. The Reception of Continental Holy Women in late Medieval England, ed. Rosalynn Voader (Cambridge 1996): 19-49.
  • Wesche, Kenneth Paul, “Eastern Orthodox Spirituality: Union with God in Theosis,” Theology Today (Princeton, NJ) 56 (1999): 29-43.
  • Wesche, Kenneth Paul, “The Union of God and man in Jesus Christ in the Thought of Gregory of Nazianzus,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 28 (1982): 83-98.
  • Weser, H., S. Maximi Confessoris praecepta de incarnatione Dei et deificatione hominis exponuntur et examinantur (Dissertation, Berlin 1869).
  • Wild, P. T., Divinization of Man according to St. Hilary of Poitiers (Mundelein 1950).
  • Williams, A.N., “Deification in the Summa Theologiae. A Structural Interpretation of the Prima Pars,” The Thomist 61 (1997): 219-255.
  • Williams, A.N., “Light from Byzantium: The Significance of Palamas’ Doctrine of Theosis,” Pro Ecclesia 3 (1994): 483-496.
  • Williams, Anna Ngaire, The Ground of Union. Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford University Press 1999).
  • Williams, Rowan, “Deification,” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Gordon S. Wakefield (Philadelphia 1983): 106-8.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia, “A Note on the Iconoclastic Controversy: Greek and Latin disagreements about Matter and Deification,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 18 (1980): 139-48.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia, “Grace as participation in the Divine Life in the Theology of Augustine of Hippo,” Augustinian Studies 7 (1976): 135-52.
  • Winslow, Donald F., Dynamics of Salvation: A Study of Gregory of Nazianzus (1979); Passim.
  • Wolters, Al, “’Partners of the Deity:’ A Covenantal Reading of II Peter 1.4,” Calvin Theological Journal 25 (1990): 28-44; with postscript 26 (1991): 418-420
  • Zwanepol, Klaas, “Luther en Theosis,” Luther-Bulletin. Tijdschrift voor interconfessioneel Lutheronderzoek 2 (1993): 48-73; English abridgment in Luther Digest 5 (1995): 177-81.
Navigators


Notes

  1. "Jewish Holidays & Celebrations – List” <https://pjcc.org/jewish-life/jewish-holidays-explained/> (accessed 20 August 2019)
  2. Wikipeda, “Purim” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purim> (accessed 20 August 2019)
  3. William H.C. Propp, “Moses” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 921–22. For more on the historicity of Moses see Richard Elliot Friedman, The Exodus (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017); and William G. Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2001).
  4. John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign 7 (February 1977): 86. The source erroneously refers to the "Marcionites" instead of the "Cerinthians".
  5. Ibid.
  6. 1 Corinthians 7:14.
  7. Doctrine and Covenants 128:18
  8. This obviously requires a rejection of the doctrine of sola scriptura and the affirmation of continuing revelation outside the Bible. For the best treatments of those from a Latter-day Saint perspective, see Robert S. Boylan, Not By Scripture Alone: A Latter-day Saint Refutation of Sola Scriptura (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2017). See also Robert S. Boylan, After the Order of the Son of God: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Latter-day Saint Theology of the Priesthood (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2018).
  9. FairMormon thanks Jaxon Washburn for his compilation of these sources.
  10. Søren Agersnap, Baptism and the New Life: A Study of Romans 6:1-14 (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1999), 175–76.
  11. Charles Kingsley Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Harper & Row Publishers Inc, 1987), 362–364.
  12. Stephen C. Barton, “1 Corinthians,” Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, James D.G. Dunn, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 1348.
  13. Richard E. DeMaris, The New Testament in its Ritual World (London: Routledge, 2008), 59, 63–64.
  14. James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Nature of Earliest Christianity (London: SCM Canterbury Press, 2006), 25, 172.
  15. Gordon D. Fee, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 766–767.
  16. Rolf Furuli, The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 1999), 289.
  17. David Bentley Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 297.
  18. Scott M. Lewis, So That God May Be All in All: The Apocalyptic Message of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 (Rome, Italy: Editrice Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, 1998), 70–71.
  19. Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 36.
  20. Steve Mason and Tom Robinson, Early Christian Reader: Christian Texts from the First and Second Centuries in Contemporary English Translations Including the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 70.
  21. Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), 218.
  22. John J. O'Rourke, "1 Corinthians,” A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, Reginald C. Fuller, Leonard Johnston, and Conleth Kearns, eds. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1969), 1159.
  23. William F. Orr and James A. Walter, 1 Corinthians: A New Translation (New York: Doubleday, 1976), 337.
  24. Stephen E. Potthoff, The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage: Near-Death Experience, Ancestor Cult, and the Archeology of Paradise (London: Routledge, 2017), 3.
  25. Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2006), 130–131.
  26. John Short, "Exposition of First Corinthians," The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, 12 vols., George Arthur, ed. (Abingdon, UK: Pierce and Washabaugh, 1953), 240.
  27. William Tabbernee, “Initiation/Baptism in the Montanist Movement,” Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity, David Hellholm, ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 941.
  28. James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 277–278.
  29. Jeffrey A. Trumbower, Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 35.
  30. "Does God Have a Body?," Catholic Answers tract, 1996. Since this article was first written, the title of the tract was changed to “God Has No Body."
  31. Christopher Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 98.
  32. J. N. Sanders, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, , edited and completed by B. A. Mastin, (New York, Harper & Row, 1968), 147–148.
  33. Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, tr. Neil Buchanan (New York: Dover, 1961), 1:180 n.1.
  34. Tertullian, "Against Praxeas," in 7 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)3:602. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  35. J.W.C.Wand, A History of the Early Church to A.D. 500 (London: Methuen & Co., 1937), 140.
  36. Origen, "On First Principles," in Preface, 9 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)4:6. ANF ToC off-site This volumeDirect jump off-site
  37. Origen, "Homilies on Genesis," in 3:1 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)?:??. ANF ToC off-site This volume[citation needed]
  38. Plutarch, quoted in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, 14:16. off-siteDirect jump off-site
  39. Empedocles, in Karl Jaspers, The Great Philosophers (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1981), 3:51.
  40. Jean Daniélou, The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, translated by N. Abercrombie (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), 1.
  41. For more information on this topic, see Barry R. Bickmore, "The Doctrine of God and the Nature of Man," in Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
  42. Samuel A. Meier, “Theophany,” in Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 740. The citations of Genesis 24:10-11 and Genesis 32:20 should be to Exodus 24:10-11 and Exodus 33:20.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Clementine Homilies, 17:16.off-site In Ante-Nicean Fathers 8:223–347. off-siteDirect jump off-site
  44. Daniel C. Peterson, "An Unexpected Case for an Anthropomorphic God," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 50 (2022): vii–xx.
  45. Edmond LaB. Cherbonnier, "In Defense of Anthropomorphism," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 162, compare G.E. Wright, God Who Acts (London: SCM Press, 1952), 49–50. ISBN 0884943585.
  46. Christopher Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 120.
  47. Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-siteNote: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
  48. Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  49. See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.
  50. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 199. off-site

Is the Church's "open canon" evidence of error because Christianity requires a "closed canon"?

The doctrine of a closed canon and the end of authoritative revelation is not found in the Bible

Other churches sometimes claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in error because Christianity requires a "closed canon" (no more authoritative revelation) instead of the Church's "open canon" (potential for more binding revelation).

The doctrine of a closed canon and the end of authoritative revelation is not found in the Bible. To insist upon this doctrine is to place a non-Biblical doctrine in a place of pre-eminence, and insist that God must be bound by it. Such a doctrine would require the very revelation it denies to be authoritative. Even the proper interpretation of Biblical teachings requires authoritative revelation, which are necessarily extra-Biblical.

Critics are free to hold these beliefs if they wish, but they ought not to criticize the LDS for believing extra-Biblical doctrines when they themselves insist upon the non-Biblical closed canon.

God is superior even to His Word

The Bible is an important record of God's message to humanity. However, the Bible—or any other written text—cannot be the focus of the Christian's life or faith. Only one deserves that place: God.

One non-LDS Christian author cautioned believers from placing the Bible 'ahead' of God:

It is possible, however, to stress the Bible so much and give it so central a place that the sensitive Christian conscience must rebel. We may illustrate such overstress on the Bible by the often-used (and perhaps misused) quotation from Chillingworth: "The Bible alone is the religion of Protestantism." Or we may recall how often it has been said that the Bible is the final authority for the Christian. If it will not seem too facetious, I would like to put in a good word for God. It is God and not the Bible who is the central fact for the Christian. When we speak of "the Word of God" we use a phrase which, properly used, may apply to the Bible, but it has a deeper primary meaning. It is God who speaks to man. But he does not do so only through the Bible. He speaks through prophets and apostles. He speaks through specific events. And while his unique message to the Church finds its central record and written expression in the Bible, this very reference to the Bible reminds us that Christ is the Word of God in a living, personal way which surpasses what we have even in this unique book. Even the Bible proves to be the Word of God only when the Holy Spirit working within us attests the truth and divine authority of what the Scripture says. Faith must not give to the aids that God provides the reverence and attention that Belong only to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope is in God; our life is in Christ; our power is in the Spirit. The Bible speaks to us of the divine center of all life and help and power, but it is not the center. The Christian teaching about the canon must not deify the Scripture.[1]

To argue that the canon is closed effectively seeks to place God's written word (the Bible) above God Himself. Some have even called this practice "bibolatry" or "bibliolatry." Critics are effectively ordering God not to reveal anything further, or refusing to even consider that He might choose to speak again.

Closed canon is not a Biblical doctrine

The idea of a closed canon is not a Biblical doctrine. The Bible bears record that God called prophets in the past. Why could He not—indeed, why would He not—continue to do so?

Ironically, it would seem that the only way to know that there can be no extra-Biblical revelation is via revelation: otherwise, decisions about God's Word are being made by human intellect alone. Yet, since the Bible does not claim that it is the sole source of revealed truth, the only potential source of a revelation to close the canon would be extra-Biblical. Thus, those who insist on a closed canon are in the uncomfortable position of requiring extra-Biblical revelation to rule out extra-Biblical revelation![2]

As one non-LDS scholar observed: "For evidence about what was within the canon, one had to go outside the canon itself." After all, there was "no scriptural evidence to decide what were the exact limits of the canon."[3]

Throughout Biblical history, the canon was clearly not closed. New prophets were called, and new authoritative writing was made. It would seem strange for this to cease without revelatory notice being given that God's practices were about to change.

Some authors are even now asking if the decision to close the canon was a mistake:

The first question, and the most important one, is whether the church was right in perceiving the need for a closed canon of scriptures....did such a move toward a closed canon of scriptures ultimately (and unconsciously) limit the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church?...Does God act in the church today and by the same Spirit? On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the Church now calls its Bible?...one must surely ask about the appropriateness of tying the church of the twentieth century to a canon that emerged out of the historical circumstances in the second to the fifth centuries CE. How are we supposed to make the experience of that church absolute for all time?...Was the church in the Nicene and post-Nicene eras infallible in its decisions or not? Finally, if the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern, for example, the use of contraceptives, abortion, liberation, ecological irresponsibility, equal rights, euthanasia, nuclear proliferation, global genocide, economic and social justice, and so on?...[4]

These are striking questions, and those who insist upon a closed canon may have difficulty resolving the issues which they raise. Joseph Smith's insistence that God did not cease to speak, and that the canon was not closed, resolved these issues many decades before modern Christians began to grapple with them.

Early Christians did not have a closed canon

The early Christian Church did not have a fixed canon, nor did it restrict itself to the canon used by most modern Christian churches:

If the term "Christian" is defined by the examples and beliefs passed on by earliest followers of Jesus, then we must at least ponder the question of whether the notion of a biblical canon is necessarily "Christian." They did not have such canons as the church possesses today, nor did they indicate that their successors should draw them up....

Even in regard to the OT canon, it has been shown that the early church’s collections of scriptures were considerably broader in scope than those presently found in either the Catholic or Protestant canons and that they demonstrated much more flexibility than our present collections allow....in regard to the OT, should the church be limited to an OT canon to which Jesus and his first disciples were clearly not limited?[5]

Scriptural interpretation requires revelation

Even if one were to grant that the Bible contains all necessary teachings, it is clear from Christian history that the Bible can be interpreted in many different ways by sincere readers. What else but additional, on-going revelation can settle legitimate questions of interpretation and application of God's word? Are we to rely on human reason alone to do so? Does this not in essence turn to an extra-Biblical source for information about divine matters?

Source(s) of the criticism—Open versus closed canon of scripture
Critical sources
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 7. ( Index of claims )
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838): 22off-site
  • Luke P. Wilson, “Lost Books & Latter-Day Revelation: A Response to Mormon Views of the New Testament Canon,” Christian Research Journal (Fall 1996): 27–33.

What does the Book of Mormon mean when it says that "plain and precious" things have been taken out of the bible?

So called "lost scripture" is in reference to writings mentioned or cited within the present Biblical record, but which are not in the Bible itself

I've heard about "lost scripture" mentioned in the Bible. What is this about, and what implications does it have for the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and sufficiency?

1. Biblical writers considered writings not in the present canon to be scriptural writings.
2. Christian groups do not agree on what constitutes the Biblical canon—any claim that the canon is closed, complete, and sufficient must answer:

a) which canon?
b) what establishes this canon as authoritative and not some other?

3. Differences in canon between Christian groups and Biblical authors' clear belief in the scriptural status of other non-Biblical texts argue against a coherent doctrine of Biblical sufficiency and inerrancy drawn from the Bible itself. Such a claim must come from outside the Bible.

Stephen E. Robinson said of this subject:

The Book of Mormon teaches that "plain and precious" things have been taken out of the Bible (1 Nephi 13꞉24-29). Both Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals often assume this means that the present biblical books went through a cut-and-paste process to remove these things...However, I see no reason to understand things this way, and in fact I it is largely erroneous. The pertinent passages from the Book of Mormon give no reason to assume that the process of removing plain and precious things from Scripture was one exclusively or even primarily of editing the books of the present canon. The bulk of the text-critical evidence is against a process of wholesale cutting and pasting...

It is clear to me, therefore, that "the plain and precious truths" were not necessarily in the originals of the present biblical books, and I suspect that the editing process that excised them did not consist solely or even primarily of cutting and pasting the present books, but rather largely in keeping other apostolic or prophetic writings from being included in the canon. In other words, "the plain and precious truths" were primarily excised not by means of controlling the text, but by means of controlling the canon."[6]

So called "lost scripture" is in reference to writings mentioned or cited within the present Biblical record, but which are not in the Bible itself. Some of these writings are known from other sources, and some are not.

Examples of "lost scripture"

Lost writing Biblical citation to the lost writing
Book of the Wars of the Lord Numbers 21:14
Book of Jasher Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18
Book of the Acts of Solomon 1 Kings 11:41
Book of Samuel the Seer 1 Chronicles 29:29
Book of Gad the Seer 1 Chronicles 29:29
Book of Nathan the Prophet 1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 9:29
Prophecy of Ahijah 2 Chronicles 9:29
Visions of Iddo the Seer 2 Chronicles 9:29, 2 Chronicles 12:15, 2 Chronicles 13:22
Book of Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 12:15
Book of Jehu 2 Chronicles 20:34
Sayings of the Seers 2 Chronicles 33:19
Lament for Josiah 2 Chronicles 35:25
Paul's epistle to Corinthians before our "1 Corinthians" 1 Corinthians 5:9
Paul's possible earlier Ephesians epistle Ephesians 3:3
Paul's epistle to Church at Laodicea Colossians 4:16
1 Enoch 1:19 and The Assumption of Moses Jude 1:14-15
1 Enoch "It influenced Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John, Jude (which quotes it directly) and Revelation (with numerous points of contact)…in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, the final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism."[7]

Examples of canonical differences among Bibles

The picture is further complicated by the fact that Christians have not always agreed on the "canon"—that is, they have not always agreed upon which writings were "scripture" and which were not.

Some examples of these variations:

Christian Person or Group Difference in canon from Protestant Bible (e.g., the KJV)
Catholics Apocrypha is canonical
Orthodox Apocrypha is canonical
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200) Included in canon:
  • Epistle of Barnabas
  • Epistle of Clement
  • The Preaching of Peter[8]
Roman Christians (circa A.D. 200) Included in canon:
  • Revelation of Peter
  • Wisdom of Solomon

Excluded from canon:

  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 3 John[9]
Origen (date) Included in canon:
  • Epistle of Barnabas
  • Shepherd of Hermas[10]

Excluded from canon:

  • James
  • Jude
  • 2 John
  • Those disputed by Rome (see above)[11]
Syriac Peshitta Excluded from the canon:
  • 2 Peter
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation of St. John[12]
Armenian Church Included in canon:
  • 3 Corinthians

Excluded from canon:

  • Revelation of St. John prior to 12th century[13]
Ethiopian Church Included in canon:
  • Sinodos
  • Clement
  • Book of the Covenant
  • Didascalia[14]
Martin Luther Considered Epistle of James "a right strawy epistle."[15] Also didn't agree with Sermon on the Mount because didn't match his "grace only" theology.

Implications for inerrancy and sufficiency doctrine of the Bible

All these canons cannot be correct. Why must we accept that the critic's Bible is complete and inerrant? By what authority is this declared? Such an authority would have to be outside the Bible, thus demonstrating that there is some other source for the Word of God besides the Bible.

Furthermore, one should remember that Biblical writers were not aware of the Bible canon, because the Bible was not compiled until centuries later. Thus, Biblical writers cannot have referred to completeness and sufficiency of the canon, because the canon did not exist.

The clear evidence of "lost scripture" from the Bible was a common early LDS argument.[16]


Source(s) of the criticism—Lost scripture in the Bible
Critical sources
  • Samuel Haining, Mormonism Weighed in the Balances of the Sanctuary, and Found Wanting: The Substance of Four Lectures (Douglas: Robert Fargher, 1840), 11¬-13. off-site
    Claims there are no books of scripture on matters of importance mentioned in the Bible that are not found in the Bible.
Past responses

Does the Bible alone contain all necessary or essential knowledge to assure salvation, thus making the Book of Mormon and modern prophets unnecessary?

The Bible nowhere makes the claim for sufficiency or completeness

Other churches claim the Bible contains all necessary or essential knowledge to assure salvation. Therefore, things like modern prophets or additional scripture (such as the Book of Mormon) are unnecessary or even blasphemous.

Claiming inerrancy and completeness:

  • is not a Biblical doctrine
  • has not been sufficient to prevent a vast range of Biblical interpretations and Christian practices, all of which cannot be correct
  • ignores that the Biblical canon is not unanimous among Christians, and ignores non-canonical books which the Bible itself cites as being authoritative
  • ignores that the Bible contains some errors and internal inconsistencies

However, Mormons cherish the Bible. Those who claim otherwise are mistaken. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

Occasionally, a few in the Church let the justified caveat about the Bible—"as far as it is translated correctly"—diminish their exultation over the New Testament. Inaccuracy of some translating must not, however, diminish our appreciation for the powerful testimony and ample historicity of the New Testament...

So when we read and turn the pages of the precious New Testament, there is a barely audible rustling like the quiet stirrings of the Spirit, something to be 'spiritually discerned.' (1 Corinthians 2:14). The witnessing words came to us—not slowly, laboriously, or equivocally through the corridors of the centuries, but rather, swiftly, deftly, and clearly. Upon the wings of the Spirit these words proclaim, again and anew, "JESUS LIVED. JESUS LIVES!"[17]

The Bible nowhere makes the claim for sufficiency or completeness.

Furthermore, the thousands of Christian sects and groups provide ample testimony that the Bible has not been sufficient to encourage unanimity among Christians about proper authority, doctrine, or practice. Critics would like us to accept that their reading is the correct one, but this means we must appeal to some other standard—one cannot use their reading of the Bible to prove their reading of the Bible!

There is also no unanimity among Christians concerning what constitutes the "true" Bible canon—once again, some other standard is needed to determine which Bible is the "true" or "inerrant" version.

There are also other writings which the Bible itself refers to as authoritative, and yet these books are not in the present Bible canon. Either the Bible is wrong in referring to these writings as authoritative, or some modern Christians are wrong for arguing that the Bible is a complete record of all God's word to His children.

Mormons consider the Bible an inspired volume of scripture of great value, but they also recognize that there are some errors and contradictions

While the LDS do not like to denigrate the Bible or call attention to its errors, since they consider it an inspired volume of scripture of great value, they also recognize that there are some errors and contradictions in the Bible which are the result of human error or tampering. This does not reduce the Bible's value in their estimation, but it does call into question any claims for the Bible's "inerrancy."

Said early LDS leader George Q. Cannon:

This book [the Bible] is of priceless worth; its value cannot estimated by anything that is known among men upon which value is fixed. ... But in the Latter-day Saints it should always be a precious treasure. Beyond any people now upon the face of the earth, they should value it, for the reason that from its pages, from the doctrines set forth by its writers, the epitome of the plan of salvation which is there given unto us, we derive the highest consolation, we obtain the greatest strength. It is, as it were, a constant fountain sending forth streams of living life to satisfy the souls of all who peruse its pages.[18]

∗       ∗       ∗

We are not called to teach the errors of translators but the truth of God's word. It is our mission to develop faith in the revelations from God in the hearts of the children, and "How can that best be done?" is the question that confronts us. Certainly not by emphasizing doubts, creating difficulties or teaching negations.... The clause in the Articles of Faith regarding mistakes in the translation of the Bible was never intended to encourage us to spend our time in searching out and studying those errors, but to emphasize the idea that it is the truth and the truth only that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts, no matter where it is found.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism—Biblical sufficiency
Critical sources
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 97. ( Index of claims )
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838): 22off-site

Source(s) of the criticism—Biblical completeness
Critical sources
  • A Little Talk, Between John Robinson and his Master about Mormonism, Shewing its Origin, Absurdity, and Impiety (Bedford: W. White, 1840), 1–8. off-site
  • Doctrine of the Mormonites (London: J. Wertheimer & Company, 1842.), 1-4. off-site
  • “Blasphemy–‘Book of Mormon,’ alias The Golden Bible,” Rochester Daily Advertiser (New York) (2 April 1830). off-site
  • “An Extract,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 1, no. 5 (30 September 1829): 18. off-site
  • “The Book of Mormon, or Golden Bible,” Village Chronicle (Dansville, New York) (27 April 1830). off-site
  • A.W.B., “Mormonites,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, New York) 2, no. 15 (9 April 1831): 120. off-site
  • Alexander Campbell, “Signs of the Times,” Millennial Harbinger 5, no. 4 (April 1834): 148, note. off-site
  • Thomas Campbell, “The Mormon Challenge,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 35 (15 February 1831): 2. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the way. No. VIII,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (26 September 1840): 106–07. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way No. X,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (10 October 1840): 114-115. off-site
  • Samuel Haining, Mormonism Weighed in the Balances of the Sanctuary, and Found Wanting: The Substance of Four Lectures (Douglas: Robert Fargher, 1840), 4, 7-9, 14, 19, 56, 64. off-site
  • Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 50. (Affidavits examined) off-site
  • W. J. Morrish, The Latter-day Saints and the Book of Mormon. A Second Warning from a Minister to his Flock (Ledbury: J. Gibbs, 1840), 1-4 off-site
  • Philanthropist of Chester County, Mormonism Unmasked, Showed to be an Impious Imposture, and Mr. Bennett’s Reply Answered and Refuted (Philadelphia: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1840), 6. off-site Response
  • Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
  • Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers
  • Benjamin Winchester, “The Object of a Continuation of Revelation,” The Gospel Reflector (Philadelphia) 1, no. 5 (1 March 1841): 89-96. off-site
    LDS missionary discusses the charge
Past responses

Does the fact that the Bible states that nothing should be "added to" or "taken away" from the book mean that the Book of Mormon is false?

Misuse of the Book of Revelation

Some Christians claim that the Book of Mormon cannot be true because nothing should be "added to" or "taken away from" the Holy Bible. However, those who claim this misuse Revelation, misunderstand the process by which the Bible canon was formed, and must ignore other, earlier scriptures to maintain their position. Their use of this argument is a form of begging the question whereby they presume at the outset that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures are not the Word of God, which is precisely the point under debate.

The verse often cited (as by Martin, above) is Revelation 22:18-19:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books

Some claim that this verse states that the Bible is complete, and no other scripture exists or will be forthcoming.

However, the critics ignore that:

  • The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books, and prior the Bible being assembled into a collection of texts. Therefore, this verse can only apply to the Book of Revelation, and not the Bible as a whole (some of which was unwritten and none of which was yet assembled together into 'the Bible'). While the traditional date of the book of Revelation is A.D. 95 or 96 (primarily based on a statement by Irenaeus), many scholars now date it as early as A.D. 68 or 69. The Gospel of John is generally dated A.D. 95-100.[20]
  • The New Testament was organized by placing the gospels first, and then the letters of apostles and other leaders in order of decreasing length.
Since the book of Revelation is neither a gospel nor an epistle, it was placed at the end of the canon in its own category. Therefore, John cannot have intended the last few sentences of Revelation to apply to the entire Bible, since he was not writing a 'final chapter' for the New Testament and since the Bible would not be completed and canonized for some centuries later.
  • Other scriptures (such as Deuteronomy 4꞉2, 12꞉32, and Proverbs 30꞉6) likewise forbid additions. If the critics' arguments were self-consistent, they would have to then discard everything in the New Testament and much of the Old, since these verses predate "other scripture" added by God through later prophets.
  • Further evidence that Rev. 22꞉19 is not referring to the entire bible when it reads "words of the book of this prophecy" is found if one reads Revelation 1:3,11:

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand...Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

It is clear that the book referred to at the beginning of Revelation is the same book being referred to at the end.

Everything that John saw and heard in between these two statements are the contents of that book.

Many biblical authors warned against editing their work

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman wrote:

The very real danger that [New Testament] texts could be modified at will, by scribes who did not approve of their wording, is evident in other ways as well. We need always to remember that the copyists of the early Christian writings were reproducing their texts in a world in which there were not only no printing presses or publishing houses but also no such thing as copyright law. How could authors guarantee that their texts were not modified once put into circulation? The short answer is that they could not. That explains why authors would sometimes call curses down on any copyists who modified their texts without permission. We find this kind of imprecation already in one early Christian writing that made it into the New Testament, the book of Revelation, whose author, near the end of his text, utters a dire warning [quotes Revelation 22꞉18-19].

This is not a threat that the reader has to accept or believe everything written in this book of prophecy, as it is sometimes interpreted; rather, it is a typical threat to copyists of the book, that they are not to add to or remove any of its words. Similar imprecations can be found scattered throughout the range of early Christian writings.[21]

God may add to God's word

Even if the passage in Revelation meant that no man could add to scripture; it does not forbid that God may, through a prophet, add to the Word of God. If this were not possible, then the Bible could never have come into existence—the Old Testament, for example, would have precluded having the New Testament.

Learn more about "adding to" or "taking away from" the Bible
Online
  • Scott Gordon, "To Add To or To Take From," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, April 2002) PDF link
  • Howard W. Hunter, "No Man Shall Add to or Take Away," Ensign (May 1981): 64. off-site
  • Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993). off-site FAIR linkoff-site
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • “Mormonism in America,” The Christian Witness (Plymouth, England) 5, no. 1 (January 1838): 23–24. off-site
  • Anon., "Difference Between the Baptists & Latter-Day Saints. From the North Staffordshire Mercury," Millennial Star 1 no. 12 (April 1841), 296–99. off-site
  • George J. Adams, "[Letter to Parley P. Pratt, 14 December 1841]," Millennial Star 2 no. 9 (January 1842), 141-43. off-site
  • M.S.C., “Mormonism,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 35 (15 February 1831): 1-2. off-site
  • Philander Chase, A Pastoral Letter of Bishop Chase, to the Clergy of His Diocese of Illinois (1843), 1-8. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the way. No. VIII,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (26 September 1840): 106–07. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way No. X,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (10 October 1840): 114-115. off-site* H., Letter to the Editor, Observer and Telegraph (Hudson, Ohio) (30 December 1830). off-site
  • Samuel Haining, Mormonism Weighed in the Balances of the Sanctuary, and Found Wanting: The Substance of Four Lectures (Douglas: Robert Fargher, 1840), 4, 15-16. off-site
  • Walter Martin, Mormonism (Minneapolis, Bethany House Publishers, 1976), 29.
    "[Joseph] Smith apparently was either oblivious to the expressed warning about adding to or subtracting from the Word of God, or willfully disobedient to it (see Rev. 22:18,19)."
  • Philanthropist of Chester County, Mormonism Unmasked, Showed to be an Impious Imposture, and Mr. Bennett’s Reply Answered and Refuted (Philadelphia: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1840), 6. off-site Response
  • Erastus Fairbanks Snow, E. Snow’s Reply to the Self-Styled Philanthropist, of Chester County (Philadelphia?: s.n., 1840?), ??. off-site
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
Past responses


Notes

  1. Floyd V. Filson, Which Books Belong in the Bible? (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957), 20–21.
  2. Joseph Smith made this observation in Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 61. off-site
  3. James Barr, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983), 24–25. Emphases in original.
  4. Lee Martin McDonald, Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (Hendrickson Publishers; Rev Sub edition, 1995), 254–255.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 63. ISBN 0830819916.
  7. E. Isaac, "1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch," in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. J. H. Charlesworth, 2 vols, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983), 1:10; cited in Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  8. Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  9. Mike Ash, "Is the Bible Complete?" (FAIR Brochure): 1.
  10. Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site; citing Clyde L. Manschreck, A History of Christianity in the World, 2d. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1985), 52.
  11. Mike Ash, "Is the Bible Complete?" (FAIR Brochure): 1.
  12. William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, "The Evangelical Is Our Brother (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 178–209. off-site; citing Kurt Aland, Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament, 5th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1990), 769–75; see also Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992), 190–219, who provides almost 1,500 quotations, allusions, and parallels between noncanonical sources and the New Testament.
  13. William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, "The Evangelical Is Our Brother (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 178–209. off-site
  14. William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, "The Evangelical Is Our Brother (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 178–209. off-site
  15. Timothy George, "'A Right Strawy Epistle': Reformation Perspectives on James," The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Fall 2000), 20–31.
  16. See, for example: J. Goodson, "Dear Sir," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3 no. 1 (October 1836), 397–99.
  17. Neal Maxwell, "The New Testament—A Matchless Portrait of the Savior," Ensign (December 1986): 20. (italics in original)
  18. George Q. Cannon, "The Blessings Enjoyed Through Possessing The Ancient Records, etc.," (8 May 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:261-262.
  19. George Q. Cannon, "?," The Juvenile Instructor 36 no. ? (1 April 1901), 208.
  20. For more information on the dating of Revelation, see Thomas B. Slater's Biblica article.
  21. Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, [2005] 2007), 54–55. ISBN 0060859512. ISBN 0060738170.

Specific alleged contradictions in scripture

The challenge of Latter-day Saint scripture and an open canon to the rest of the christian world means that there is a long history of polemics targeted at the Church of Jesus Christ. These are well-worn "chestnuts" and standard biblical issues that have been repeatedly "asked and answered" for Latter-day Saints over nearly two centuries.

Table summary

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

1

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:

2

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

3

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 D&C 130꞉22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.

4

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

5

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.[1]
  • 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.[2]

6

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.

7

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;
Pre-Existence
  • 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:

8

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 D&C 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.

9

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:

10

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.

11

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.

12

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:

13

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.

14

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.

15

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.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
The table is found, with few if any variations, on multiple internet sites. FAIR does not link to anti-Mormon sites, but a Google search makes it easy to find.

Some sources credit the initial table to:

  • Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).

Other sources that use it, with and without attribution to Tanner, include:

  • Bill Donohue, "The Book of Mormon Contradictions [sic] Itself; The Book of Mormon contradicts other Standard Works!" 2004; (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Richard Deem, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," Evidence for God from Science (accessed 22 May 2009)
  • Ex-Mormons for Jesus, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries, "H.I.S. Ministries-Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • ICARE (Institute for Christian Awareness and Responsible Evangelism) Ministries, Inc., "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • The Interactive Bible, "The Book of Mormon contradicts Itself! The Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible!" (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Jesus Christ Saves Ministries, San Diego, California; "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • "Mormon Theology: Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith," at Religion & Spirituality at Squidoo (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • RiverValley Church, 1331 High Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; On-line in section "Other religions," where "we will from time to time publish documents that look at what other religions believe and how they contradict Christianity. Use these resources to understand what others believe and strengthen your belief in our holy and good God. Please do not use these documents as tools to segregate or cause prejudice against others with opposing beliefs." (italics in original) No author, "Investigation into Mormonism," 3-4 (the table is followed by a pages 5-10, which contain Sandra Tanner, "Sharing Your Faith with Latter-day Saints.") (accessed 22 May 2009)

Details on alleged contradictions

Alleged contradictions in the Doctrine and Covenants


Do D&C 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 D&C 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 (D&C 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 1 explain this clearly:

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. 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. 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 FatherYe shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31꞉18-20).

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 207. ( Index of claims )
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
    Rather than contrasting the Book of Mormon and D&C, this author contrasts the D&C with Parley P. Pratt's Voice of Warning, 105 which echoes the Book of Mormon.
Past responses

Alleged contradiction between Book of Mormon, Book of Moses and Book of Abraham on number of Creators

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

Summary: 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.

Does Lehi contradict Jeremiah 7 and prove himself a false prophet?

One critic has claimed that Jeremiah 7 proves that Lehi wasn’t a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon’s authenticity is thus affected negatively.

Jeremiah 7 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 8 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:

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꞉12-18:

¶ 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. 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? Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. 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.

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 Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and livewherefore should this city be laid waste? 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.

Why does the Church teach that man first existed as spirits in heaven when 1 Corinthians 15:46 says that the physical body comes before the spiritual?

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected. We refer to God's role as our Heavenly Father before our mortal lives.

Biblical statements indicate that God is the father of our spirits and we were known to him before our birth (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5). This is a separate doctrine from the doctrine of a glorious resurrection, which is clearly Paul's topic.

It is unfortunate that critics find it necessary to distort and twist the clear meaning of scripture in an attempt to make the Latter-day Saints "offenders for a word."

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead. For example, earlier in the chapter he has written:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christwhom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own orderChrist the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. .. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die... (1 Corinthians 15:12-36)

Paul clearly believes, then, that the physical body with which we die will be resurrected.

He then tells the Saints that:

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption... It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:40-43.)

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:52-53.)

The "natural" body is the weak, corruptible mortal body that is "sown in weakness." The "spiritual body" is the glorified, resurrected body "raised in power." But, this does not mean that it is not also a physical, or corporeal body—Paul has just spent several verses insisting upon the reality of Christ's resurrection, and using Him as a model for the resurrection of the Saints. And, clearly Jesus' body was tangible and physical following the resurrection:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have''. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. (Luke 24:39-42, (emphasis added).)

Learn more about premortal life
Key sources
  • Kevin L. Barney, "On Preexistence in the Bible" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, Chapter 3. FAIR link
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," Proceedings of the 2007 FAIR Conference (August 2007). link
Online
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," FAIR Conference 2007 off-site
  • Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "Premortal Life and Mortal Life: A Fearful Symmetry," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 60/0 (15 March 2024). [vii–xxii] link
  • Dana M. Pike, "Formed in and Called from the Womb," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/8 (30 November 2020). [153–168] link
  • Russell C. McGregor, "The Anti-Mormon Attackers (Review of The Mormon Defenders: How Latter-day Saint Apologists Misinterpret the Bible)," FARMS Review 14/1 (2003). [315–320] link
Print
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, 2nd edition (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2013).
  • Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
  • Terryl L. Givens, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Richard R. Hopkins Biblical Mormonism (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994).
  • Truman G. Madsen in Eternal Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966).
  • Boyd K. Packer in Our Father's Plan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984).
  • Joseph Fielding Smith in Man, His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954).
  • Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988).
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers

How is John 4:24 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church's doctrine of God having a body?

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof

King James Version

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4꞉24

Other translation(s)

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (NASB)

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is." (TEV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. (CEV)

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof. The Latter-day Saint belief that God is an embodied spirit is perfectly consistent with the passage in question and critics are in error to insist that the passage must be interpreted as "God is a disembodied spirit."

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrine of the corporeal nature of God. Critics argue that this passage proves that God does not have a physical body.

Commentary

The context of this verse is that Jesus is explaining to a Samaritan woman how one must worship. Jesus teaches that the place of worship, whether Samaria or Jerusalem, is not important, but rather the way one worships. By teaching attributes of God, Jesus teaches how His children can and should relate to Him and worship Him. Latter-day Saints emphatically agree that God is indeed spirit, just as He is love 1 Jn 1:5, light 1 Jn 4:8, and a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24, but He is not only spirit, love, light, or fire.

The Greek language has no indefinite article ("a" or "an") and so the translator must decide whether to include that word in the English text. But for Latter-day Saints, the presence or absence of the article makes no difference. Latter-day Saints believe both that God is spirit (as an attribute) and that God is a spirit (as a statement of His nature). Similarly, Latter-day Saints believe that all people are also spirits, but spirits housed within a physical body.

In the chapter immediately preceding this scripture, in John 3:5-6 , Jesus says the following:

John 3꞉5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3꞉6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NASB)

It is clear from the above verse that Jesus considered it entirely possible for a mortal human with a physical body to be spirit. Likewise, it is not inconsistent to believe that God the Father simultaneously has a physical body and "is spirit."

Learn more about God as embodied
Online
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
Print
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "Does God Have a Body In Human Form?"
  • Carl W. Griffin and David L. Paulsen, "Augustine and the Corporeality of God," Harvard Theological Review 95/1 (2002): 97–118.
  • Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Baker Academic, 2001), 33–34.
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "On the Motif of the Weeping God in Moses 7," in Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 285–317. ISBN 0934893713.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83/2 (1990): 105–116.
  • Edmond LaB. Cherbonnier, "In Defense of Anthropomorphism," in Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978), 155–173. ISBN 0884943585.
  • James L. Kugel, The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible (Free Press, 2003), xi–xii, 5–6, 104–106, 134–135.
  • Roger Cook, "God's 'Glory:' More Evidence for the Anthropomorphic Nature of God in the Bible."
  • Roland J. Teske, "Divine Immutability in Saint Augustine," Modern Schoolman 63 (May 1986): 233.
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "The Doctrine of God and the Nature of Man," in Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
Navigators

How is Isaiah 43:10 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church doctrines of humans' ability to become like God through Christ's atonement?

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshipped

King James Version

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43꞉10

Other translation(s)

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (NIV)

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrines of the plurality of gods and the deification of man. It is claimed that this verse proves that there never has been or ever will be another being who could properly be called a god.

Commentary

This passage and other similar proof texts from the Hebrew scriptures are misused by critics. When read in context, it is clear that the intent of the passage is to differentiate YHWH from the foreign gods and idols in the cultures surrounding the Jews.

Verses 43꞉11-13 are a continuation of the statement by God:

I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" (NIV)

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshiped.

In addition to misapplying this passage, critics also fail to recognize the growing body of evidence that shows that the Jewish religion was not strictly monotheistic until quite late in its development, certainly after the era in which Isaiah was written. When this evidence is considered, it appears that Judaism originally taught that though there are indeed other divine beings, some of whom are called gods, none of these are to be worshiped except for the God of gods who created all things and who revealed Himself to Moses.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
Bibliography on human deification
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Divinization,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 102-7.
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Sanctification. A Conversation between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 87-109.
  • Allchin, A.M., Participation in God. A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition (Connecticut 1988).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, Homo vivens. Incorruptibilite et divinisation de l’homme selon Irenee de Lyon (Paris 1986).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, “Mysteres, unification et divinisation de l’homme selon Denys l’areopagite,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica (Rome) 63 (1997): 273-332.
  • Arroniz, J., “La immortalidad como deificacion en S. Ireneo,” Scriptorium Victoriense (Vitoria, Spain) 8 (1961): 262-87.
  • Asendorf, Ulrich, “The Embeddedment of Theosis in the Theology of Martin Luther,” in Luther Digest 3 (1996): 159-61; English abridgment from Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990).
  • Aubineau, M., “Incorruptibilite et divinisation selon saint Irenee,” Recherches de science religieuse 44 (1956): 25-52.
  • Bakken, Kenneth L., “Holy Spirit and Theosis. Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 409-423.
  • Balas, David L., Metousia Theou. Man’s participation in God’s Perfections according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Studia Anselmiana, volume 55 (Rome 1966).
  • Bardy, Gustave, “Divinisation: According to the Latin Fathers,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, ascetique et mystique doctrine et histoire (Paris 1957): 3, Columns 1389-1398.
  • Baur, L., “Untersuchungen uber die Vergottlichungslehre in der Theologie der grieschischen Vater,” Theologische Quartalschrift 98 (1916): 467-91; 99 (1917): 225-252; 100 (1919): 426-444; 101 (1920): 28-64, 155-186.
  • Bielfeldt, Dennis, “Deification as a Motif in Luther’s Dictata super psalterium,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997): 401-420.
  • Bilaniuk, Petro B.T., “The Mystery of Theosis or Divinization,” in The Heritage of the Early Church. Essays in Honor of the Very Reverend Georges Vasilievich Florovsky, ed. David Nieman and Margaret Schatkin; Orientalia Christiana Analecta, volume 195 (Rome 1973): 337-359.
  • Blowers, Paul M., “Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Concept of ‘Perpetual Progress,’” Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992): 151-71.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “Augustine’s Conception of Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 (1986): 369-85.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “Deification, Divinization,” in Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. (W.B. Eerdmans 1999): 265-6.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “’Deificare,’” in Augustinus-Lexikon 2 (1996): columns 265-7.
  • Bornhauser, K., Die Vergottungslehre des Athanasius und Johannes Damascenus (Gutersloh 1903).
  • Braaten, Carl E., ”The Finnish Breakthrough in Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 5 (1996): 141-3.
  • Bratsiotis, P., “Die Lehre der orthodoxen Kirche uber die Theosis des Menschen,” Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van Belgie. Klasse der Letteren XXIII/1 (Brussels 1961): 1-13.
  • Brecht, Martin, “Neue Ansatze der Lutherforshung in Finnland,” Luther (1990): 36-40.
  • Breck, John, “Divine Initiative. Salvation in Orthodox Theology,” in Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis 1992): 105-120.
  • Butterworth, George W., ”The Deification of Man in Clement of Alexandria,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1916): 157-69.
  • Capanaga, Victorino, “La deificacion en la soteriologia agostiniana,” in Augustinus Magister 2 (Paris 1954): 745-754.
  • Carabine, Deirdre, “Five Wise Virgins. Theosis and Return in Periphyseon V,” in Iohannes Scottus Eriugena, ed. G. van Riel, J.C. Steel, and J. McEvoy (Leuven 1996): 195-207.
  • Cavanagh, William T., “A Joint Declaration?” Justification as theosis in Aquinas and Luther,” Heythrop Journal 41 (London 2000): 265-280.
  • Christensen, Michael J., “Theosis and Sanctification. John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 31 (1996): 71-94.
  • Congar, Yves M.-J. (later Cardinal), Dialogue Between Christians. Catholic Contributions to Ecumenism (Newman Press 1966; 1st Paris 1964). Chapter 8 is entitled: “Deification in the Spiritual Tradition of the East’: 217-231; first published in La Vie Spirituelle 43 (1935): 91-107.
  • Congar, Yves M.-J., The Mystery of the Temple (Newman Press 1962; Paris 1958); Appendix III: “God’s presence and his dwelling among men under the old and under the new and definitive dispensation,” 262-99.
  • Corneanu, Nicolae, “The Jesus Prayer and Deification,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 39 (1995): 3-24.
  • Daley, Brian E., S.J., The Hope of the Early Church. A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge University Press 1991).
  • Dalmais, Irenee-H., “Divinisation,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite (Paris 1957) 3: columns 1376-1389.
  • Dalmais, Irenee-H., “Mystere liturgique et divinisation dans la Mystagogie de saint Maxime le Confesseur,’ in Epektasis. Melanges patristiques offerts au Cardinal Jean Danielou (Paris 1972): 55-62.
  • Davies, Brian, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford 1992). Chapter 13 entitled “How to be Holy,” 250-273.
  • Deseille, P., “L’eucharistie et la divinisation des chretiens selon les Peres de l’Eglise,” Le Messager orthodoxe 87 (1981): 40-56.
  • Drewery, Benjamin, “Deification,” in Christian Spirituality. Essays in Honor of Gordon Rupp, ed. Peter Brooks (London 1975): 35-62.
  • Edwards, Henry, “Justification, Sanctification, and the Eastern Concept of Theosis,” Consensus. A Canadian Lutheran Journal of Theology 14 (1988): 65-88.
  • Ermoni, V., “La deification de l’homme chez les Peres de l’Eglise,” Revue du clerge francais 11 (1897): 509-519.
  • Fairbairn, Don, “Salvation as Theosis. The Teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy,” Themelios 23 (1998): 42-54.
  • Faller, O., “Grieschischen Vergottung und christliche Vergottlichung,” Gregorianum 6 (1925): 405-35.
  • Ferguson, Everett, “God’s Infinity and Man’s Mutability. Perpetual Progress according to Gregory of Nyssa,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 18 (1973): 59-78.
  • Ferguson, Everett, “Progress in Perfection. Gregory of Nyssa’s Vita Moysis,” Studia Patristica 14 (1976): 307-14.
  • Festugiere, A.-J., “Divinisation du Chretien,” La Vie Spirituelle 59 (1939): 90-99.
  • Finger, Thomas, “Anabaptism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Some Unexpected Similarities,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31 (1994): 67-91.
  • Finger, Thomas, “Post-Chalcedonian Christology. Some Reflections on Oriental Orthodox Christology from a Mennonite Perspective,” in Christ in East and West, ed. Paul Fries and Tiran Nersoyan (Mercer University Press 1987): 155-69.
  • Flew, Robert Newton, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology. An Historical Study of the Christian Ideal for the Present Life (Oxford 1968; 1st 1934).
  • Flogaus, R., Theosis bei Palamas und Luther (Gottingen 1997).
  • Flogaus, R., “Agreement on the Issues of Deification and Synergy?,” Luther Digest. An Annual Abridgement of Luther Studies 7 (1999): 99-105; English abridgement of “Einig in Sachen Theosis und Synergie?,” Kerygma und Dogma 42 (1996): 225-243.
  • Folliet, Georges, “’Deificari in otio,’ Augustin, Epistula 10.2,” Recherches Augustiniennes 2 (1962): 225-236.
  • Ford, David C., “Saint Makarios of Egypt and John Wesley. Variations on the Theme of Sanctification,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 33 (1988): 288.
  • Fortino, Eleuterio F., “Sanctification and Deification,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 17 (1982): 192-200.
  • Franks, R.S., “The Idea of Salvation in the Theology of the Eastern Church,” in Mansfield College Essays. Presented to Rev. Andrew Martin Fairbairn (London 1909): 249-264.
  • Frary, Joseph, “Deification and Human Freedom,” Sobornost (London) 7 (1975): 117-126.
  • Gross, Jules, La divinisation du Chretien d’apres les peres Grecs (Paris 1938). Recently translated.
  • Gross, Jules, “Die Vergottlichung des Christen nach den grieschischen Vatern,” Zeitschrift fur Askese und Mystik 14 (1939): 79-94.
  • Hartin, Patrick J., “Call to be Perfect through Suffering (James 1.2-4). The Concept of Perfection in the Epistle of James and the Sermon on the Mount,” Biblica (Rome) 77 (1996): 477-492.
  • Hartnett, Joanne J., Doctrina S. Bonaventurae de deiformitate (Mundelein 1936).
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  • Heintjes, J., “De opgang van den manschelijken Geest tot God volgens sint Maximus Confessor,” Bijdragen van de Philosophische en Theologische Faculteiten der Nederlandsche Jezuieten 5 (1942): 260-302; 6 (1943): 64-123.
  • Hess, Hamilton, “The Place of Divinization in Athanasian Soteriology,” Studia Patristica 26 (1993): 369-374.
  • Hinlicky, Paul R., “Theological Anthropology. Toward integrating theosis and Justification by Faith,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 34 (1997): 38-73.
  • Janssens, L., “Notre filiation divine d’apres S. Cyrille d’ Alexandrie,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensae 15 (1938): 233-78.
  • Jenson, Robert W., Triune Identity (Philadelphia 1982): 103-148.
  • Jenson, Robert W., “Theosis,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 108-112.
  • Kamppuri, Hannu T., editor, Dialogue between Neighbors. The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church 1970-1986 (Helsinki 1986), passim.
  • Kamppuri, Hannu T., “Theosis in the Theology of Gregory Palamas,” in Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 153-6.
  • Kantorowicz, Ernst H., “Deus per naturam, Deus per gratiam. A Note on Mediaeval Political Theology,” Harvard Theological Review 45 (1952): 253-77.
  • Khairallah, Philip A., “The Sanctification of Life,” Emmanuel 96 (1990): 323-333; 394-397; 403-406.
  • Kinghorn, Kenneth C., “Holiness: The Central Plan of God,” Evangelical Journal 15 (1997): 57-70.
  • Kolp, A. L., “Partakers of the Divine Nature. The Use of II Peter 1.4 by Athanasius,” Studia Patristica 17 (1979): 1018-1023.
  • Kretschmar, Georg, “The Reception of the Orthodox Teaching of Divinization in Protestant Theology,” in Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990): 61-80; English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 156-9.
  • Ladner, Gerhard T., “St. Augustine’s Conception of the Reformation of Man to the Image of God,” Augustinus Magister 2 (Paris 1954): 867-888.
  • Ladner, Gerhart B., The Idea of Reform. Its impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (Harvard 1959).
  • Larchet, Jean-Claude, La Divinisation de l’homme selon Saint Maxime le Confesseur (Paris 1996).
  • Lattey, Cuthbert, “The Deification of man in Clement of Alexandria. Some further notes,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1916): 257-62.
  • Lawrenz, Melvin E., The Christology of John Chrysostom (Mellen Press 1996). Section entitled: “The Way of Salvation—Moral Accomplishment and Divinization:” 146-54.
  • Linforth, Ivan M., “’oi athanatizontes:’ (Herodotus 4.93-96),” Classical Philology 13 (1918): 23-33.
  • Lossky, Vladimir, “Redemption and Deification,” in In the Image and Likeness of God (London 1975; New York 1974; from the French of 1967): 97-110; article first published as “Redemption et deification,” in Messager de l’Exarchat du Patrarche russe en Europe occidental 15 (1953): 161-70.
  • Lot-Borodine, Myrrha, La Deification de l’homme selon la doctrine des Peres grecs (Paris 1970), edited and introduced by Jean Danielou. These three articles were first published as “La Doctrine de la Deification dans l’Eglise Grecque jusqu’au xie Siecle,” Revue d’Histoire des Religions 105 (1932): 5-43; 106 (1932): 525-74; 107 (1933): 8-55; “La Doctrine de la Grace et de la Liberte dans l’Orthodoxie Greco-orientale,” Oecumenica 6 (1939); “La Beatitude dans l’Orient Chretien,” Dieu Vivant 15 (1950).
  • Lot-Borodine, Myrrha, “La grace deifiante des sacraments d’apres Nicolas Cabasilas,” Revue des sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques 25 (1936): 299-330; 26 (1937): 693-717.
  • Maddox, Randy L., “John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy. Influences, convergences and Differences,” The Asbury Theological Journal (Wilmore, Kentucky) 45 (1990): 29-53.
  • Mahe, J., S.J., “La sanctification d’apres saint Cyrille d’Alexandrie,” Revue d’histoire ecclesiastique 10 (1909): 30-40; 469-492.
  • Mannermaa, Tuomo, “Theosis as a subject of Finnish Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 4 (1995): 37-48; first published in Luther und Theosis: Vergottlichung als Thema der abendlandischen Theologie, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990): 11-26; an English abridgment appeared in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 145-9.
  • Mantzaridis, Georgios, The Deification of Man. St. Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition, translated by Liadain Sherrard (New York 1984).
  • Marquart, Kurt E., “Luther and Theosis,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 64 (Fort Wayne, Indiana 2000): 182-205.
  • Marshall, Bruce D., “Ex Occidente Lux? Aquinas and Eastern Orthodox Theology,” Modern Theology 20.1 (January 2004): 23-50.
  • Marshall, Bruce D., “Justification as Declaration and Deification,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 4.1 (March 2002): 3-28.
  • Martikainen, Jouko, “Man’s Salvation. Deification or Justification?,” Sobornost 7 (London: 1976): 180-192.
  • Mayo, Harold, John Wesley and the Christian East: on the subject of Christian Perfection, Masters Thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York 1980.
  • McCormick, K. Steve, “Theosis in Chrysostom and Wesley: an Eastern paradigm on faith and love,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 26 (1991): 38-103.
  • McCoy, J. D., “Philosophical influences on the doctrine of the Incarnation in Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria,” Encounter 38 (Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis: 1977): 362-91.
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  • McDonald, Peter, “To become Gods: a saintly teaching,” Faith Magazine 30 (1998): 13-17.
  • McDonnell, Kilian, The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. The Trinitarian and Cosmic Order of Salvation (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 1996). Chapter 9: “Taking the Robe of Glory from the Jordan--Divinization”; Chapter 10: “The Cosmic Jordan and the Robe of Glory—Divinization and Eschatology,” 128-55; and passim.
  • McGuckin, John A., St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy. Its history, theology and texts (E.J. Brill 1994). Chapter Three: “The Christology of Cyril: 1. Redemptive Deification: Cyril’s presuppositions and major concerns”: 175-226.
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  • Newman, John Henry Cardinal, Select Treatises of St. Athanasius in Controversy with the Arians (1895; 1st 1841 ff.). Chapter on Deification.
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  • O’Collins, Gerald, S.J., Christology. A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (Oxford University Press 1995). Passim
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  • Peura, Simo, “The Deification of Man as Being in God,” Luther Digest 5 (1997): 168-72; English abridgment of “Die Vergottlichung des Menschen als Sein in God,” Lutherjahrbuch 60 (1993): 39-71.
  • Phan, Peter C., Grace and the Human Condition (Michael Glazier 1988): 132-138; 171-176.
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  • Plass, Paul, “’Moving Rest’ in Maximus the Confessor,” Classica et Mediaevalia 35 (1984): 177-90.
  • Popov, I.V., “Ideja obozenija v drevne-vostocnoi cerkvi” (‘The idea of divinization in the Ancient Eastern Church’), in Voprosi filosofij i psixogij 97 (1909): 165-213.
  • Posset, Franz, “’Deification’ in the German Spirituality of the Late Middle Ages and in Luther: An Ecumenical Historical Perspective,” Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte 84 (1993): 103-25.
  • Preuss, K.F.A., Ad Maximi Confessoris de Deo hominisque deificatione doctrinam abnotationum pars I (Schneeberg 1894).
  • Rakestraw, Robert V., “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 257-69.
  • Randenborg, G. van, Vergottung und Erlosung (Berlin).
  • Rechtfertigung und Verherrlichung (Theosis) des Menschen durch Jesus Christus (‘Justification and Glorification (Theosis) of the Human Person through Jesus Christ’) (Germany, 1995).
  • Ritschl, Dietrich, “Hippolytus’ Conception of Deification,” Scottish Journal of Theology 12 (1959): 388-99.
  • Rius-Camps, J., El dinamismo trinitario en la divinizacion de los seres racionales segun Origenes (Rome 1970).
  • Rondet, Henri, The Grace of Christ (Newman Press 1967; Paris 1948). Chapter Five: “The Greek Fathers: The Divinization of the Christian”: 65-88; and passim.
  • Rondet, Henri, S.J., “La divinization du Chretien,” Nouvelle Revue Theologique, 71 (1949): 449-476; 561-588; reprinted and expanded in Rondet, Essais sur la Theologie de la Grace (Paris 1964): 107-200.
  • Rufner, V., “Homo secundus Deus,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 63 (1955): 248-91.
  • Rusch, William G., “How the Eastern Fathers understood what the Western Church meant by Justification,” Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, ed. H.G. Andersen, T. A. Murphy, J. A. Burgess (Augsburg Press 1985): 131-142, notes 347-8.
  • Russell, Norman, “’Partakers of the Divine Nature’ (II Peter 1.4) in the Byzantine Tradition,” in J. Hussey Festschrift (1998). off-site
  • Ryk, Marta, “The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Deification of Man according to Contemporary Orthodox Theology,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 10 (1975): 24-39; 109-130.
  • Saarinen, Risto, Faith and Holiness. Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogues 1959-1994 (Gottingen 1997).
  • Saarinen, Risto, “Salvation in the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue. A Comparative Perspective,” Pro Ecclesia 5 (1996): 202-213.
  • Saarinen, Risto, “The Presence of God in Luther’s Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 8 (1994): 3-13.
  • Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis 1992)
  • Sartorius, B., La doctrine de la deification de l’homme d’apres les Peres grecs en general et Gregoire Palamas en particulier, (Doctoral Thesis, Geneva 1965).
  • Schmitz-Perrin, Rudolf, “’Theosis hoc est deification’. Depassement et paradoxe de l’apophase chez Jean Scot Erigene,” Revue des sciences religieuses 72 (1998): 420-445.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, From Death to Life. The Christian Journey (Ignatius Press 1995; 1st German 1988). Chapter Two: “Is Man to become God? On the meaning of the Christian Doctrine of Deification”: 41-63, and passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, God’s Human Face: The Christ-Icon (Ignatius Press 1994; 1st French 1976, 1978; 2nd German 1984). Passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “L’homme est-il fait pour devenir Dieu? Notes sur le sense chretien de la ‘deification’ or ‘divinisation’ de l’homme,’ Omnis Terra 22 (1983): 53-64.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “Uber die richtige Fassung des dogmatischen Begriffs der Vergottlichung des Menschen,” Jahrbuch fur Philosophie und Spekulative Theologie (Freiburg) 34 (1987): 3-47.
  • Schurr, George M., “On the Logic of Ante-Nicene affirmations of the ‘Deification’ of the Christian,” Anglican Theological Review 51 (1969): 97-105.
  • Schwarzwaller, Klaus, “Verantwortung des Glaubens,” in Freiheit als Liebe bei Martin Luther, ed. Dennis Bielfeldt and Klaus Schwarzwaller (Frankfurt, 1995): 133-158.
  • Sheldon-Williams, I. P., review article of M. Lot-Borodine, La Deification de l’Homme, in Downside Review 89 (1971): 90-93.
  • Slenczka, Reinhard, “Communion with God as Foundation and object of theology--deification as an ontological problem,” Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 149-53.
  • Snyder, Howard A., ”John Wesley and Macarius the Egyptian,” The Asbury Theological Journal (Wilmore, Kentucky) 45 (1990): 55-60.
  • Staniloae, Dumitru, “Image, Likeness, and Deification in the Human Person,” Communio 13 (1986): 64-83.
  • Steely, John E., Gnosis: The Doctrine of Christian Perfection in the Writings of Clement of Alexandria (Th. D. Dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky 1954).
  • Stephen E. Robinson, "The Doctrine of Deification," in Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993),60–65. off-site FAIR link
  • Stolz, Anselm, The Doctrine of Spiritual Perfection (St. Louis 1946; 1st German).
  • Stoop, Jan A. A., Die Deification Hominis in Die Sermones en Epistolae van Augustinus (Leiden 1952).
  • Strange, C. Roderick, “Athanasius on Divinization,” Studia Patristica 16 (1985): 342-346.
  • Stuckwisch, Richard, “Justification and Deification in the Dialogue between the Tubingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II,” Logia. A Journal of Lutheran Theology 9 (2000): 17-28. off-site
  • Telepneff, Gregory, and James Thornton, “Arian Transcendence and the Notion of Theosis in Saint Athanasios,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32 (1987): 271-77.
  • Theodorou, A., “Die Lehre von der Vergottung des Menschen bei den grieschischen Kirchenvater,” Kerygma und Dogma (Zeitschrift fur theologische Forschung und Kirchliche lehre) 7 (1961): 283-310.
  • Thunberg, Lars, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Open Court 1995; 1st Sweden 1965): especially 427-32.
  • Thuren, Jukka, “Justification and participation in the Divine Nature,” Teologinen Aikakauskirja (Theological Journal of Finland: 1977): 483-99.
  • Tsirpanlis, Constantine N., Greek Patristic Theology, Volume I: Basic Doctrine in Eastern Church Fathers (New York 1979); Chapter entitled: “Aspects of Athanasian Soteriology”: 25-40.
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  • Vandervelde, George, “Justification and Deification—Problematic Synthesis: A Response to Lucian Turcescu”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38.1 (2001): 73-78.
  • Volz, Carl A., Faith and Practice in the Early Church. Foundations for Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis 1983). Volz has a section entitled “Christ, the Giver of Deification”: 76-9.
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How is Genesis 3:5 used by critics who claim that the doctrine of deification (theosis) is a teaching of Satan?

The use of Genesis 3 to counter the doctrine of deification/theosis has two problems associated with it:

First: Satan never claimed that Adam and Eve would be gods, just that they would be "as gods, knowing good and evil."


King James Version (KJV)

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

For God sees that on the day when you take of its fruit, your eyes will be open, and you will be as gods, having knowledge of good and evil.

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used by critics to attempt to show that the LDS doctrine of deification is a teaching of Satan.

Commentary

The critics seriously misunderstand and misinterpret this passage of scripture.

Note that the serpent makes two claims:

(1) "ye shall not surely die" and

(2) "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

But if one looks forward to Genesis 3:22:

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:"

Second problem: The second and bigger problem is that Satan was, in fact, telling the truth on this point, as God confirms.

God announces that Adam and Eve did indeed become as gods, knowing good and evil. As usual, Satan mixes lies and truth. In this case he said that Adam and Eve wouldn't die (a lie) but he also said that their eating would make them "as gods, knowing good and evil" (a truth).

So the lie of Satan in the Garden of Eden was that transgressing God's law would not bring death (with the implication that Adam and Eve could have the god-like ability to know good and evil without paying a terrible price).

This chapter isn't even relevant to beliefs about deification.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
Bibliography on human deification
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Divinization,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 102-7.
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Sanctification. A Conversation between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 87-109.
  • Allchin, A.M., Participation in God. A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition (Connecticut 1988).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, Homo vivens. Incorruptibilite et divinisation de l’homme selon Irenee de Lyon (Paris 1986).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, “Mysteres, unification et divinisation de l’homme selon Denys l’areopagite,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica (Rome) 63 (1997): 273-332.
  • Arroniz, J., “La immortalidad como deificacion en S. Ireneo,” Scriptorium Victoriense (Vitoria, Spain) 8 (1961): 262-87.
  • Asendorf, Ulrich, “The Embeddedment of Theosis in the Theology of Martin Luther,” in Luther Digest 3 (1996): 159-61; English abridgment from Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990).
  • Aubineau, M., “Incorruptibilite et divinisation selon saint Irenee,” Recherches de science religieuse 44 (1956): 25-52.
  • Bakken, Kenneth L., “Holy Spirit and Theosis. Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 409-423.
  • Balas, David L., Metousia Theou. Man’s participation in God’s Perfections according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Studia Anselmiana, volume 55 (Rome 1966).
  • Bardy, Gustave, “Divinisation: According to the Latin Fathers,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, ascetique et mystique doctrine et histoire (Paris 1957): 3, Columns 1389-1398.
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  • Winslow, Donald F., Dynamics of Salvation: A Study of Gregory of Nazianzus (1979); Passim.
  • Wolters, Al, “’Partners of the Deity:’ A Covenantal Reading of II Peter 1.4,” Calvin Theological Journal 25 (1990): 28-44; with postscript 26 (1991): 418-420
  • Zwanepol, Klaas, “Luther en Theosis,” Luther-Bulletin. Tijdschrift voor interconfessioneel Lutheronderzoek 2 (1993): 48-73; English abridgment in Luther Digest 5 (1995): 177-81.
Navigators


Notes

  1. Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  2. See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.
  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

Specific alleged contradictions in scripture

The challenge of Latter-day Saint scripture and an open canon to the rest of the christian world means that there is a long history of polemics targeted at the Church of Jesus Christ. These are well-worn "chestnuts" and standard biblical issues that have been repeatedly "asked and answered" for Latter-day Saints over nearly two centuries.

Table summary

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

1

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:

2

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

3

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 D&C 130꞉22).
  • It is telling that the supposed "contradiction" is explained later in section 130, but the critics ignore it.

4

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

5

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.[1]
  • 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.[2]

6

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.

7

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;
Pre-Existence
  • 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:

8

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 D&C 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.

9

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:

10

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.

11

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.

12

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:

13

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.

14

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.

15

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.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
The table is found, with few if any variations, on multiple internet sites. FAIR does not link to anti-Mormon sites, but a Google search makes it easy to find.

Some sources credit the initial table to:

  • Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).

Other sources that use it, with and without attribution to Tanner, include:

  • Bill Donohue, "The Book of Mormon Contradictions [sic] Itself; The Book of Mormon contradicts other Standard Works!" 2004; (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Richard Deem, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," Evidence for God from Science (accessed 22 May 2009)
  • Ex-Mormons for Jesus, "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries, "H.I.S. Ministries-Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • ICARE (Institute for Christian Awareness and Responsible Evangelism) Ministries, Inc., "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • The Interactive Bible, "The Book of Mormon contradicts Itself! The Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible!" (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • Jesus Christ Saves Ministries, San Diego, California; "Contradictions in LDS Scripture," (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • "Mormon Theology: Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith," at Religion & Spirituality at Squidoo (accessed 22 May 2009).
  • RiverValley Church, 1331 High Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; On-line in section "Other religions," where "we will from time to time publish documents that look at what other religions believe and how they contradict Christianity. Use these resources to understand what others believe and strengthen your belief in our holy and good God. Please do not use these documents as tools to segregate or cause prejudice against others with opposing beliefs." (italics in original) No author, "Investigation into Mormonism," 3-4 (the table is followed by a pages 5-10, which contain Sandra Tanner, "Sharing Your Faith with Latter-day Saints.") (accessed 22 May 2009)

Details on alleged contradictions

Alleged contradictions in the Doctrine and Covenants


Do D&C 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 D&C 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 (D&C 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 1 explain this clearly:

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. 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. 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 FatherYe shall have eternal life (2 Nephi 31꞉18-20).

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 207. ( Index of claims )
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
    Rather than contrasting the Book of Mormon and D&C, this author contrasts the D&C with Parley P. Pratt's Voice of Warning, 105 which echoes the Book of Mormon.
Past responses

Alleged contradiction between Book of Mormon, Book of Moses and Book of Abraham on number of Creators

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

Summary: 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.

Does Lehi contradict Jeremiah 7 and prove himself a false prophet?

One critic has claimed that Jeremiah 7 proves that Lehi wasn’t a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon’s authenticity is thus affected negatively.

Jeremiah 7 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 8 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:

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꞉12-18:

¶ 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. 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? Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. 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.

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 Babylonfor they prophesy a lie unto you. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and livewherefore should this city be laid waste? 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.

Why does the Church teach that man first existed as spirits in heaven when 1 Corinthians 15:46 says that the physical body comes before the spiritual?

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected

When Latter-day Saints speak of God creating our "spirit bodies," we do not mean the glorified, physical "spiritual body" of the resurrected. We refer to God's role as our Heavenly Father before our mortal lives.

Biblical statements indicate that God is the father of our spirits and we were known to him before our birth (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5). This is a separate doctrine from the doctrine of a glorious resurrection, which is clearly Paul's topic.

It is unfortunate that critics find it necessary to distort and twist the clear meaning of scripture in an attempt to make the Latter-day Saints "offenders for a word."

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead

In context, Paul is clearly talking about the physical resurrection from the dead. For example, earlier in the chapter he has written:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christwhom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own orderChrist the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. .. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die... (1 Corinthians 15:12-36)

Paul clearly believes, then, that the physical body with which we die will be resurrected.

He then tells the Saints that:

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption... It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:40-43.)

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified

The "spiritual body" to which Paul refers is the resurrected physical body which has been glorified.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:52-53.)

The "natural" body is the weak, corruptible mortal body that is "sown in weakness." The "spiritual body" is the glorified, resurrected body "raised in power." But, this does not mean that it is not also a physical, or corporeal body—Paul has just spent several verses insisting upon the reality of Christ's resurrection, and using Him as a model for the resurrection of the Saints. And, clearly Jesus' body was tangible and physical following the resurrection:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have''. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. (Luke 24:39-42, (emphasis added).)

Learn more about premortal life
Key sources
  • Kevin L. Barney, "On Preexistence in the Bible" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, Chapter 3. FAIR link
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," Proceedings of the 2007 FAIR Conference (August 2007). link
Online
  • Terryl Givens, "When Souls Had Wings: What the Western Tradition Has to teach Us About Pre-Existence," FAIR Conference 2007 off-site
  • Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "Premortal Life and Mortal Life: A Fearful Symmetry," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 60/0 (15 March 2024). [vii–xxii] link
  • Dana M. Pike, "Formed in and Called from the Womb," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/8 (30 November 2020). [153–168] link
  • Russell C. McGregor, "The Anti-Mormon Attackers (Review of The Mormon Defenders: How Latter-day Saint Apologists Misinterpret the Bible)," FARMS Review 14/1 (2003). [315–320] link
Print
  • Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, 2nd edition (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2013).
  • Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
  • Terryl L. Givens, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Richard R. Hopkins Biblical Mormonism (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994).
  • Truman G. Madsen in Eternal Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966).
  • Boyd K. Packer in Our Father's Plan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1984).
  • Joseph Fielding Smith in Man, His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954).
  • Brent L. Top The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988).
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers

How is John 4:24 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church's doctrine of God having a body?

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof

King James Version

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4꞉24

Other translation(s)

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (NASB)

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is." (TEV)

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. (CEV)

Critics read into the passage what is not there. This passage in John does not assert anything about God's corporeal nature or lack thereof. The Latter-day Saint belief that God is an embodied spirit is perfectly consistent with the passage in question and critics are in error to insist that the passage must be interpreted as "God is a disembodied spirit."

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrine of the corporeal nature of God. Critics argue that this passage proves that God does not have a physical body.

Commentary

The context of this verse is that Jesus is explaining to a Samaritan woman how one must worship. Jesus teaches that the place of worship, whether Samaria or Jerusalem, is not important, but rather the way one worships. By teaching attributes of God, Jesus teaches how His children can and should relate to Him and worship Him. Latter-day Saints emphatically agree that God is indeed spirit, just as He is love 1 Jn 1:5, light 1 Jn 4:8, and a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24, but He is not only spirit, love, light, or fire.

The Greek language has no indefinite article ("a" or "an") and so the translator must decide whether to include that word in the English text. But for Latter-day Saints, the presence or absence of the article makes no difference. Latter-day Saints believe both that God is spirit (as an attribute) and that God is a spirit (as a statement of His nature). Similarly, Latter-day Saints believe that all people are also spirits, but spirits housed within a physical body.

In the chapter immediately preceding this scripture, in John 3:5-6 , Jesus says the following:

John 3꞉5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3꞉6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NASB)

It is clear from the above verse that Jesus considered it entirely possible for a mortal human with a physical body to be spirit. Likewise, it is not inconsistent to believe that God the Father simultaneously has a physical body and "is spirit."

Learn more about God as embodied
Online
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
Print
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "Does God Have a Body In Human Form?"
  • Carl W. Griffin and David L. Paulsen, "Augustine and the Corporeality of God," Harvard Theological Review 95/1 (2002): 97–118.
  • Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Baker Academic, 2001), 33–34.
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "On the Motif of the Weeping God in Moses 7," in Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 285–317. ISBN 0934893713.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83/2 (1990): 105–116.
  • Edmond LaB. Cherbonnier, "In Defense of Anthropomorphism," in Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978), 155–173. ISBN 0884943585.
  • James L. Kugel, The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible (Free Press, 2003), xi–xii, 5–6, 104–106, 134–135.
  • Roger Cook, "God's 'Glory:' More Evidence for the Anthropomorphic Nature of God in the Bible."
  • Roland J. Teske, "Divine Immutability in Saint Augustine," Modern Schoolman 63 (May 1986): 233.
  • Barry R. Bickmore, "The Doctrine of God and the Nature of Man," in Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999).
Navigators

How is Isaiah 43:10 used as a proof-text by critics of the Church doctrines of humans' ability to become like God through Christ's atonement?

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshipped

King James Version

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43꞉10

Other translation(s)

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. (NIV)

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used as a proof-text by critics of the LDS doctrines of the plurality of gods and the deification of man. It is claimed that this verse proves that there never has been or ever will be another being who could properly be called a god.

Commentary

This passage and other similar proof texts from the Hebrew scriptures are misused by critics. When read in context, it is clear that the intent of the passage is to differentiate YHWH from the foreign gods and idols in the cultures surrounding the Jews.

Verses 43꞉11-13 are a continuation of the statement by God:

I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" (NIV)

The context of this passage makes it clear that the issue being addressed is not one of general theology but rather a very specific and practical command to recognize YHWH as Israel's only god and the only god to be worshiped.

In addition to misapplying this passage, critics also fail to recognize the growing body of evidence that shows that the Jewish religion was not strictly monotheistic until quite late in its development, certainly after the era in which Isaiah was written. When this evidence is considered, it appears that Judaism originally taught that though there are indeed other divine beings, some of whom are called gods, none of these are to be worshiped except for the God of gods who created all things and who revealed Himself to Moses.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
Bibliography on human deification
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Divinization,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 102-7.
  • Aden, Ross, “Justification and Sanctification. A Conversation between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 87-109.
  • Allchin, A.M., Participation in God. A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition (Connecticut 1988).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, Homo vivens. Incorruptibilite et divinisation de l’homme selon Irenee de Lyon (Paris 1986).
  • Andia, Ysabel de, “Mysteres, unification et divinisation de l’homme selon Denys l’areopagite,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica (Rome) 63 (1997): 273-332.
  • Arroniz, J., “La immortalidad como deificacion en S. Ireneo,” Scriptorium Victoriense (Vitoria, Spain) 8 (1961): 262-87.
  • Asendorf, Ulrich, “The Embeddedment of Theosis in the Theology of Martin Luther,” in Luther Digest 3 (1996): 159-61; English abridgment from Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990).
  • Aubineau, M., “Incorruptibilite et divinisation selon saint Irenee,” Recherches de science religieuse 44 (1956): 25-52.
  • Bakken, Kenneth L., “Holy Spirit and Theosis. Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 409-423.
  • Balas, David L., Metousia Theou. Man’s participation in God’s Perfections according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Studia Anselmiana, volume 55 (Rome 1966).
  • Bardy, Gustave, “Divinisation: According to the Latin Fathers,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, ascetique et mystique doctrine et histoire (Paris 1957): 3, Columns 1389-1398.
  • Baur, L., “Untersuchungen uber die Vergottlichungslehre in der Theologie der grieschischen Vater,” Theologische Quartalschrift 98 (1916): 467-91; 99 (1917): 225-252; 100 (1919): 426-444; 101 (1920): 28-64, 155-186.
  • Bielfeldt, Dennis, “Deification as a Motif in Luther’s Dictata super psalterium,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997): 401-420.
  • Bilaniuk, Petro B.T., “The Mystery of Theosis or Divinization,” in The Heritage of the Early Church. Essays in Honor of the Very Reverend Georges Vasilievich Florovsky, ed. David Nieman and Margaret Schatkin; Orientalia Christiana Analecta, volume 195 (Rome 1973): 337-359.
  • Blowers, Paul M., “Maximus the Confessor, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Concept of ‘Perpetual Progress,’” Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992): 151-71.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “Augustine’s Conception of Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 (1986): 369-85.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “Deification, Divinization,” in Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. (W.B. Eerdmans 1999): 265-6.
  • Bonner, Gerald, “’Deificare,’” in Augustinus-Lexikon 2 (1996): columns 265-7.
  • Bornhauser, K., Die Vergottungslehre des Athanasius und Johannes Damascenus (Gutersloh 1903).
  • Braaten, Carl E., ”The Finnish Breakthrough in Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 5 (1996): 141-3.
  • Bratsiotis, P., “Die Lehre der orthodoxen Kirche uber die Theosis des Menschen,” Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van Belgie. Klasse der Letteren XXIII/1 (Brussels 1961): 1-13.
  • Brecht, Martin, “Neue Ansatze der Lutherforshung in Finnland,” Luther (1990): 36-40.
  • Breck, John, “Divine Initiative. Salvation in Orthodox Theology,” in Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis 1992): 105-120.
  • Butterworth, George W., ”The Deification of Man in Clement of Alexandria,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1916): 157-69.
  • Capanaga, Victorino, “La deificacion en la soteriologia agostiniana,” in Augustinus Magister 2 (Paris 1954): 745-754.
  • Carabine, Deirdre, “Five Wise Virgins. Theosis and Return in Periphyseon V,” in Iohannes Scottus Eriugena, ed. G. van Riel, J.C. Steel, and J. McEvoy (Leuven 1996): 195-207.
  • Cavanagh, William T., “A Joint Declaration?” Justification as theosis in Aquinas and Luther,” Heythrop Journal 41 (London 2000): 265-280.
  • Christensen, Michael J., “Theosis and Sanctification. John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 31 (1996): 71-94.
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How is Genesis 3:5 used by critics who claim that the doctrine of deification (theosis) is a teaching of Satan?

The use of Genesis 3 to counter the doctrine of deification/theosis has two problems associated with it:

First: Satan never claimed that Adam and Eve would be gods, just that they would be "as gods, knowing good and evil."


King James Version (KJV)

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

For God sees that on the day when you take of its fruit, your eyes will be open, and you will be as gods, having knowledge of good and evil.

Use or misuse by Church critics

This verse is used by critics to attempt to show that the LDS doctrine of deification is a teaching of Satan.

Commentary

The critics seriously misunderstand and misinterpret this passage of scripture.

Note that the serpent makes two claims:

(1) "ye shall not surely die" and

(2) "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

But if one looks forward to Genesis 3:22:

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:"

Second problem: The second and bigger problem is that Satan was, in fact, telling the truth on this point, as God confirms.

God announces that Adam and Eve did indeed become as gods, knowing good and evil. As usual, Satan mixes lies and truth. In this case he said that Adam and Eve wouldn't die (a lie) but he also said that their eating would make them "as gods, knowing good and evil" (a truth).

So the lie of Satan in the Garden of Eden was that transgressing God's law would not bring death (with the implication that Adam and Eve could have the god-like ability to know good and evil without paying a terrible price).

This chapter isn't even relevant to beliefs about deification.

Learn more about theosis or humans becoming like God
Key sources
  • Michael W. Fordham, "Does President Gordon B. Hinckley Understand LDS Doctrine?" FAIR link
FAIR links
  • Roger Cook, "'Christ, the Firstfruits of Theosis'," Proceedings of the 2002 FAIR Conference (August 2002). link
  • D. Charles Pyle, "'I Have Said, ‘Ye are Gods’'," Proceedings of the 1999 FAIR Conference (August 1999). link
Online
  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity" (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
  • Jeff Lindsay, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings: The Latter-day Saint Perspective," JeffLindsay.com (accessed 30 March 2007)off-site
  • Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2002).off-site
  • Keith Norman, "Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology," FARMS Occasional Papers, (2000).off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, "The King Follett Discourse: Joseph Smith's Greatest Sermon in Historical Perspective," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 179. PDF link
  • Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 209. PDF link
  • David Bokovoy, "'Ye Really Are Gods: A Response to Michael Heiser concerning the LDS Use of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John; Review of You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82, by Michael S. Heiser'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [267–313] link
  • Daniel C. Peterson, "'Ye Are Gods': Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),471–594. direct off-site
  • Gerald N. Lund, "Is President Lorenzo Snow's oft-repeated statement 'As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be'] accepted as official doctrine by the Church?," Ensign (February 1982): 38.off-site
  • Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, "The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation," Ensign 19 (January 1989): 27. off-site
  • Keith E. Norman, "Deification, Early Christian," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:369–370.off-site
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'Israel's Divine Counsel, Mormonism, and Evangelicalism: Clarifying the Issues and Directions for Future Study'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [315–323] link
  • Michael S. Heiser, "'You've Seen One Elohim, You've Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism's Use of Psalm 82'," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007). [221–266] link
  • John C. Hancock, "A Compelling Case for Theosis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 30/3 (14 September 2018). [43–48] link
  • Stan Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text"," Brigham Young University Studies 18 no. 2 (1978), 193. PDF link
  • Daniel O. McClellan, "Psalm 82 in Contemporary Latter-day Saint Tradition," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 15/8 (8 May 2015). [79–96] link
  • Neal Rappleye, "'With the Tongue of Angels': Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 21/11 (2 September 2016). [303–324] link
  • Blake T. Ostler, "Review of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis by Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish," FARMS Review 8/2 (1996). [99–146] link
  • David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter, "How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser's Review," FARMS Review 11/2 (2000). [221–264] link
  • Tom Rosson, "'Deification: Fulness and Remnant, A Review of Deification and Grace by Daniel A. Keating'," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008). [195–218] link
  • Keith Norman, "Divinization: The Forgotten Teaching of Early Christianity," Sunstone no. (Issue #1) (Winter 1975), 14–19. off-siteoff-site
  • Ernst W. Benz, "Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God," in Truman G. Madsen (editor), Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian parallels : papers delivered at the Religious Studies Center symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10-11, 1978 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University and Bookcraft, 1978), 215–216. ISBN 0884943585. Reprinted in Ernst Benz, "Imago dei: Man as the Image of God," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 223–254. off-site
    Note: Benz misunderstands some aspects of LDS doctrine, but his sketch of the relevance of theosis for Christianity in general, and Joseph Smith's implementation of it, is worthwhile.
Video
Christ, The Firstfruits of Theosis: Early Christian Theosis, Roger Cook, 2002 FAIR Conference
Print
  • Daniel H. Ludlow, "Eternal Life or Exaltation within the Celestial Kingdom," in Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 416-20.
  • David L. Paulsen, "Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses," Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 108–109.
  • Extensive non-LDS bibliography available here.
  • K. Codell Carter, "Godhood," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 553-55.
  • Lorenzo Snow, "As God Is, Man May Be," in Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2–9. ISBN 0884945170.
  • Robert L. Millet, "Do the Mormons really believe that men and women can become gods?" in Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: Understanding Restored Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 175-77, 192-94.
  • Robert L. Millet, "The Doctrine of Godhood in the New Testament," in The Principles of the Gospel in Practice (Sandy, UT: Randall Book, 1985), 21-37.
  • Thomas S. Monson, An Invitation to Exaltation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 18 pp.
Bibliography on human deification
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  • Asendorf, Ulrich, “The Embeddedment of Theosis in the Theology of Martin Luther,” in Luther Digest 3 (1996): 159-61; English abridgment from Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990).
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  • Bakken, Kenneth L., “Holy Spirit and Theosis. Toward a Lutheran Theology of Healing,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 409-423.
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  • Butterworth, George W., ”The Deification of Man in Clement of Alexandria,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1916): 157-69.
  • Capanaga, Victorino, “La deificacion en la soteriologia agostiniana,” in Augustinus Magister 2 (Paris 1954): 745-754.
  • Carabine, Deirdre, “Five Wise Virgins. Theosis and Return in Periphyseon V,” in Iohannes Scottus Eriugena, ed. G. van Riel, J.C. Steel, and J. McEvoy (Leuven 1996): 195-207.
  • Cavanagh, William T., “A Joint Declaration?” Justification as theosis in Aquinas and Luther,” Heythrop Journal 41 (London 2000): 265-280.
  • Christensen, Michael J., “Theosis and Sanctification. John Wesley’s Reformulation of a Patristic Doctrine,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 31 (1996): 71-94.
  • Congar, Yves M.-J. (later Cardinal), Dialogue Between Christians. Catholic Contributions to Ecumenism (Newman Press 1966; 1st Paris 1964). Chapter 8 is entitled: “Deification in the Spiritual Tradition of the East’: 217-231; first published in La Vie Spirituelle 43 (1935): 91-107.
  • Congar, Yves M.-J., The Mystery of the Temple (Newman Press 1962; Paris 1958); Appendix III: “God’s presence and his dwelling among men under the old and under the new and definitive dispensation,” 262-99.
  • Corneanu, Nicolae, “The Jesus Prayer and Deification,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 39 (1995): 3-24.
  • Daley, Brian E., S.J., The Hope of the Early Church. A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge University Press 1991).
  • Dalmais, Irenee-H., “Divinisation,” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite (Paris 1957) 3: columns 1376-1389.
  • Dalmais, Irenee-H., “Mystere liturgique et divinisation dans la Mystagogie de saint Maxime le Confesseur,’ in Epektasis. Melanges patristiques offerts au Cardinal Jean Danielou (Paris 1972): 55-62.
  • Davies, Brian, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford 1992). Chapter 13 entitled “How to be Holy,” 250-273.
  • Deseille, P., “L’eucharistie et la divinisation des chretiens selon les Peres de l’Eglise,” Le Messager orthodoxe 87 (1981): 40-56.
  • Drewery, Benjamin, “Deification,” in Christian Spirituality. Essays in Honor of Gordon Rupp, ed. Peter Brooks (London 1975): 35-62.
  • Edwards, Henry, “Justification, Sanctification, and the Eastern Concept of Theosis,” Consensus. A Canadian Lutheran Journal of Theology 14 (1988): 65-88.
  • Ermoni, V., “La deification de l’homme chez les Peres de l’Eglise,” Revue du clerge francais 11 (1897): 509-519.
  • Fairbairn, Don, “Salvation as Theosis. The Teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy,” Themelios 23 (1998): 42-54.
  • Faller, O., “Grieschischen Vergottung und christliche Vergottlichung,” Gregorianum 6 (1925): 405-35.
  • Ferguson, Everett, “God’s Infinity and Man’s Mutability. Perpetual Progress according to Gregory of Nyssa,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 18 (1973): 59-78.
  • Ferguson, Everett, “Progress in Perfection. Gregory of Nyssa’s Vita Moysis,” Studia Patristica 14 (1976): 307-14.
  • Festugiere, A.-J., “Divinisation du Chretien,” La Vie Spirituelle 59 (1939): 90-99.
  • Finger, Thomas, “Anabaptism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Some Unexpected Similarities,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31 (1994): 67-91.
  • Finger, Thomas, “Post-Chalcedonian Christology. Some Reflections on Oriental Orthodox Christology from a Mennonite Perspective,” in Christ in East and West, ed. Paul Fries and Tiran Nersoyan (Mercer University Press 1987): 155-69.
  • Flew, Robert Newton, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology. An Historical Study of the Christian Ideal for the Present Life (Oxford 1968; 1st 1934).
  • Flogaus, R., Theosis bei Palamas und Luther (Gottingen 1997).
  • Flogaus, R., “Agreement on the Issues of Deification and Synergy?,” Luther Digest. An Annual Abridgement of Luther Studies 7 (1999): 99-105; English abridgement of “Einig in Sachen Theosis und Synergie?,” Kerygma und Dogma 42 (1996): 225-243.
  • Folliet, Georges, “’Deificari in otio,’ Augustin, Epistula 10.2,” Recherches Augustiniennes 2 (1962): 225-236.
  • Ford, David C., “Saint Makarios of Egypt and John Wesley. Variations on the Theme of Sanctification,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 33 (1988): 288.
  • Fortino, Eleuterio F., “Sanctification and Deification,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 17 (1982): 192-200.
  • Franks, R.S., “The Idea of Salvation in the Theology of the Eastern Church,” in Mansfield College Essays. Presented to Rev. Andrew Martin Fairbairn (London 1909): 249-264.
  • Frary, Joseph, “Deification and Human Freedom,” Sobornost (London) 7 (1975): 117-126.
  • Gross, Jules, La divinisation du Chretien d’apres les peres Grecs (Paris 1938). Recently translated.
  • Gross, Jules, “Die Vergottlichung des Christen nach den grieschischen Vatern,” Zeitschrift fur Askese und Mystik 14 (1939): 79-94.
  • Hartin, Patrick J., “Call to be Perfect through Suffering (James 1.2-4). The Concept of Perfection in the Epistle of James and the Sermon on the Mount,” Biblica (Rome) 77 (1996): 477-492.
  • Hartnett, Joanne J., Doctrina S. Bonaventurae de deiformitate (Mundelein 1936).
  • Heine, Ronald E., Perfection in the Virtuous Life A Study in the Relationship between Edification and Polemical Theology in Gregory of Nyssa’s De Vita Moysis (Philadelphia 1975).
  • Heintjes, J., “De opgang van den manschelijken Geest tot God volgens sint Maximus Confessor,” Bijdragen van de Philosophische en Theologische Faculteiten der Nederlandsche Jezuieten 5 (1942): 260-302; 6 (1943): 64-123.
  • Hess, Hamilton, “The Place of Divinization in Athanasian Soteriology,” Studia Patristica 26 (1993): 369-374.
  • Hinlicky, Paul R., “Theological Anthropology. Toward integrating theosis and Justification by Faith,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 34 (1997): 38-73.
  • Janssens, L., “Notre filiation divine d’apres S. Cyrille d’ Alexandrie,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensae 15 (1938): 233-78.
  • Jenson, Robert W., Triune Identity (Philadelphia 1982): 103-148.
  • Jenson, Robert W., “Theosis,” Dialog. A Journal of Theology (St. Paul, Minn.) 32 (1993): 108-112.
  • Kamppuri, Hannu T., editor, Dialogue between Neighbors. The Theological Conversations between the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland and the Russian Orthodox Church 1970-1986 (Helsinki 1986), passim.
  • Kamppuri, Hannu T., “Theosis in the Theology of Gregory Palamas,” in Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 153-6.
  • Kantorowicz, Ernst H., “Deus per naturam, Deus per gratiam. A Note on Mediaeval Political Theology,” Harvard Theological Review 45 (1952): 253-77.
  • Khairallah, Philip A., “The Sanctification of Life,” Emmanuel 96 (1990): 323-333; 394-397; 403-406.
  • Kinghorn, Kenneth C., “Holiness: The Central Plan of God,” Evangelical Journal 15 (1997): 57-70.
  • Kolp, A. L., “Partakers of the Divine Nature. The Use of II Peter 1.4 by Athanasius,” Studia Patristica 17 (1979): 1018-1023.
  • Kretschmar, Georg, “The Reception of the Orthodox Teaching of Divinization in Protestant Theology,” in Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990): 61-80; English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 156-9.
  • Ladner, Gerhard T., “St. Augustine’s Conception of the Reformation of Man to the Image of God,” Augustinus Magister 2 (Paris 1954): 867-888.
  • Ladner, Gerhart B., The Idea of Reform. Its impact on Christian Thought and Action in the Age of the Fathers (Harvard 1959).
  • Larchet, Jean-Claude, La Divinisation de l’homme selon Saint Maxime le Confesseur (Paris 1996).
  • Lattey, Cuthbert, “The Deification of man in Clement of Alexandria. Some further notes,” Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1916): 257-62.
  • Lawrenz, Melvin E., The Christology of John Chrysostom (Mellen Press 1996). Section entitled: “The Way of Salvation—Moral Accomplishment and Divinization:” 146-54.
  • Linforth, Ivan M., “’oi athanatizontes:’ (Herodotus 4.93-96),” Classical Philology 13 (1918): 23-33.
  • Lossky, Vladimir, “Redemption and Deification,” in In the Image and Likeness of God (London 1975; New York 1974; from the French of 1967): 97-110; article first published as “Redemption et deification,” in Messager de l’Exarchat du Patrarche russe en Europe occidental 15 (1953): 161-70.
  • Lot-Borodine, Myrrha, La Deification de l’homme selon la doctrine des Peres grecs (Paris 1970), edited and introduced by Jean Danielou. These three articles were first published as “La Doctrine de la Deification dans l’Eglise Grecque jusqu’au xie Siecle,” Revue d’Histoire des Religions 105 (1932): 5-43; 106 (1932): 525-74; 107 (1933): 8-55; “La Doctrine de la Grace et de la Liberte dans l’Orthodoxie Greco-orientale,” Oecumenica 6 (1939); “La Beatitude dans l’Orient Chretien,” Dieu Vivant 15 (1950).
  • Lot-Borodine, Myrrha, “La grace deifiante des sacraments d’apres Nicolas Cabasilas,” Revue des sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques 25 (1936): 299-330; 26 (1937): 693-717.
  • Maddox, Randy L., “John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy. Influences, convergences and Differences,” The Asbury Theological Journal (Wilmore, Kentucky) 45 (1990): 29-53.
  • Mahe, J., S.J., “La sanctification d’apres saint Cyrille d’Alexandrie,” Revue d’histoire ecclesiastique 10 (1909): 30-40; 469-492.
  • Mannermaa, Tuomo, “Theosis as a subject of Finnish Luther Research,” Pro Ecclesia 4 (1995): 37-48; first published in Luther und Theosis: Vergottlichung als Thema der abendlandischen Theologie, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990): 11-26; an English abridgment appeared in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 145-9.
  • Mantzaridis, Georgios, The Deification of Man. St. Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition, translated by Liadain Sherrard (New York 1984).
  • Marquart, Kurt E., “Luther and Theosis,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 64 (Fort Wayne, Indiana 2000): 182-205.
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  • Marshall, Bruce D., “Justification as Declaration and Deification,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 4.1 (March 2002): 3-28.
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  • McDonnell, Kilian, The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. The Trinitarian and Cosmic Order of Salvation (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 1996). Chapter 9: “Taking the Robe of Glory from the Jordan--Divinization”; Chapter 10: “The Cosmic Jordan and the Robe of Glory—Divinization and Eschatology,” 128-55; and passim.
  • McGuckin, John A., St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy. Its history, theology and texts (E.J. Brill 1994). Chapter Three: “The Christology of Cyril: 1. Redemptive Deification: Cyril’s presuppositions and major concerns”: 175-226.
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  • Messner, R., “Rechtfertigung und Vergottlichung—und die Kirche. Zur okumenischen Bedeutung neuerer Tendenzen in der Lutherforschung,” Zeitschrift fur katholische Theologie 118 (1996): 23-35.
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  • Meyendorff, John, “Theosis in the Eastern Christian Tradition,” in Christian Spirituality III: Post Reformation and Modern, ed. Louis Dupre and Don Saliers (New York 1989): 470-6.
  • Moore, D. Marselle, “Development in Wesley’s thought on Sanctification and Perfection,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 20 (1985): 29-53.
  • Morse, Jonathan, “Fruits of the Eucharist: Henosis and Theosis,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 17 (1982): 127-42.
  • Mosser, Carl, “The Greatest possible blessing: Calvin and deification,” Scottish Journal of Theology 55.1 (2002): 36-57.
  • Musurillo, Herbert, From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, with Introduction by Jean Danielou (New York 1979).
  • Nellas, Panayiotis, Deification in Christ: Orthodox Perspectives on the Nature of the Human Person, translated by Norman Russell (New York 1987).
  • Newman, John Henry Cardinal, Select Treatises of St. Athanasius in Controversy with the Arians (1895; 1st 1841 ff.). Chapter on Deification.
  • Nispel, Mark D., “Christian Deification and the Early Testimonia,” Vigiliae Christianae 53 (1999): 289-304. Based on Master’s Thesis, University of Nebraska.
  • Nock, Arthur Darby, review article, in Journal of Religion 31 (1951): 214-6.
  • Norman, Keith E., Deification: The Content of Athanasian Soteriology, Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University 1980.
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  • Oroz Reta, Jose, “De l’illumination a la deification de l’ame selon saint Augustin,” Studia Patristica 27 (1993): 364-82.
  • O’Collins, Gerald, S.J., Christology. A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (Oxford University Press 1995). Passim
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  • O’Shea, Kevin F., “Divinization: a Study in Theological Analogy,” The Thomist 29 (1965): 1-45.
  • Perkins, Harold William, The Doctrine of Christian or Evangelical Perfection (London 1927).
  • Peura, Simo, “Participation in Christ according to Luther,” in Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 164-8.
  • Peura, Simo, “The Deification of Man as Being in God,” Luther Digest 5 (1997): 168-72; English abridgment of “Die Vergottlichung des Menschen als Sein in God,” Lutherjahrbuch 60 (1993): 39-71.
  • Phan, Peter C., Grace and the Human Condition (Michael Glazier 1988): 132-138; 171-176.
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  • Places, Eduard des, “Divinization,” Dictionnaire de Spiritualite 3 (Paris 1957): columns 1370-1375.
  • Plass, Paul, “Transcendent Time in Maximus the Confessor,” The Thomist 44 (1980): 259-77.
  • Plass, Paul, “’Moving Rest’ in Maximus the Confessor,” Classica et Mediaevalia 35 (1984): 177-90.
  • Popov, I.V., “Ideja obozenija v drevne-vostocnoi cerkvi” (‘The idea of divinization in the Ancient Eastern Church’), in Voprosi filosofij i psixogij 97 (1909): 165-213.
  • Posset, Franz, “’Deification’ in the German Spirituality of the Late Middle Ages and in Luther: An Ecumenical Historical Perspective,” Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte 84 (1993): 103-25.
  • Preuss, K.F.A., Ad Maximi Confessoris de Deo hominisque deificatione doctrinam abnotationum pars I (Schneeberg 1894).
  • Rakestraw, Robert V., “Becoming like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 257-69.
  • Randenborg, G. van, Vergottung und Erlosung (Berlin).
  • Rechtfertigung und Verherrlichung (Theosis) des Menschen durch Jesus Christus (‘Justification and Glorification (Theosis) of the Human Person through Jesus Christ’) (Germany, 1995).
  • Ritschl, Dietrich, “Hippolytus’ Conception of Deification,” Scottish Journal of Theology 12 (1959): 388-99.
  • Rius-Camps, J., El dinamismo trinitario en la divinizacion de los seres racionales segun Origenes (Rome 1970).
  • Rondet, Henri, The Grace of Christ (Newman Press 1967; Paris 1948). Chapter Five: “The Greek Fathers: The Divinization of the Christian”: 65-88; and passim.
  • Rondet, Henri, S.J., “La divinization du Chretien,” Nouvelle Revue Theologique, 71 (1949): 449-476; 561-588; reprinted and expanded in Rondet, Essais sur la Theologie de la Grace (Paris 1964): 107-200.
  • Rufner, V., “Homo secundus Deus,” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 63 (1955): 248-91.
  • Rusch, William G., “How the Eastern Fathers understood what the Western Church meant by Justification,” Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, ed. H.G. Andersen, T. A. Murphy, J. A. Burgess (Augsburg Press 1985): 131-142, notes 347-8.
  • Russell, Norman, “’Partakers of the Divine Nature’ (II Peter 1.4) in the Byzantine Tradition,” in J. Hussey Festschrift (1998). off-site
  • Ryk, Marta, “The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Deification of Man according to Contemporary Orthodox Theology,” Diakonia (Fordham University) 10 (1975): 24-39; 109-130.
  • Saarinen, Risto, Faith and Holiness. Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogues 1959-1994 (Gottingen 1997).
  • Saarinen, Risto, “Salvation in the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue. A Comparative Perspective,” Pro Ecclesia 5 (1996): 202-213.
  • Saarinen, Risto, “The Presence of God in Luther’s Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 8 (1994): 3-13.
  • Salvation in Christ. A Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, ed. John Meyendorff and Robert Tobias (Minneapolis 1992)
  • Sartorius, B., La doctrine de la deification de l’homme d’apres les Peres grecs en general et Gregoire Palamas en particulier, (Doctoral Thesis, Geneva 1965).
  • Schmitz-Perrin, Rudolf, “’Theosis hoc est deification’. Depassement et paradoxe de l’apophase chez Jean Scot Erigene,” Revue des sciences religieuses 72 (1998): 420-445.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, From Death to Life. The Christian Journey (Ignatius Press 1995; 1st German 1988). Chapter Two: “Is Man to become God? On the meaning of the Christian Doctrine of Deification”: 41-63, and passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, God’s Human Face: The Christ-Icon (Ignatius Press 1994; 1st French 1976, 1978; 2nd German 1984). Passim.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “L’homme est-il fait pour devenir Dieu? Notes sur le sense chretien de la ‘deification’ or ‘divinisation’ de l’homme,’ Omnis Terra 22 (1983): 53-64.
  • Schonborn, Christoph, “Uber die richtige Fassung des dogmatischen Begriffs der Vergottlichung des Menschen,” Jahrbuch fur Philosophie und Spekulative Theologie (Freiburg) 34 (1987): 3-47.
  • Schurr, George M., “On the Logic of Ante-Nicene affirmations of the ‘Deification’ of the Christian,” Anglican Theological Review 51 (1969): 97-105.
  • Schwarzwaller, Klaus, “Verantwortung des Glaubens,” in Freiheit als Liebe bei Martin Luther, ed. Dennis Bielfeldt and Klaus Schwarzwaller (Frankfurt, 1995): 133-158.
  • Sheldon-Williams, I. P., review article of M. Lot-Borodine, La Deification de l’Homme, in Downside Review 89 (1971): 90-93.
  • Slenczka, Reinhard, “Communion with God as Foundation and object of theology--deification as an ontological problem,” Luther und Theosis, ed. Simo Peura and Antti Raunio (Helsinki 1990); English abridgment in Luther Digest 3 (1995): 149-53.
  • Snyder, Howard A., ”John Wesley and Macarius the Egyptian,” The Asbury Theological Journal (Wilmore, Kentucky) 45 (1990): 55-60.
  • Staniloae, Dumitru, “Image, Likeness, and Deification in the Human Person,” Communio 13 (1986): 64-83.
  • Steely, John E., Gnosis: The Doctrine of Christian Perfection in the Writings of Clement of Alexandria (Th. D. Dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky 1954).
  • Stephen E. Robinson, "The Doctrine of Deification," in Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993),60–65. off-site FAIR link
  • Stolz, Anselm, The Doctrine of Spiritual Perfection (St. Louis 1946; 1st German).
  • Stoop, Jan A. A., Die Deification Hominis in Die Sermones en Epistolae van Augustinus (Leiden 1952).
  • Strange, C. Roderick, “Athanasius on Divinization,” Studia Patristica 16 (1985): 342-346.
  • Stuckwisch, Richard, “Justification and Deification in the Dialogue between the Tubingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremias II,” Logia. A Journal of Lutheran Theology 9 (2000): 17-28. off-site
  • Telepneff, Gregory, and James Thornton, “Arian Transcendence and the Notion of Theosis in Saint Athanasios,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32 (1987): 271-77.
  • Theodorou, A., “Die Lehre von der Vergottung des Menschen bei den grieschischen Kirchenvater,” Kerygma und Dogma (Zeitschrift fur theologische Forschung und Kirchliche lehre) 7 (1961): 283-310.
  • Thunberg, Lars, Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor (Open Court 1995; 1st Sweden 1965): especially 427-32.
  • Thuren, Jukka, “Justification and participation in the Divine Nature,” Teologinen Aikakauskirja (Theological Journal of Finland: 1977): 483-99.
  • Tsirpanlis, Constantine N., Greek Patristic Theology, Volume I: Basic Doctrine in Eastern Church Fathers (New York 1979); Chapter entitled: “Aspects of Athanasian Soteriology”: 25-40.
  • Turcescu, Lucian, “Soteriological Issues in the 1999 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification: an Orthodox Perspective,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38.1 (2001): 64-72.
  • Turner, H.E.W., The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption. A Study of the Development of Doctrine during the First Five Centuries (London 1952).
  • Union with Christ. The new Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans 1998). Several papers, by Mannermaa, Peura, Raunio, Juntunen, Jenson, Braaten, Bielfeldt, all dealing with Theosis.
  • Vandervelde, George, “Justification and Deification—Problematic Synthesis: A Response to Lucian Turcescu”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 38.1 (2001): 73-78.
  • Volz, Carl A., Faith and Practice in the Early Church. Foundations for Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis 1983). Volz has a section entitled “Christ, the Giver of Deification”: 76-9.
  • Wakefield, Gordon S., “Perfection,” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Gordon S. Wakefield (Philadelphia 1983): 297-9.
  • Walland, F., La grazia divinizzante (Asti 1949).
  • Watson, Nicholas, “Melting into God the English Way: Deification in the Middle English Version of Marguerite Porete’s Mirouer des simples ames anienties,” in Prophets Abroad. The Reception of Continental Holy Women in late Medieval England, ed. Rosalynn Voader (Cambridge 1996): 19-49.
  • Wesche, Kenneth Paul, “Eastern Orthodox Spirituality: Union with God in Theosis,” Theology Today (Princeton, NJ) 56 (1999): 29-43.
  • Wesche, Kenneth Paul, “The Union of God and man in Jesus Christ in the Thought of Gregory of Nazianzus,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 28 (1982): 83-98.
  • Weser, H., S. Maximi Confessoris praecepta de incarnatione Dei et deificatione hominis exponuntur et examinantur (Dissertation, Berlin 1869).
  • Wild, P. T., Divinization of Man according to St. Hilary of Poitiers (Mundelein 1950).
  • Williams, A.N., “Deification in the Summa Theologiae. A Structural Interpretation of the Prima Pars,” The Thomist 61 (1997): 219-255.
  • Williams, A.N., “Light from Byzantium: The Significance of Palamas’ Doctrine of Theosis,” Pro Ecclesia 3 (1994): 483-496.
  • Williams, Anna Ngaire, The Ground of Union. Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford University Press 1999).
  • Williams, Rowan, “Deification,” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Gordon S. Wakefield (Philadelphia 1983): 106-8.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia, “A Note on the Iconoclastic Controversy: Greek and Latin disagreements about Matter and Deification,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 18 (1980): 139-48.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia, “Grace as participation in the Divine Life in the Theology of Augustine of Hippo,” Augustinian Studies 7 (1976): 135-52.
  • Winslow, Donald F., Dynamics of Salvation: A Study of Gregory of Nazianzus (1979); Passim.
  • Wolters, Al, “’Partners of the Deity:’ A Covenantal Reading of II Peter 1.4,” Calvin Theological Journal 25 (1990): 28-44; with postscript 26 (1991): 418-420
  • Zwanepol, Klaas, “Luther en Theosis,” Luther-Bulletin. Tijdschrift voor interconfessioneel Lutheronderzoek 2 (1993): 48-73; English abridgment in Luther Digest 5 (1995): 177-81.
Navigators


Notes

  1. Arthur C. Custance, "Abraham and His Princess," Hidden Things of God's Revelation (Zondervan, 1977), off-site ISBN 0310230217.
  2. See, for example, the examples of the Egyptian midwives and Moses discussed here.
  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
Articles about Latter-day Saint temples

The Bible/Scripture interpretation

Question: Was the temple obsolete after Christ?

There is no evidence that the early Christian apostles abandoned the use of the temple. Indeed, they embraced it, and continued to use it for the appearance of the Risen Lord

Some Christians charge that Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection meant that the temple was to be removed from Christian worship—the Atonement made the temple superfluous. Therefore, they criticize the LDS for persisting with temple worship. Some claim that the veil in the temple becoming rent in twain after the crucifixion of Christ indicates that the temple was no longer to be used.

There is no evidence that the early Christian apostles abandoned the use of the temple. Indeed, they embraced it, and continued to use it for the appearance of the Risen Lord, and the receipt of prophetic calls.

It is not surprising that Christians have since down-played the importance of the temple, since most do not have one. No one would want to admit they are missing an important part of the gospel. But, if Paul and other apostles valued and honored the temple, why do critics attack the Latter-day Saints for doing the same?

BYU Professor William J. Hamblin wrote:

Unfortunately for [critics] it is quite clear that the New Testament apostles continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple after Christ's ascension (Acts 2:46, 3:1-10, 5:20-42). Even Paul worshipped there (Acts 21:26-30, 22:17, 24:6-18, 25:8, 26:21). Paul is explicitly said to have performed purification rituals (Acts 21:26, 24:18), and prayed in the temple (22:17, cf. 3:1); he claims that he has not offended "against the temple," implying he accepts its sanctity (25:8). Indeed, Paul also offered sacrifice (prosfora) in the temple (21:26, cf. Numbers 6:14-18), a very odd thing for him to do if the temple had been completely superceded after Christ's ascension. Finally, and most importantly, Paul had a vision of Christ ("The Just One" ton dikaion) in the temple (Acts 22:14-21), paralleling Old Testament temple theophanies, and strongly implying a special sanctity in the temple, where God still appears to men even after Christ's ascension.[1]

Hamblin elaborated further on Paul's vision of Christ in the temple during which he received his prophetic call:

Ananias says Paul will "see the Just One." (Acts 22:14)
Paul then goes to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17)
"When I [Paul] was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance" (Acts 22:17)
Then he sees Christ/The Just One (Acts 22:18)
Christ tells him to leave Jerusalem (Acts 22:18) and go preach to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).[2]

Hamblin then illustrates that Paul continued to offer "sin offerings" in the temple after his conversion to Christanity:

Paul’s prosfora was participation in the fulfillment of a Nazarite vow taken by four men (Acts 21:21-26). The sacrifices required to fulfill this vow are described in Numbers 6:13-18. They include making a “sin offering” (Numbers 6:14). Therefore, Paul’s prosfora included a sin offering. (See Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 3rd ed, p. 443-8.) Furthermore, Christ’s sacrifice is called a prosfora in Hebrews 10:10,14,18, and is directly correlated to the temple sin offerings (Acts 10:3-9). Given all this, it is rather blatant special pleading to claim that Paul’s prosfora in the temple did not include a sin offering.[3]

One respected non-LDS scholar notes the connection between certain biblical language and the temple concept:

In general, any cultic activity to which the biblical text applies the formula 'before the Lord' can be considered an indication of the existence of a temple at the site, since this expression ... belongs to the temple's technical terminology.[4]

The phrase “Before the Lord” can be found in 2 Timothy 2:14 and 2 Peter 2:11.


Notes

  1. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairbords.org (30 September 2006 15h03), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link (All quotes have been edited to insert hotlinks to scripture references.)
  2. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairbords.org (30 September 2006 12h47), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link
  3. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairboards.org (30 September 2006 15h52), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link
  4. Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School (Eisenbrauns; Reprint edition, 1985[1979]), 26.


Question: Does Acts 17:24-25 teach that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity?

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple

It is claimed that Acts 17꞉24-25 teaches that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity,[1] when Paul says:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple. Paul's remarks about temples "made with hands" were designed to counter the pagan idea that god(s) could only be worshiped in temples, and that they were confined to such man-made structures.

In the scripture cited above, Paul is addressing Greeks (the Athenians) and their temple "to an unknown god". Paul's point is that God does not swell solely in a physical object, like the temple of Athena at Athens (see Acts 7꞉48). This is not to say that there is no temple where the true God can be worshiped—Paul respected the temple and even underwent ritual purification after one of his missionary journeys (Acts 21꞉26-27). The early Christians also continued to show great reverence to the Jerusalem temple. Rather, Paul argued that God is the God of the whole world and can be worshipped at all times and at all places.

An analysis of the Greek text also supports this view, since the term, "made with hands" likely refers to idolatrous worship.

The expression "made with hands" is defined as follows: in

4654 χειροποίητος
χειροποίητος,
“made by hands,” in the [Septuagint] applied only to idols, but in the NT used of material temples (Acts 7:48, 17:24): cf. Orac. Sib. xiv. 62 ναῶν ἱδρύματα χειροποιήτων. In the travel-letter, P Lond 8544 (i/ii A.D.) (=111. p. 205, Selections, p. 70), the writer remarks that many go by ship ἵνα τὰς χει]ropοι]ήτους τέ]χνας ἱστορήσωσι, “in order that they may visit works of art made by hands,” on the banks of the Nile.[2]

The term appears, in the same form, in Acts 7:48:

ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει· (BGT)

The NRSV reads:

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, (Act 7꞉48 NRS)
Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • "Dr." James White, "Temples Made With Hands," Alpha & Omega web site, e-tract.

Notes

  1. "Dr." James White, "Temples Made With Hands," e-tract. off-site
  2. G. Milligan and J.H. Moulton, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Baker Academic, 1995), 687. ISBN 978-0801047206.
Articles about Latter-day Saint temples

The Bible/Scripture interpretation

Question: Was the temple obsolete after Christ?

There is no evidence that the early Christian apostles abandoned the use of the temple. Indeed, they embraced it, and continued to use it for the appearance of the Risen Lord

Some Christians charge that Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection meant that the temple was to be removed from Christian worship—the Atonement made the temple superfluous. Therefore, they criticize the LDS for persisting with temple worship. Some claim that the veil in the temple becoming rent in twain after the crucifixion of Christ indicates that the temple was no longer to be used.

There is no evidence that the early Christian apostles abandoned the use of the temple. Indeed, they embraced it, and continued to use it for the appearance of the Risen Lord, and the receipt of prophetic calls.

It is not surprising that Christians have since down-played the importance of the temple, since most do not have one. No one would want to admit they are missing an important part of the gospel. But, if Paul and other apostles valued and honored the temple, why do critics attack the Latter-day Saints for doing the same?

BYU Professor William J. Hamblin wrote:

Unfortunately for [critics] it is quite clear that the New Testament apostles continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple after Christ's ascension (Acts 2:46, 3:1-10, 5:20-42). Even Paul worshipped there (Acts 21:26-30, 22:17, 24:6-18, 25:8, 26:21). Paul is explicitly said to have performed purification rituals (Acts 21:26, 24:18), and prayed in the temple (22:17, cf. 3:1); he claims that he has not offended "against the temple," implying he accepts its sanctity (25:8). Indeed, Paul also offered sacrifice (prosfora) in the temple (21:26, cf. Numbers 6:14-18), a very odd thing for him to do if the temple had been completely superceded after Christ's ascension. Finally, and most importantly, Paul had a vision of Christ ("The Just One" ton dikaion) in the temple (Acts 22:14-21), paralleling Old Testament temple theophanies, and strongly implying a special sanctity in the temple, where God still appears to men even after Christ's ascension.[1]

Hamblin elaborated further on Paul's vision of Christ in the temple during which he received his prophetic call:

Ananias says Paul will "see the Just One." (Acts 22:14)
Paul then goes to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17)
"When I [Paul] was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance" (Acts 22:17)
Then he sees Christ/The Just One (Acts 22:18)
Christ tells him to leave Jerusalem (Acts 22:18) and go preach to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).[2]

Hamblin then illustrates that Paul continued to offer "sin offerings" in the temple after his conversion to Christanity:

Paul’s prosfora was participation in the fulfillment of a Nazarite vow taken by four men (Acts 21:21-26). The sacrifices required to fulfill this vow are described in Numbers 6:13-18. They include making a “sin offering” (Numbers 6:14). Therefore, Paul’s prosfora included a sin offering. (See Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 3rd ed, p. 443-8.) Furthermore, Christ’s sacrifice is called a prosfora in Hebrews 10:10,14,18, and is directly correlated to the temple sin offerings (Acts 10:3-9). Given all this, it is rather blatant special pleading to claim that Paul’s prosfora in the temple did not include a sin offering.[3]

One respected non-LDS scholar notes the connection between certain biblical language and the temple concept:

In general, any cultic activity to which the biblical text applies the formula 'before the Lord' can be considered an indication of the existence of a temple at the site, since this expression ... belongs to the temple's technical terminology.[4]

The phrase “Before the Lord” can be found in 2 Timothy 2:14 and 2 Peter 2:11.


Notes

  1. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairbords.org (30 September 2006 15h03), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link (All quotes have been edited to insert hotlinks to scripture references.)
  2. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairbords.org (30 September 2006 12h47), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link
  3. Bill Hamblin, "Veil of Temple Rent in Twain," post to fairboards.org (30 September 2006 15h52), last accessed 3 October 2006. FAIR link
  4. Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School (Eisenbrauns; Reprint edition, 1985[1979]), 26.


Question: Does Acts 17:24-25 teach that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity?

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple

It is claimed that Acts 17꞉24-25 teaches that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity,[1] when Paul says:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple. Paul's remarks about temples "made with hands" were designed to counter the pagan idea that god(s) could only be worshiped in temples, and that they were confined to such man-made structures.

In the scripture cited above, Paul is addressing Greeks (the Athenians) and their temple "to an unknown god". Paul's point is that God does not swell solely in a physical object, like the temple of Athena at Athens (see Acts 7꞉48). This is not to say that there is no temple where the true God can be worshiped—Paul respected the temple and even underwent ritual purification after one of his missionary journeys (Acts 21꞉26-27). The early Christians also continued to show great reverence to the Jerusalem temple. Rather, Paul argued that God is the God of the whole world and can be worshipped at all times and at all places.

An analysis of the Greek text also supports this view, since the term, "made with hands" likely refers to idolatrous worship.

The expression "made with hands" is defined as follows: in

4654 χειροποίητος
χειροποίητος,
“made by hands,” in the [Septuagint] applied only to idols, but in the NT used of material temples (Acts 7:48, 17:24): cf. Orac. Sib. xiv. 62 ναῶν ἱδρύματα χειροποιήτων. In the travel-letter, P Lond 8544 (i/ii A.D.) (=111. p. 205, Selections, p. 70), the writer remarks that many go by ship ἵνα τὰς χει]ropοι]ήτους τέ]χνας ἱστορήσωσι, “in order that they may visit works of art made by hands,” on the banks of the Nile.[2]

The term appears, in the same form, in Acts 7:48:

ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει· (BGT)

The NRSV reads:

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, (Act 7꞉48 NRS)
Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • "Dr." James White, "Temples Made With Hands," Alpha & Omega web site, e-tract.

Notes

  1. "Dr." James White, "Temples Made With Hands," e-tract. off-site
  2. G. Milligan and J.H. Moulton, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Baker Academic, 1995), 687. ISBN 978-0801047206.

Question: Is original sin a biblical doctrine?

Many authors have noted that the modern doctrine of "original sin" is at variance with much of both the Old and New Testament

James Barr wrote:

Our ideas about the origin of evil have an effect on our ideas about humanity and its potentialities and limitations in the present-day world” (59-60)...

For the traditional Christian conception of the origins of evil, the dominant passages are in St. Paul [Rom 5.12; 5.18; I Cor 15.21-22, 47, 49]….

The most noticeable thing about them is the stress they throw upon the disobedience of Adam…. Its effect was instant and completely catastrophic. There is no matter of degree or development. The slightest sin was total and universal in its effect: sin, it seems, completely, and not partially, altered man’s relation to God…. Later theologians worked out, on this basis, the doctrine of original sin” (60-1).

“All this has been the familiar and traditional Christian position. It is so familiar, so deeply implanted in our traditions, that it comes as something of a surprise to realize that it is after all a rather rare emphasis within the New Testament itself; and, in particular, it is an emphasis that seems to be lacking from the teaching of Jesus himself….

There is no doctrine of original sin to be found in Jesus’ teaching…. And, if it is not in Jesus’ teaching, it is equally absent from many other parts of the New Testament…. It is intrinsically Pauline” (61-2).

“Nowhere in the entire Hebrew Bible is the disobedience of Adam and Eve cited as explanation for sin or evil in the world. This reference…simply does not occur…. The Old Testament, far from taking the universal sinfulness of man as an obvious and ineluctable fact, seems rather, taken as a whole, to insist upon the possibility of avoiding sin” (67).

“The main Jewish tradition, as we know it since the Middle Ages, has refused to accept any sort of doctrine of original sin…. Moral problems are serious choices for the Jew, and they are serious choices because one has freedom to sin or not to sin. There is indeed the idea of the two yesers, formations or inclinations, the good and the bad, both of which are implanted in man and between which he has to choose…. Adam, like the other men of the first beginnings, was often regarded with admiration: he was a very great man. As Ben Sira put it, looking back over the worthies of the Bible who should be remembered: ‘Shem and Seth were honored among men but Adam is above every living being in the creation’ [Ecclesiasticus 49.16]” ;(68). “all this then raises the serious question: was St. Paul really at all right in his understanding the story of Adam and Eve as the cataclysmic entrance of sin and death?” (69). [1]

A better question may be, is the understanding of St. Paul adopted by the western Christian tradition actually correct? Where did this reading of Paul come from? Why would "Paul's" conception of original sin vary so profoundly from both the Jewish and New Testament tradition?

Interestingly, it all starts with one man, well after the death of Jesus and the apostles—Augustine of Hippo.


Question: Is Mormon insistence on baptism as an essential ordinance of salvation "unChristian" or "unbiblical"?

Biblical data and early Christians are unanimous that baptism was regarded as an essential commandment

Evangelical Christians argue that the LDS insistence on baptism as an essential ordinance of salvation is "unChristian" or "unbiblical." However, the Biblical data and early Christians are unanimous that baptism was regarded as an essential commandment. Baptism manifests an inner state of faith in and repentance through Christ. The physical act does not save, but one cannot be saved without it.

Astonishing as it may seem given the prominence of baptism in the New Testament, some Christian groups deny the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. This usually arises out of a conviction that baptism is "a work," and thus cannot play any necessary role in salvation. [2]

Biblical evidence

Those who hold such views usually provide a variety of proof-texts, and ignore other Biblical commands for baptism. We will look at examples of both below.

Luke 3:3

And he [John the Baptist] came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

McKeever and Johnson write of this verse

"And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." The word for (Greek: eis) in "for the remission of sins" can mean with a view to or because of. Those who responded to John's invitation of baptism had already heard his message of coming judgment and of the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). They responded to baptism based on the convicting message they had already heard. The word eis is also translated at in Matthew 12:41, where it says the men of Nineveh "repented at the preaching of Jonas." Did the men of Nineveh repent in order to get the preaching of Jonas? Or did they repent because of the preaching of Jonas? The latter, of course, is the proper answer. [3]

None of the translations which we have consulted translate Luke 3:3 as the authors suggest it should be. Most all translations use "for" while a few use "unto" or "to the remission of sins." Latter-day Saints agree that a remission of sins only comes by repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ and baptism itself is just a symbolic ordinance, but a necessary one nonetheless. It should be noted also that the authors make no comment on the fact that much of Christianity—including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches—disagree with their view regarding the necessity of baptism.

John 3:5-6

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

The same authors comment on John 3:5-6:

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We must ask what being "born of water" would have meant to Nicodemus. In his commentary on John, Leon Morris writes:
"Nicodemus could not possibly have perceived an allusion to an as yet non-existent sacrament. It is difficult to think that Jesus would have spoken in such a way that His meaning could not possibly be grasped. His purpose was not to mystify but to enlighten. In any case the whole thrust of the passage is to put the emphasis on the activity of the Spirit, not on any rite of the church."
The emphasis throughout the passage is on the Spirit, with no other reference to water. Verse 6 shows that, as each of us has had a physical birth, so we must have a spiritual birth to enter the kingdom of God. [4]

The authors imply that Latter-day Saints de-emphasize the baptism of the Spirit but Joseph Smith taught that "The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected." [5] The authors themselves seem to be ignoring the fact that Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The "and" infers that both are necessary and connected. It is obvious that Nicodemus did not understand what the Lord was teaching him, but just 16 verses later John tells us, "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing." [6] To infer that baptism was a non-existent sacrament at this point seems unjustified. Notice that John 3:22 mentions Jesus and his disciples baptizing first while the other gospels mention John the Baptist baptizing first. It seems as though the Gospel of John is not as concerned with chronological accuracy at this point. Thus, whether the Lord's encounter with Nicodemus preceded or followed the start of John's preaching is unknown. These verses speak of baptism as if it is not something new—a concept critics who deny the necessity of baptism seem loathe to accept. The fact that none of the Gospels explains the ordinance of baptism and that the name "John the Baptist" is used by Matthew even before baptism is mentioned, seems to infer that baptism was not new. As to the necessity of baptism, it will be shown shortly that there are plenty of other scriptures which emphasize this requirement.

Acts 2:38

The authors comment on Acts 2:38:

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Just as in Luke 3:3, so Peter was encouraging his hearers to be baptized in view of the remission of sins they had received when they were cut to the heart by his message regarding the Christ. It is interesting to note that Peter made no reference to baptism in his next recorded sermon (see Acts 3:19). [7]

The authors again impose their own beliefs on this scripture. As with Luke 3:3, no Bible translations were found to justify their conclusion that a remission of sins preceded baptism here. We are told that following this first sermon: "they that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." [8] Why would so many be baptized if this was only an optional ordinance? Our authors infer that if baptism were essential, Peter should preach baptism in every recorded sermon he gave, but what if these sermons are only brief summaries? What if he did preach baptism and this concept was just not included in these 15 verses because a new concept was being emphasized in this chapter? We can go too far using assumptions to justify our beliefs and the authors seem to be doing just that. Their conclusions are built on flimsy assumptions and very little if any scholarship. It is apparent that the authors have made up their minds on this issue and are desperately searching for reasons why the obvious meaning of these passages must be wrong.

Other biblical data

The authors continue to nitpick Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13, and Romans 3:18-20 in the same manner. We will here only note that there are many more scriptures that could be cited on this subject (Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:4; Luke 7:30; Acts 8:12, Acts 10:48, Acts 16:33, and Acts 19:2-6; Hebrews 6:2; and 1 Peter 3:21, to cite just a few) and which the authors ignore.

One LDS author noted:

Scripture strictly associates the ordinance of baptism with the washing away of impurities or sins. John the Baptist affirmed this link by preaching "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Some Christians have tried to indicate that John's baptism was somehow different from later Christian baptisms, but this is contradicted by the scriptures and later authoritative statements. Peter instructed new converts on the day of Pentecost to "Repent, and be baptized, every one... in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Paul was likewise commanded of Ananias to "be baptized and wash away [his] sins" (Acts 22:16)....

The scriptures clearly state that baptism is a commandment. Luke reports that "the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of [John]" (Luke 7:30). Peter also "commanded" the Gentiles "to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48). And finally, the importance of this ordinance was emphasized by Christ in his last admonition to the eleven apostles to "Go… and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). If baptism was not essential, why then the command to baptize all nations?

If baptism is for the remission of our sins and is a commandment, it must also be essential to salvation. The scriptures clearly affirms this: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21). Paul affirms that Christ "saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5) while adding that baptism is the appointed way to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).

The Savior also clearly taught the link between baptism and salvation. Mark concludes his gospel with the Savior's teaching that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). [9]

The reader should note here that McKeever and Johnson make a very weak argument that,

If belief plus baptism truly equals salvation, then why wasn't this formula used when it says that a person who 'believeth not' would be condemned? To support the LDS position, this passage should read: 'he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned.' Taken at face value, this says that a lack of belief, not a lack of water baptism, is what damns a person. [10]

They never address why someone "that believeth not" would ever want to be baptized. Of course anyone who does not believe would never consider baptism. It's obvious that the authors believe this argument totally destroys the necessity of baptism in regard to salvation, but their own logic is just as obviously flawed.

Paul likewise emphasized both the importance of water baptism and the authority to baptize in Acts 19:2-6. Upon finding some disciples who were apparently baptized by an unauthorized individual, Paul rebaptizes them and lays his hands upon them to give them the gift of the Holy Ghost. If baptism were either optional or acceptable under any authority, rebaptism would not have been necessary in this circumstance. The disciples could have proceeded directly to confirmation (i.e. the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost) if this were the case, but instead they were first rebaptized. [11]

Evidence from early Christian authors

Ignatius

Ignatius of Antioch (AD ca. 35 or 50 to 98–117) wrote:

"It is not right either to baptize or to celebrate the agape [i.e., love feast or sacrament] apart from the bishop; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, so that everything you do may be secure and valid. [12]

Tertullian

Tertullian, in the first century after the death of Christ, stated that "There is no difference whether one is washed in a sea or a pool, in a river or in a fountain, in a lake or in a channel: nor is there any difference between those whom John dipped in the Jordan, and those whom Peter dipped in the Tiber…We are immersed in the water." [13]

On the necessity of the ordinance of baptism, Tertullian also taught the 'sole necessary way' of obtaining Christ's protection against evil was through baptism. [14] In fact it was universally believed in the Early Church that 'we obtain the benefits of Christ's sacrifice by baptism.' [15] Tertullian held that baptism was necessary for salvation. He also suggested that children not be "baptized until they reached years of discretion." [16]

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (ca. AD 150) said the following regarding baptism:

"Those who are persuaded and believe, and promise that they can live accordingly, are instructed to pray and beseech God with fasting for the remission of their sins, while we pray and fast along with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for then they are washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ said, 'unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of heaven' (John 3:3-4)." [17]

Those who contend that baptism in water is not necessary have asserted that "born of water" implies only the necessity of physical birth from the water within the womb. Justin Martyr made it clear that this was not the true meaning of this verse in the Second Century AD. In describing his practice of the baptismal ceremony, he explains, "After [repentance] they are led by us to where there is water, and are born again in that kind of new birth by which we ourselves were born again. For upon the name of God, the Father and Lord of all, and of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and of the Holy Spirit, the immersion in water is performed, because the Christ hath also said, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven'." [18] Thus, the early Christian Fathers understood that the "new birth" referred to baptism of water and not to one's physical birth. [19]

Justin also confirmed that "no one was allowed to partake [of the sacrament] except one who believes…and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth." [20]

Origen

Origen at about AD 220, taught baptismal candidates, "Go and repent, catechumens [those preparing for baptism by being instructed], if you want to receive baptism for the remission of your sins…. No one who is in a state of sin when he comes for baptism can obtain the remission of his sins." [21]

Cyprian

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in the middle part of the third century, stated that no one outside of the church could administer a valid baptism. [22]

The Didache

An early Christian document known as the Didache (The Teaching) states that baptism was the accepted rite of admission to the Church and "only those who have been baptized in the Lord's name" may partake of the sacrament. [23]

Others

J.N.D. Kelly also notes that Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Hippolytus believed that baptism was very important. "Clement of Alexandria speaks of baptism as imparting regeneration, enlightenment, divine sonship, immortality, [and] remission of sins [where] sonship…is the result of regeneration worked by the Spirit." Origen insisted on penitence, sincere faith, and humility "as prerequisites to baptism as well as gradual transformation of the soul. Hippolytus associated the remission of sins and reception of the Spirit with baptism. [24]

No actions allowed?

McKeever and Johnson conclude their arguments with the following bewildering assertion: "It needs to be remembered that baptism, like partaking of the Lord's Supper, is a work. It is something that an individual must personally perform. As such, it is not a requirement for receiving salvation under the guidelines of Ephesians 2:8-9." [25] By this same logic, we must exclude "calling on the name of the Lord" and repentance as requirements for salvation as well, since these are both "works" "that an individual must personally perform." Are the authors serious about this?

Further Reading

  • For further reading on the evidence of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, see commentary and cited literature at
Robert Boylan, "Baptism, Salvation, and the New Testament, Part 4: John 3:1-7" <http://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2015/04/baptism-salvation-and-new-testament.html>.

Indeed, baptismal regeneration does seem to be the consensus of early Church fathers and the Bible itself.

Modern revelation

Modern scriptures also confirm the role of baptism in the remission of sins (Alma 6꞉2; D&C 13; D&C 55꞉1-2; D&C 68꞉27; D&C 84꞉64, D&C 74; D&C 138꞉33; JS-H 1꞉69), though the actual cleansing is accomplished through Christ's atonement (Mosiah 3꞉11, Mosiah 18; Alma 7꞉14; D&C 20꞉37; D&C 76꞉41,69; Moses 6꞉59and reception of the Holy Ghost. [26]


Question: Is the Mormon doctrine of a "premortal existence" pagan, unchristian, or unbiblical, and therefore false?

Some Christians present alternate interpretations of selected scriptures that fit with their preconceived notions concerning where we came from, yet, they cannot really answer where we came from

Without an understanding of where we came from, it is difficult to understand why we are here and where we are going. While the teachings of sectarian critics may not answer these questions, we are fortunate to live in a time when the answers have been fully revealed by prophets, as in times of old.

The assertion made by critics of Mormonism is that those who believe in the Bible cannot believe in life before life. Such an assertion is evidenced through statements such as the following:

  • "…such teachings are perplexing to the Bible-believing Christian…"
  • "Mormons … are hard-pressed to find any biblical support for the very idea of preexistence."
  • "The Word of God certainly does not support the LDS concept that all humans are literal children of God."

One specific critical work issues the challenging statement "Until Mormons can show better proof of humanity's eternal existence, Christians are unable to agree with this extrabiblical teaching."[27]

Such a challenge, of course, should not go unanswered. Such challenges have been answered many times in the past, though those who raise the issue rarely acknowledge or address responses already made.[28]

The pre-mortal existence of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world is abundantly testified to in scripture

The pre-mortal existence of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world is abundantly testified to in scripture, both ancient and modern, and nothing in the chapter at hand gives rise to any question concerning the acceptance of the doctrine of Christ's ante-mortal existence. We will leave it to the reader to ponder whether Christ was not just our spiritual pattern, but also a literal pattern of the path that each of us tread as we make our way from our home with God, through this earth life, and back once more to the eternal realms.


Questions: What biblical evidence is there for a pre-mortal existence?

Critics cite three scriptures, asserting that the Latter-day Saints use them as biblical proofs for the concept of a premortal life

In the course of proffering a refutation of the LDS doctrine of a premortal life, critics cite three scriptures, asserting that the LDS use them as biblical proofs for the concept of a premortal life. The cited scriptures are Jeremiah 1:5; Job 38:4,7; and Ecclesiastes 12:7. The extent of the critics' rebuttal of these scriptures is to contend that the LDS interpretations are incorrect, and offer differing interpretations. A deeper examination of those scriptures, along with the interpretations of them, is certainly in order.

The Case of Jeremiah: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee"

In the case of Jeremiah 1:5, the critics assert that the scripture is a reference to God's foreknowledge, and not to a personal knowledge of humans. Granting that God has limitless foreknowledge does not preclude a personal knowledge of individual humans, however. The critics do not refute the possibility of such knowledge, instead opting to say (in effect) "No, that can't be it." Such assertions, while they may be comforting to the critics and sufficient in their own estimation, do not preclude the acceptability of the LDS interpretation of the scripture at hand.

It is hard to deny the specificity of words used in the Jeremiah passage:

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

Notice three key words here: knew, sanctified, and ordained. The wording itself indicates that God literally knew Jeremiah and was familiar with his spiritual attitudes and abilities. In addition, God sanctified Jeremiah, a description not of foreknowledge but of an actual event with participants present. The process of sanctification, or setting something apart as holy, by definition requires that something (such as Jeremiah himself) be present to be set apart. Likewise, the act of ordaining a person—in this case a prophet—requires that the individual be present. These acts—sanctification and ordination—are not mental exercises, but actual events.

Indeed, other modern Christian scholars have chosen to acknowledge the claim that Jeremiah 1:5 speaks of more than mere foreknowledge. In reference to the concept of premortal life, William de Arteaga stated:

"This question was hotly debated by Christians of late antiquity, and the faction of the Church which was bitterly opposed to preexistence gained the upper hand. By the sixth century belief in preexistence was declared heresy. All of this is quite astonishing in view of the clear and repeated biblical evidence for preexistence."[29]

The event referred to in the sixth century was an edict by Pope Vigilius in AD 543 that rejected the doctrine of preexistence taught by Origen of Alexandria. Historical records indicate that the edict, called Anathemas Against Origen, was actually penned by the Roman emperor, Justinian,[30] and signed by the pope and other bishops present at the Second Council of Constantinople.[31] Tales of the relationships between early popes and Roman emperors make for great reading. The relationship between Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian is no exception. Many records indicate that the anathemas declared against Origen had their roots in political posturing regarding doctrines of the early church. Regardless, many scholars regard the papal edict in AD 543 as the reason that the concept of preexistence is generally considered extrabiblical today. It is clear from the record that before this time the concept was freely taught by many within the church.

The Case of Job: ""Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?"

When it comes to the trials of Job and the discussions that God had with Job, it seems that the critics are actually the ones taking scripture out of context. They are quick to cite the rhetorical nature of the questions posed to Job, but slow to understand the concepts being conveyed by the Lord through such literary means. Just take a look at Job 38:1-7:

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

"Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

"Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

"Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

"When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

In the course of reproving Job, the Lord indicates several key pieces of knowledge. First of all, in verse four the Lord asks "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Such a question, by its very nature, implies that Job was somewhere. Why would God ask Job a question which was not instructive, and why would the ancient scribes include the discourse if something could not be learned? The critics indicate that the assertion that Job had to be somewhere (thereby supporting preexistence) presupposes that preexistence is a fact. Such circular reasoning can be just as easily applied to the position taken by the critics: one can only interpret the verse as saying that Job was not present when God laid the foundations of the earth if one presupposes that the spirits of men had no premortal life.

Thus, both interpretations can be seen to be on an equal footing when the singular verse is examined. The Lord, however, does not leave the matter alone for long. In further questioning Job, he asks (in essence) where Job was "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Here, again, is the assertion that Job had to be somewhere. Not just Job, however, but the morning stars and the sons of God. And these were not silent participants in the framing of the world, but singers and shouters, indicating they were possessed of independent capabilities of thought and action. Taken together, these two verses provide a strong case for the concept of a premortal life.

The Case of Ecclesiastes: "the spirit shall return unto God who gave it"

Finally, the critics indicate that Latter-day Saints see Ecclesiastes 12:7 as a reference to "the second leg of a 'round trip' passage." While this may be an amusing way to discredit the LDS concept, it is not nearly as easy to avoid the specific language of the verse:

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

The simple question remains as to how something could return to a point it had not been to before. If the scripture is best translated, as the authors assert, as only having reference to returning to a God who created the spirit,[32] then the only difference between their understanding and that of the LDS is a matter of timing. We believe that God created the spirit of man—just that it was done long before the mortal birth. Either way, the spirit still returns home to God.

But there is a deeper problem with the interpretation of this scripture offered by the critics. By rejecting the concept of premortal existence, the authors swallow the concept that the spirit of man springs into existence at some time between conception and birth.[33] If the scripture is to be interpreted literally, and as a parallel linguistic construction, then dust returns to dust, as it was without life, and spirit returns to its former uncreated condition, meaning without life as well. Thus, the problem is that the scripture could just as easily be used to justify a doctrine of there being no life after death.


Question: Did Jesus and the apostles believe in pre-mortal life?

"Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Note the exchange between Jesus and his disciples recorded in John 9:1–2:

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

"And his disciples asked him, saying Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Was this a rhetorical question on the part of the disciples? No, the question indicated that the disciples thought one possible answer to the blindness of the man was that he had sinned. Since he was born blind—a fact the record indicates that both Jesus and His disciples knew—then the wording of the question indicates that the sinning must have taken place before the birth of the man, by the man himself. How could the man have sinned, resulting in a punishment of being blind at birth, unless he had lived before he was born?

If the concept of a premortal life was in error, then the Master Teacher had a perfect opportunity to correct His students

Jesus' answer is recorded in John 9:3:

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Jesus then proceeded to heal the man, foregoing any opportunity to correct the concept of the man having lived before birth. Instead, He acknowledged the concept by saying that the man had not sinned.[34] In the words of one non-LDS scholar:

"The question posed by the disciples explicitly presupposed prenatal existence. It will be also noted that Christ says nothing to dispel or correct the presupposition. Here is incontrovertible support for a doctrine of human preexistence.

"It is perfectly reasonable to surmise on the basis of this episode that Jesus and his followers accepted preexistence and thought so little of it that the question of prenatal sin did not even call for an answer."[35]

There are other scriptures in the Bible that can be used to support the concept of a premortal life. Suffice it to say that for the time being, however, the words of God and Jesus may be sufficient to the task at hand. The critics' charges of taking scripture out of context notwithstanding, there is a reasonable basis for at least recognizing a biblical basis for the doctrine o