Section 14: The Bible and Mormon Writings- A Study in Contrasts

The Bible and Mormon Writings- A Study in Contrasts

Bible: Although the exact site is unknown, the Garden of Eden was probably in the Mesopotamian region by the Euphrates River.- Genesis 2:11-14.

"[T]he exact site is unknown." So, basically, "Our guess is better than your guess"? That's not really a contrast, is it? The passage in Genesis says:

The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

The factual attitude on the location of the Garden of Eden is described on the website Answers in Genesis, under the heading, "Where Was the Garden of Eden Located?"

Even the great theologian John Calvin struggled over the exact location of the Garden of Eden… Calvin recognized that the description given in Genesis 2 concerning the location of the Garden of Eden does not fit with what is observed regarding the present Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. God’s Word makes it clear that the Garden of Eden was located where there were four rivers coming from one head. No matter how one tries to fit this location in the Middle East today, it just can’t be done…

This is a major consideration that needs to be taken into account. The worldwide, catastrophic Flood of Noah’s day would have destroyed the surface of the earth. If most of the sedimentary strata over the earth’s surface (many thousands of feet thick in places) is the result of this global catastrophe as creationists believe, then we would have no idea where the Garden of Eden was originally located—the earth’s surface totally changed as a result of the Flood1.

Doctrine and Covenants: Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, U.S.A.- Doctrine and Covenants 57, as explained by President J.F.Smith.

The reference given here is bewildering. To begin with, D&C 57 has nothing to do with the location of the Garden of Eden. Second, where did Joseph F. Smith explain this connection to this section? Can we get a reference, please?

Considering that the earth was once one solid mass, known as Pangea, the Garden could have been anywhere. Those of us that accept modern revelation have an answer.

Neither biblical records nor secular history and archaeological research identify the dimensions or the location of the garden in terms of the present-day surface of the earth. Latter-day revelation specifies that as a mortal, Adam lived at Adam-ondi-Ahman in what is now Daviess County, Missouri… Several early LDS leaders, among them Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, stated that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught them that the Garden of Eden was located in what is now Jackson County, Missouri…2

Bible: The soul dies.- Ezekiel 18:4; Acts 3:23.

Ezekiel 18:4

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Acts 3:23

And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.

The Book of Mormon: "The soul could never die."- Alma 42:9.

It is convenient that this entire verse was not quoted here, since the remainder provides both a context and an explanation:

Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.

The apparent difference between these scriptures is purely based on interpretation. As Alma said, because we are human, we will all die. Christ's death and resurrection made possible the resurrection of our physical bodies. However, sin brings upon us the second, or spiritual, death which is the loss of the Holy Ghost and unworthiness to live in God's presence. For this, we have been given repentance.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bible: Jesus was born in Bethlehem.- Matthew 2:1-6.

The Book of Mormon: Jesus was to be born in Jerusalem.- Alma 7:10.

Matthew 2:1-6

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Alma 7:10

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

I currently live in Rancho Cordova, CA, but I tell people I am from Sacramento. Am I lying? No, because Rancho Cordova is a suburb of Sacramento, only a few miles from the center of one to the center of the other. They have grown over the years so that they now blend into each other. It has since officially become its own city, so technically it isn't even a suburb of Sacramento anymore. Plus, most people have never heard of Rancho Cordova. And so goes real life.

Two weeks ago, I was in Jerusalem, that great and ancient city where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago. Standing on a high point, I looked down upon the Old City. I thought of Bethlehem, a few miles to the south, where He was born in a lowly manger3.

Let's look more closely at Alma's wording: He shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers. (Alma 7:10.) Notice two points: first, Jerusalem is referred to as a land rather than as a city. Second, Jesus' birth would occur at Jerusalem. The Land of Jerusalem. Towns and villages which surrounded larger demographic or political centers were regarded in ancient times as belonging to those larger centers. For a major city center such as Jerusalem to be called not only a city but also a land was standard practice…Alma stated that Jesus would be born of Mary not in Jerusalem, but at Jerusalem. Dictionary definitions of at include the words close by and near. Certainly at Jerusalem could be interpreted near Jerusalem4.

Bible: Jesus was begotten by holy spirit.- Matthew 1:20.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

When asserting what the scriptures say, we must be careful not to apply our own assumptions or beliefs to what is actually being said. For instance, this verse does not say that "Jesus was begotten by holy spirit." Rather, the angel is telling Mary that the baby she has already conceived "is of the Holy Ghost." Because the language used here is a little odd for our understanding, we must look to other passages of scripture for clarification. Upon further investigation, it becomes evident that every other instance where the words beget, begat, or begotten are used in reference to Jesus' origin, the reference is to God the Father:

John 1:14

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

1 John 5:1

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

Journal of Discourses: Jesus was not begotten by holy spirit. He was begotten in the flesh by Adam's having intercourse with Mary.- Journal of Discourses, Volume I, pages 50-1.

This thing about Adam has been previously shown to be an untruth (see Section 12: The Mormon Family of Gods), and definitely NOT ever a Mormon belief.

As shown above, the scriptures make it clear that God the Father begat Jesus Christ. Webster's Universal College Dictionary tells us that beget means "to procreate or generate (offspring)." This is applied consistently throughout the scriptures. See, for example:

Genesis 3:5-32

Adam…begat a son in his own likeness…, begat sons and daughters…

Gen. 4:18

And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech…

Etc.

Yet, somehow, when we speak of the Lord, people want to apply a new definition.

The paternity of Jesus Christ is one of the mysteries of godliness. It may only be comprehended by the spiritually minded. The Apostle Matthew recorded, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:18). Luke renders a more plain meaning to the divine conception. He quotes the angel Gabriel saying to Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing [being] which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35; emphasis added). Alma’s testimony, given fourscore years before the Savior’s birth, beautifully reconciles the testimonies of Matthew and Luke: “He shall be born of Mary, … she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God” (Alma 7:10; emphasis added).

Some 600 years before Jesus was born, Nephi had a vision. He saw Mary and described her as “a virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” He then saw her “carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time.” When she returned, she was “bearing a child in her arms, … even the Son of the Eternal Father” (1 Ne. 11:15, 19–21).

Thus the testimonies of appointed witnesses leave no question as to the paternity of Jesus Christ. God was the Father of His fleshly tabernacle, and Mary, a mortal woman, was His mother. He is therefore the only person born who rightfully deserves the title “the Only Begotten Son of God.”5

So, Luke further clarifies Matthew's account by adding that Mary had the Holy Ghost come upon her and the power of God overshadowed her and that Jesus was the son of God, not the Holy Ghost. Why was the Holy Ghost involved, then?

Transfiguration for mortals consists of a temporary physical and spiritual change, allowing them not only to behold the glory of God but to enter his presence. It is characterized by illumination of countenance such as Moses experienced (Moses 1:11; Ex. 34:29-35) and comes about by an infusion of God's power (MD, p. 725). Because God is a being of transcendent glory, it is impossible for men and women to enter his presence without their physical bodies being spiritually "quickened." The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that God "dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire. "Our God is a consuming fire"' (TPJS, p. 367; cf. Heb. 12:29; Deut. 4:24). Transfiguration bestows on individuals a temporary condition compatible to that of deity and allows them to see God face-to-face…

Soon after Moses' call, for example, he was transfigured so that he could withstand God's power… From time to time, other worthy persons have been transfigured. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration so that "his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (Matt. 17:2). On the same occasion, the apostles were similarly changed, enabling them to remain in his transfigured presence…6

Mary therefore required the transfiguring power of the Holy Ghost in order to endure God's consuming presence.

Bible: New Jerusalem to be in heaven.- Revelation 21:2.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The Book of Mormon: New Jerusalem, earthly, to be built by men in Missouri, U.S.A.- 3 Nephi 21:23,24; Doctrine and Covenants 84:3, 4.

3 Nephi 21:23-24

And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.

Doctrine and Covenants 84:3-4

Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

There is no contrast here if one knows Mormon doctrine, as there will be both an earthly and heavenly city, united:

[T]he city of Enoch was taken into heaven. In a third vision… Enoch saw… the joyous reunion of his city with a latter-day Zion built in anticipation of Jesus' second coming … Church members anticipate the return of Enoch's city from above to be reunited with the Zion beneath… when the earth will rest under the millennial reign of Jesus Christ7.

Bible: Writers of the Bible were inspired to write God's thoughts.- 2 Peter 1:20, 21.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

While it is rather poetic and lovely to say that the inspiration of the Holy Ghost is "to write God's thoughts," this is another example of saying something that is not there. With what is there (i.e., being moved by the Holy Ghost to write), we are not given a full definition or explanation of this process. Does God dictate what a prophet writes word-for-word, or does He give inspiration and guidance while letting the prophet do the work? Does He do both at different times, or perhaps some degree of either? The scriptures aren't clear, so we should be careful when making assertions.

The Book of Mormon: Its prophets are said to have written according to their own knowledge.- 1 Nephi 1:2, 3; Jacob 7:26.

1 Nephi 1:2-3

Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

Jacob 7:26

And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge.

Personally, I see these as admissions of imperfection by humble men of God. Luckily, there are plenty of other scriptures to clarify these statements and demonstrate that Mormons do indeed believe prophets are inspired by God:

1 Ne. 22:1-2

[A]fter I, Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read?… And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets…

2 Ne. 25:4

I give unto you a prophecy, according to the spirit which is in me.

D&C 20:26

…the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost…

Bible: Mosaic Law, including tithing, terminated by the death of Jesus. Contributions are to be voluntary, not under compulsion.- 2 Corinthians 9:7;

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Correct. Tithing is paid voluntarily. D&C 58:26 says:

[F]or he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant.

Galatians 3:10-13,

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

This basically says that salvation no longer comes through observance of the Law of Moses. This is true. Tithing, however, was practiced by Abraham and Jacob, long before Moses' time8. Even though tithing was practiced by Moses, it was not part of the Law of Moses, which was "a peculiar covenant of obedience and favor between God and his people," consisting of specific "judgments," "statutes," "ordinances," and "commandments."9

[Galatians 3:] 24,

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

2 Ne. 11:4 tells us the same thing:

Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.

[Galatians 3:] 25;

But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: "I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves."10

Ephesians 2:15.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.

Eph. 2:11-14 makes it clear that this is speaking of how the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings together the Jews and the Gentiles, previously separated by the Mosaic Law which, as shown above, did not encompass the law of tithing.

Doctrine and Covenants: "Verily it is… a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned (at his [the Lord's] coming)."- Doctrine and Covenants 64:23.

Reading the verse before and the one after the one quoted will help put it in context:

And after that day, I, the Lord, will not hold any guilty that shall go with an open heart up to the land of Zion; for I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men.

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.

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.

God requires our hearts; He wants our devotion. In order to show our devotion to God, we must sacrifice our earthly means–be it time, money, or whatever–to His causes and purposes. Tithing is one way of doing this, and is used here to represent devotion in all things.

Notes

  1. Where Was the Garden of Eden Located? (Answers in Genesis). (https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/garden-of-eden/where-was-the-garden-of-eden-located/)
  2. Garden of Eden, Encyclopedia of Mormonism. (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Garden_of_Eden)
  3. "He Is Not Here, But Is Risen." Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1999. Emphasis added. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/05/he-is-not-here-but-is-risen)
  4. Why does the Book of Mormon say that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem? (Alma 7:10.) "I Have a Question." Kelly D. Ogden, Ensign, Aug. 1984, 51-52. Emphasis added. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1984/08/i-have-a-question?lang=eng)
  5. Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ by Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Dec. 2001. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/12/five-marks-of-the-divinity-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng)
  6. Transfiguration (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Transfiguration). See also Matt. 17:2-5.
  7. Enoch (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Enoch)
  8. See Gen. 14:18-20, 28:20-22.
  9. Law of Moses (Encyclopedia of Mormonism) (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Law_of_Moses)
  10. Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, Discourse 13. (http://journalofdiscourses.com/10/13)