In 2014, the popular LDS blog, LDS Smile, published an article attempting to highlight 44 reasons that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. In this response, each “reason” is included with its original title and description in bold.
“In addition to Joseph Smith, 11 official witnesses and several unofficial witnesses testified to the existence of the plates and, in some cases, to dramatic supernatural confirmation of their truth. Meticulous research on these witnesses has confirmed their good character and the veracity of their accounts – LDS.org”
It is interesting that LDS Smile would lead with this point. Having witnesses does not make something true. After Joseph Smith’s death, a man named James Strang claimed that Joseph had named chosen him as a successor. Strang produced plates from which he translated The Book of the Law of the Lord. Seven witnesses handled the plates and published their testimony.
Even religions outside of Mormonism have witnesses of miraculous events. The Shakers, led by Anne Lee, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, had a sacred Scroll and Book produced through miraculous means. Eight witnesses published their testimony, saying, “We, the undersigned, hereby testify, that we saw the holy Angel standing upon the house-top, as mentioned in the foregoing declaration, holding the Roll and Book.” Unlike the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, these witnesses were not connected by family ties.
“If you are going to conspire this great conspiracy of making up ‘Golden Plates’ and the whole back story of the Book of Mormon, why involve any witnesses at all that could just spill the beans and ruin the whole foundation of the church?”
This point presumes that the witnesses of the Book of Mormon were knowingly involved in a conspiracy of fraud. It is far more likely that the three witnesses conjured imaginative emotional experiences that they, with Joseph’s help, interpreted as miraculous manifestations.
There are many recorded statements from the three witnesses that imply that they did not actually see or handle the plates and that the experience was had through “spiritual eyes” or imagination. Stephen Burnett wrote, “When I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David . . . the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations.” (emphasis added)
Elsewhere, Harris stated that he had “hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them,” but he “never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain.” (Early Mormon Documents, vol. 2, pp. 291-292).
Z. H. Gurley asked David Whitmer, “Did you touch them?” His answer was, “We did not touch nor handle the plates.” Asked about the table on which the plates rested, Whitmer replied, “the table had the appearance of literal wood as shown in the visions of the glory of God.” (Dialogue, Vol.7, No.4, pp.83-84)
In 1880, David Whitmer was asked for a description of the angel who showed him the plates. Whitmer responded that the angel “had no appearance or shape.” When asked by the interviewer how he then could bear testimony that he had seen and heard an angel, Whitmer replied, “Have you never had impressions?” To which the interviewer responded, “Then you had impressions as the Quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience, a feeling?” “Just so,” replied Whitmer (Interview with John Murphy, June 1880, EMD 5:63).
The witnesses did not need to be liars. They merely had to believe that the scenes they fabricated through their imaginations were legitimate spiritual experiences.
“Was it just blind luck that the rare place name Nahom in the Book of Mormon, identified as the place where Ishmael was buried, turns out to correspond to an ancient burial site right where the Book of Mormon says it is? Jeff Lindsay”
In an effort to find one sensible historic artifact to redeem the Book of Mormon, the discovery of the NHM altar has been blown completely out of proportion. The Book of Mormon describes a place called Nahom. The altar, however, is a mere reference to the Nihim tribe in Yemen. Mormons have literally filled in the blanks of “NHM” to make it Nahom despite the fact that this interpretation is not substantiated by the artifact nor by other archaeological evidence.
“What is more, although the Prophet’s critics found his claim of angelic visits and gold plates ridiculous, we now know that the writing of religious texts on metal plates (sometimes on gold), was an authentic ancient practice. Indeed, the ancient practice now is known to have occurred at precisely the era and place from which Book of Mormon peoples came. In fact, with the Copper Scroll and other materials from the Dead Sea, we have an almost exact parallel: like the ancient Nephite plates, these materials were sealed up in a hillside just prior to military disaster, to preserve them for a future time.” – LDS.org”
This point is more detrimental than helpful. If the plates were actually made of gold, they would have weighed about 200 pounds, rather than the described 60 pounds. Apologists say that the plates were probably made of a gold-copper alloy. Yet even LDS Mesoamerican scholar, Brant Gardner recognizes that the mention of gold in the Book of Mormon is problematic.
“Why would a prosperous man who by many accounts from non-Mormons was a respectable and man full of integrity stand by his testimony when it only brought harm to him.”
Apparently Martin Harris is only “a respectable and man full of integrity” when it suits Mormonism’s purposes. Joseph Smith and other Mormons were quick to throw Martin’s integrity under the bus the minute he disagreed with them. Joseph described Martin and the other estranged witnesses as “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them” (B.H. Roberts, ed. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1905, 3: 232).
Martin Harris was also described as superstitious and foolish. He joined many religions through his life. Phineas H. Young told Brigham Young that Harris’s testimony of Shakerism was “greater than it was of the Book of Mormon” (Letter of Phineas H. Young to Brigham Young, Dec. 31, 1844).
“No matter where he went, he saw visions and supernatural appearances all around him. He told a gentleman in Palmyra, after one of his excursions to Pennsylvania, while the translation of the Book of Mormon was going on, that on the way he met the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked along by the side of him in the shape of a deer for two or three miles, talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another” (John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840 in EMD, 2: 271).
The Reverend John A. Clark, who knew Harris, said Martin “had always been a firm believer in dreams, and visions and supernatural appearances, such as apparitions and ghosts, and therefore was a fit subject for such men as Smith and his colleagues to operate on.” Lorenzo Saunders said Harris was a “great man for seeing spooks.” Presbyterian minister Jesse Townsend of Palmyra called Harris a “visionary fanatic.”
“How could Joseph Smith make up dozens of names in the Book of Mormon that would later be shown to be authentic ancient Semitic names?”
Many of the names in the Book of Mormon were either taken directly from the Bible (Lehi, Laban, Ammon, etc) or were probably adapted from Biblical names (Aminadab=Abinadom, Kish=Akish, Helam=Helaman, etc).
“How does one account for the recent discovery of a plausible candidate for the River Laman, continuously flowing into the Red Sea as the Book of Mormon indicates, in spite of the repeated claims of critics that no such river exists? Reference”
The “plausible candidate” for the River Laman is, by Jeff Lindsay’s own admission, a mere stream that flows only during certain times of year. This is different than the river that Lehi hoped would be a symbol of “continually running into the fountain of all righteousness.”
“The Book of Mormon claims to have been written in “reformed Egyptian” (Morm. 9:32). Most who have studied the subject conclude that this signifies writing the Hebrew language in modified Egyptian characters. In recent years, we have learned that several ancient documents were written in precisely that fashion.” – LDS.org”
According to the citation from lds.org, “we have learned that several ancient documents were written in precisely that fashion.” Yet, no citation is offered to substantiate the claim. Meanwhile, not a single non-Mormon scholar acknowledges the existence of either a “reformed Egyptian” language or any resemblance to Egyptian in New World archaeology.
John A. Wilson, professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, wrote, “From time to time there are allegations that picture writing has been found in America… In no case has a professional Egyptologist been able to recognize these characters as Egyptian hieroglyphs. From our standpoint there is no such language as ‘reformed Egyptian’.” (Letter to Sandra Tanner, March 16, 1966).
Klaus Baer, another Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, called the characters of the Joseph Smith “Caractors” document nothing but “doodlings” (Changing World of Mormonism, Moody Press, 1980, p. 143).
An early-twentieth-century scholar said that the Joseph Smith “Caractors” document looked more like “deformed English” (Cumorah Revisited or, “The Book of Mormon” and the Claims of the Mormons Reexamined from the Viewpoint of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1910, 538).
Anthropologist Michael D. Coe of Yale University, an expert in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican studies, has written, “Of all the peoples of the pre-Columbian New World, only the ancient Maya had a complete script” (Breaking the Maya Code, preface).
“How did Joseph get several of the witnesses of the original golden plates to never deny their experiences with the golden plates even after they were angry with him and when some of them left the church?”
As discussed earlier, it would not be necessary for them to deny their witness if they believed it to be a valid spiritual experience. Even so, there is some evidence that various witnesses, primarily Oliver Cowdery, may have denied their testimony at different times.
“The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that it was to come forth ‘by the gift and power of God.’ Recent evidence and scholarship indicates that this is exactly what would have had to happen. In addition, the evidence indicates that the translation and dictation of the book were accomplished in roughly 63 working days—a torrid pace that, with neither rewrites nor corrections, produced nearly 8.5 pages (of our current English edition) daily. – LDS.org”
What the article fails to acknowledge is that the actual dictation days were spread across almost two years and that Joseph had spent the previous four years preparing for the dictation. With Oliver Cowdery acting frequently as a full-time scribe, this accomplishment, though intriguing, is not inherently miraculous. If the capacity to write is a sign of the prophetic gift, then Joseph Smith pales in comparison to Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who still holds the world record for most books ever published–1,084.
“Further, there is no evidence at all that Joseph Smith did any scholarly research, or even that he read very much, before the Book of Mormon appeared. In fact, he may not even have owned a Bible at the time of translation. Joseph Smith had spent the bulk of his time as a youth cutting trees, burning brush, clearing rocks, and plowing. He had received at most a few months of formal schooling. His mother later recalled that, even into his late teens, “he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children.
“His wife Emma reports that, in the late 1820s, Joseph ‘could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. … The larger part of this labor [of translation] was done [in] my presence and where I could see and know what was being done. … During no part of it did Joseph Smith have any [manuscripts] or book of any kind from which to read or dictate except the metalic [sic] plates which I knew he had.’ ‘If,’ she said, ‘he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.’
“And, she added, writing to her son: ‘I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.’”
It is incorrect to paint Joseph Smith as illiterate or uneducated simply because of his limited experience in formal schooling. Both Joseph Sr. and Hyrum Smith were off-season teachers. Lucy Mack Smith testified that they did not neglect the education of their children. Before his death, Joseph donated many books. Of those books, “75 percent of the pre-1830 titles can be verified as either directly available in the Palmyra area or as being promoted there” (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p. 189).
Pomeroy Tucker was born in Palmyra, New York in 1802, three years before Joseph Smith. He said, “Joseph … had learned to read comprehensively … [reading] works of fiction and records of criminality, such for instance as would be classed with the ‘dime novels’ of the present day. The stories of Stephen Buroughs and Captain Kidd, and the like, presented the highest charms for his expanding mental perceptions” (Mormonism: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress, p.17).
Stories like Captain Kidd is likely where Joseph first developed the idea of gold buried in a hill called Camorah (that is the spelling in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon), since the names Camora and Moroni were both associated with treasure hunting and Joseph himself was a treasure hunter.
[As a side note, it seems disingenuous for apologists to use the Emma Smith interview as a credible description of the translation process while simultaneously discrediting her denial of Joseph’s involvement in polygamy in that same interview.]
“How did Joseph Smith know about ancient practices regarding preservation of sacred texts?”
The article asks, “How did Joseph Smith know about ancient practices regarding preservation of sacred texts?” Per normal, they do not cite any evidence indicating that the preservation of sacred texts as described by Joseph Smith was a common practice in either the Old or New World.
“In recent years, rigorous statistical analysis strongly indicates that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his known associates composed the English text of the Book of Mormon. In fact, research suggests that the book was written by numerous distinct authors” – LDS.org”
Statistical analysis not only “proves” that the Book of Mormon has multiple authors, it can also “prove” that significant portions of the Book of Mormon were plagiarized from books available to Joseph Smith like The Late War.
“Why do other ancient documents support the Book of Mormon’s idea that the ancient Joseph prophesied of Moses and Aaron? – Jeff Lindsay”
The “ancient documents” cited by Jeff Lindsay were written long after both Joseph and Moses, between 1st and 14th centuries AD. The authors of the documents wrote their accounts, like Joseph did–looking back. It is hardly a stretch to imagine that they included the story of Joseph and Moses as they had learned it. Thus, it cannot be counted as evidence of prophecy since prophecy deals with future events.
“Why does the Book of Mormon contain numerous, carefully crafted examples of ancient Hebrew poetical forms that Joseph Smith could not have known about? Reference”
It’s hard to refute a point that is not given any substantiation. They provide a link to references, but the page has nothing on it.
“And research shows that the book does not seem to fit the culture of early 19th-century America. There is little of the military romanticism of Joseph Smith’s America. Instead, we see grimly realistic portrayals of war’s devastation and suffering. And in the story of the Gadianton robbers we have a detailed, realistic portrayal of a prolonged guerrilla struggle—lacking any trace of fife and drum, uniforms, or parades—published well over a century before the guerrilla theorists of the 20th century put pens to paper. LDS.org”
Actually, there are striking parallels between the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s culture. The Late War (which has been cited before), History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, and The First Book of Napoleon both present the topics of warfare, religion, and culture in the same style as the Book of Mormon, many times using the exact same phraseology.
“Why does the Book of Mormon contain numerous language structures pointing to Hebraic roots? (See, for example, the Hebraic conditionals that were in the original Book of Mormon manuscript, wherein “if … then … ” clauses are written as “if … and …” – perfectly good Hebrew but awkward English. That wasn’t part of Joseph’s dialect of English, nor part of the King James Bible, so how would an unschooled forger be able to come with that sophisticated Hebraism? These were later replaced with more proper English “if … then …” clauses in the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon.) – Jeff Lindsay”
Joseph didn’t have to know Hebrew grammar to dictate a story in a fairly accurate scriptural voice. Writing history in a scriptural style was not at all uncommon in Joseph Smith’s time. The Chaldee Manuscript, The Acts of the Elders or the Book of Abraham, The Chronicle of the Kings of England, and The Chronicles of Charles: The Young Man are all examples of historical texts that employ the same scriptural voice used in the Book of Mormon.
“The name of Lehi’s wife, Sariah, previously unknown outside the Book of Mormon, has been found in ancient Jewish documents from Egypt –LDS.org”
The documented cited by the church is the Aramaic Papyrus #22 (also called Cowley #22 or C-22) and appears in Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century BC. The name that appears in that text is “śry t hwś br hrmn.” The document had to be partially reconstructed so that the name “śry” could be extrapolated to mean “Sariah” (probably pronounced Sar-yah or Sra-yahu). This is a common name among Hebrew males (appearing 19 times in the Hebrew Old Testament) and its appearance on a female character is an exception much more than a rule (like naming a daughter Michael. Sure, there may be another girl named Michael out there, but most Michaels are male). While this piece does count as evidence, it is certainly not strong evidence.
“What other church better follows the Biblical model of emphasizing the bilateral covenant nature of the Gospel?”
The question posed by LDS Smile would be better phrased thus: “What other church better follows the LDS interpretation of the Biblical model of emphasizing the bilateral covenant nature of the Gospel?” The answer, of course, is that no other church follows the LDS interpretation of the Bible better than the LDS church. That being said, there are other churches that emphasize the role of covenants in the Gospel just as adamantly as the LDS church and explain Biblical covenants even more thoroughly. See: http://bit.ly/1JMCdtV , https://www.gci.org/law/covenants, http://www.scborromeo.org/papers/covenant.pdf.
“If there was no apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ, then what happened to prophets? They were a crucial part of the original Church.”
To answer the question posed by LDS Smile, we must first ask the question: What is a prophet? If a prophet is, as the Hebrew and Greek words suggest, someone with a message from God, then there has never been a shortage of prophets, since there are always people who claim to have messages from God. If prophets are those who have a special connection to heaven, then there were even prophets during the “Dark Ages.”
President John Taylor said, “There were men in those dark ages who could commune with God, and who, by the power of faith, could draw aside the curtain of eternity and gaze upon the invisible world. There were men who could tell the destiny of the human family, and the events which would transpire throughout every subsequent period of time until the final winding-up scene. There were men who could gaze upon the face of God, have the ministering of angels, and unfold the future destinies of the world. If those were dark ages I pray God to give me a little darkness, and deliver me from the light and intelligence that prevail in our day” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, pg. 197).
If a prophet is one who prophesies of future events, who sees the supernatural realm, or reveals heretofore unknown mysteries, then a better question for LDS Smile is: What happened to prophets in the LDS church since the leadership does not do any of those things?
“Just where in the Bible does it say that there would be no more prophets after the Bible was complete?”
Since modern leaders of the LDS church do not prophesy, “see,” or reveal, their claim to prophethood lies only in their authority. If we are going to appeal to the Bible, then let’s ask this question: Where in the Bible does it say that a prophet is a prophet because he was chosen by a council, because he has recognized authority, or because he is the head of an organization? The answer is: Nowhere.
”Just where in the Bible does it say that there would be no more prophets after the Bible was complete?”
This point is exactly the same as the one above.
“Just where in the Bible does it say that the Bible was complete? (And if you do point to a verse about the goodness and power of the scriptures, hoping to make it mean that the Bible was complete, why did God’s servants keep writing additional verses, chapters, and books after writing a verse allegedly implying that the text was complete?)”
Refuting claims made by only certain Christian sects does not prove the LDS church to be true. Furthermore, doctrinal questions can seldom be settled by an appeal to the Bible since interpretation of its passages is subject to the biases of the interpreter. Those who claim that the Bible was the end of the official word of God have their justifications in the same way that Latter-day Saints have theirs.
Latter-day Saints should be hesitant to demand that other religions’ claims must be justified by the Bible since many of their own teachings and practices either do not conform to or directly contradict biblical teachings.
“Where in the Bible does it say that God would cease following His ancient and well established pattern of speaking to man through His chosen prophets? – Jeff Lindsay”
Most Christian sects believe that God continues to speak to man through the Holy Spirit.
“The name Nephi just happens to fit the very time and place of the where that name was first mentioned in the Book of Mormon.LDS.org”
The name “Nephi” does not appear in such explicit form. A Phoenician inscription “KNPY,” a potential version of the Egyption name “Kenfr.w,” does not immediately translate to “Nephi,” nor does the Aramaic inscription “HRNPY.”
“Nephi’s slaying of Laban and the justification given to him by the Lord for doing so can now be seen as instruction that focused on the culture of Nephi’s era. LDS.org”
While killing defenseless enemies may conform to Nephi’s culture, it does little to justify Nephi’s sense of Christian morality exemplified by Jesus’s golden rule: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12).
The story raises serious questions like: Why did Nephi need to get the plates at all when God could have easily revealed the scriptures to him as he did in the many revelatory chapters contained in the first and second books of Nephi? Why did Nephi need the plates to teach the Law of Moses when they could not have practiced the Law of Moses anyway since they did not have sheep, goats, or Aaronic priests? How could Laban’s sword be made of steel and pure gold? Wouldn’t Laban’s blood-drenched clothes have been alarming to Zoram? Why did the brass plates contain chapters that Bible scholars have concluded were written after Nephi’s time? Is God’s collectivist rationalization (“better that one man should perish…”) a valid moral philosophy?
“1 Ne. 13:12 is a passage generally applied to Christopher Columbus. But as Daniel Peterson points out: ‘Many have been accustomed to see in Columbus merely an adventurer seeking to open trade routes to the East Indies. But with the recent publication of Columbus’s private Book of Prophecies, we see how accurate the Book of Mormon’s description of him is. He said he was guided by the Holy Spirit, and he was eager not only to spread Christianity but to fulfill biblical prophecies. Among his favorite passages were John 10:16, with its reference to ‘other sheep,’ and the passages of Isaiah concerning the people on the ‘isles of the sea.’ These are the very passages that the Book of Mormon applies to itself.’ LDS.org”
It is not at all difficult to imagine that Joseph Smith, who lived in a time of romanticized history, should describe Christopher Columbus in religious terms. Though Columbus may have been inspired by his own sense of manifest destiny, scholarship also reveals him to be tyrannical, exploitive, and barbaric.
”Daniel Peterson goes on and states: ‘In his 1952 essay “Lehi in the Desert,” Hugh Nibley illuminated Lehi’s land journey from Jerusalem by placing it along the coast of the Arabian peninsula. 27 Since that time, Latter-day Saint scholars and explorers have refined our understanding of that route through actual visits and systematic surveys of the area, enabling us to identify likely Book of Mormon locations in Arabia. 28 The Book of Mormon account of Lehi’s Arabian sojourn is remarkably accurate to numerous specific geographic conditions, but no scholar in the 19th century, let alone Joseph Smith, could have known of it.’ LDS.org”
Yes, there are potential matches for the route Lehi could have taken.
“Daniel Peterson states: ‘King Benjamin’s classic address in Mosiah 2–5 occupies roughly 11 pages in the current English edition, which means that Joseph Smith may have dictated this doctrinally rich text of nearly 5,000 words in a little more than one day. Recent research shows that the sermon is intimately linked with the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement, as well as with archaic treaty and covenant formulas and early Near Eastern coronation festivals. 36 Even the physical setting of the speech—delivered while the king stood upon a tower (see Mosiah 2:7)—is ritually appropriate to the occasion. But the Prophet Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the English Bibles or any other books available to him.’”
Joseph didn’t need to know about Eastern coronation seminaries to describe Benjamin’s address. The speech resembles both in style and content the revivals with which Joseph Smith was well-acquainted.
“What other Church better follows the Biblical model of revelation guiding the Church?”
The modern LDS church does not follow the Biblical model of revelation. Biblical prophets were not confined to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but instead frequently opposed it. The decision-making process of the modern church more closely resembles the consensus-building councils of the early Catholic church than it does the revelations of the Bible.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said in an interview with reporter, Mike Wallace, “Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles.”
If the LDS church is following the Biblical model of revelation, where is the revelation?
“What other Church better follows the Biblical organization given for the Church?”
Many Christian sects follow the form described in the Bible. To condemn other churches for straying from the Biblical model is hypocritical since the LDS church does not follow the Biblical model perfectly either. Where in the Bible does it mention stake presidents, mission presidents, multiple quorums of 70, a first presidency separate from the quorum of the twelve, a Relief Society, or the Correlation Committee?
Not only does the LDS church structure vary from the Bible, it also varies from its own revelations. Some examples include: the high council of the center stake in Zion being in equal authority to the Quorum of the 12, the quorum of the 12 only having jurisdiction in the missions of the church, and the office of the presiding patriarch.
“If Joseph Smith just made up the idea of vicarious baptism for the dead, why do numerous ancient documents validate the LDS claim that this was an authentic early Christian practice?”
The LDS practice of baptizing the living vicariously for deceased persons comes from Joseph Smith’s interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29, not something he simply made up. It is also likely that he was influenced by William Hone’s Apocryphal New Testament, which he donated to the Nauvoo Library in 1844. The book contains the writings of Pastor of Hermas which describ baptism for the dead.
If the LDS church were truer because some primitive Christians employed similar practices, then the Catholic church is truer for sprinkling baptisms of infants since the practices trace back to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries.
“At a time when all Christian churches taught that temples were no longer needed, how did Joseph so effectively restore the ancient temple concept on his own?”
The question is, per normal, biased. The real question should be: Why is the LDS church the best at following the LDS interpretation of the biblical temple? The need for Christian temples is not implied in the Bible. As Christianity slowly separated from Judaism, the temple lost its place as the focal point of worship. None of the New Testament writers mention the need for a temple. Paul describes how the Old Testament temple was a symbol of Christ and was fulfilled through him.
It is also erroneous to say that Joseph “restored” the temple concept “on his own.” Large portions of the LDS endowment ceremony, including tokens, symbols, penalties, clothing, and phraseology are direct plagiarisms of Masonic ceremonies that bear no resemblance to the Old Testament temple.
“If the Temple is not meant to be part of true Christianity, why does the Bible teach that it was important to early Christians? Why does it prophecy that it will be important in the future?”
The Bible does not teach that the temple was important to early Christians. Early Christians were not known to build temples. New Testament language supports a transition of temple language from an actual building to a person’s body or the combined “body of Christ.”
What other church better corresponds with early Christianity in terms of teaching the true relationship between faith, grace, and works?”
This biased question presumes that the LDS view of faith, grace, and works is “true” and then asks what other church better corresponds to the LDS view of these principles. Obviously no other church will better adhere to the LDS perspective than the LDS church.
”If the modern concept of the Trinity is true, then why does the different LDS view on the oneness of God find such strong support in the writings of the earliest Christians?”
The first edition of the Book of Mormon was very trinitarian and was changed later to accommodate Joseph’s evolving view of the godhead. In the original First Vision accounts, Joseph only mentioned “a personage” or the singular “Lord,” not the two personages that now make up the Mormon pantheon. See: http://blog.mrm.org/2011/06/what-happened-to-the-trinity-in-mormonism/
“Who authorized the changes in the ritual of baptism that occurred since the New Testament Church?”
The people in power of course. The same could be asked about who authorized the extensive changes to the LDS endowment ordinance.
“Alma 7:10 predicts that Jesus “shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.” Is this a mistake? Everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem. But it is now plain from modern evidence that Bethlehem could be, and indeed was, regarded anciently as a town in the “land of Jerusalem.” – Reference”
The most important thing to understand is that the events surrounding Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem are historically inaccurate to begin with. There is no evidence that Caesar Augustus (or the other Roman emperors) required subjects to travel to their native cities to be taxed. So Mary and Joseph would not have been in Bethlehem OR Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’s birth. See: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/census.htm
“A recently released text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example—a text claiming origin in Jeremiah’s days (and therefore in Lehi’s)—says that the Jews of that period were ‘taken captive from the land of Jerusalem.’Reference”
“The Book of Mormon has multiple examples of this ancient literary structure/technique. Alma 36 being a good example.”
The Book of Mormon does seem to occasionally follow a chiastic structure. This wouldn’t be surprising if Joseph Smith was mimicking Biblical style, since chiasmus is also common in the Bible. The Doctrine and Covenants likewise incorporates chiasmus. Should we therefore conclude that the Doctrine and Covenants was first written in Hebrew?
Chiasmus was also unknown to one of the potential successors of Joseph Smith, James Strang. Yet Strang’s Book of the Law of the Lord, which he claimed was also translated from ancient plates, likewise incorporates chiastic structure:
Here is an example of chiasmus from the Book of the Law of the Lord, chapter 39, section 1:
A YE SHALL not CLOTHE YOURSELVES
B AFTER THE MANNER of the follies of other men;
B‘ but AFTER THE MANNER that is seemly and convenient,
A‘ SHALL YE CLOTHE YOURSELVES.
Here is a more complex example from the first chapter of the 1851 Book of the Law of the Lord, with God skillfully placed in the center of the structure:
A Thou shalt not TAKE the NAME of the Lord thy God in VAIN:
B thou shalt not USURP dominion
C as a RULER; for the NAME of the Lord thy God
D is great and glorious ABOVE ALL OTHER NAMES:
E he is ABOVE ALL,
F and is the ONLY TRUE God;
F’ the ONLY JUST and upright King
E’ OVER ALL:
D’ he ALONE hath the RIGHT
C’ to RULE; and in his NAME, only he to whom he granteth it:
B’ whosoever is not chosen of him, the same is a USURPER, and unholy:
A‘ the Lord will not hold him guiltless, for he TAKETH his NAME in VAIN.
“Jershon, for instance, designates a place that was given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi as a “land … for an inheritance” (Alma 27:22). In Hebrew, Jershon means “a place of inheritance.” Reference”
Hebrew names are never a slam-dunk. Like the aforementioned names, this one requires a stretch in order to fit the faithful conclusion. The Hebrew word for “inherit” is “JWW.” The transformation to “Jershon” is only possible through a series of potential linguistic exceptions woven together by apologists.
“Daniel Peterson states: ‘The allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 shows a clear knowledge of olive cultivation far beyond what Joseph Smith, growing up in the American Northeast, could have possessed. But it is entirely consistent, in impressive detail, with what we learn from ancient manuals on olive cultivation.’”
The symbolism of the Olive Tree was already established in the Bible (Isaiah 5). Knowledge of horticultural grafting is very ancient. It is completely plausible that a farmer would have adequate knowledge of such a process.
“Easter Island’s population had 10% Native American DNA, and some European as well. MSN”
This does nothing to prove that the Book of Mormon or the church are true. Easter Island inhabitants may share Native American DNA, but Native Americans do not share Hebrew DNA. Though recent publications, like National Geographic, have linked Native American DNA to Eurasian regions (like Siberia), their findings confirm the land-bridge theory, not the transoceanic migration described in the Book of Mormon. The data also predates both the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s timeline for the existence of man.
“Many critics have claimed that there is no possible way that you could have so many large cities as has been recounted in the Book of Mormon. However there has been a big discovery in terms of these ‘Hidden cities.’”
“As Professor Kennedy states: ‘It’s what I call ‘hidden cities,’ ” says professor Kennedy, ‘I use the term because these were very big places. There were more people, we now know, in Cahokia across from St. Louis, than there were in London or Rome. There were major population centers in what now are Nashville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. There were tens of thousands of architectural consequences that are now hidden behind our junk and our architectural achievements.’ Reference”
Attempting to place the Book of Mormon story in North American flies in the face of the church’s apologetic arms, FAIR Mormon and the Maxwell Institute, which adamantly support the limited geography of the Mesoamerican Model. FAIR Mormon deconstructs the North American model here: http://www.fairmormon.org/reviews-of-dna-evidence-for-book-of-mormon-geography