How should Christians view the Book of Mormon?Upon first glance, the Book of Mormon appears rather unthreatening. Typically bound in a blue leather cover with the name inscribed in gold it resembles many Bibles. In fact, the writing inside shares many principles of biblical doctrine. However, it is this very likeness that should raise suspicion. Just as a magician distorts reality to capture the audience's attention, the Book of Mormon deceives its readers with a twisted adaptation of the truth, leading them away from and not towards God.
The Book of Mormon is said to have been discovered and translated by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. According to Smith, God and Jesus appeared to him in a vision and told him that the Christian church had been corrupted and they were giving him a new revelation so that he might lead the church back into the truth. Later, an angel named Moroni is said to have told him where to find golden tablets inscribed with the revelation. Smith claimed he found these tablets buried on a hill in New York. The tablets had Egyptian-like symbols which Smith translated into the original Book of Mormon through the use of a seer stone.
When Mormon (or "Latter-day Saints" or "LDS") missionaries present the Book of Mormon, they explain that feelings prompted by the Holy Ghost and prayer will help a person to accept it as truth. They reference Moroni 10:4 from the Book of Mormon: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." The Bible does encourage us to ask for wisdom and pray as suggested above. However, it also tells us that it is the truth. Therefore, let us examine what the Bible says about the claims that Joseph Smith was a prophet anointed by God, the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture, and Mormonism is the true path to salvation.
The Mormon community refers to Joseph Smith as a prophet and has also named other important people in the history of their church as prophets. The designation of prophet infers they are a spokesman for God and that people should listen to what they say. Scripture warns us that there will be many false prophets who come to deceive (Matthew 24:24). The Bible provides us with two tests to authenticate that a prophet has indeed been appointed by God. The first test comes from Deuteronomy 18:21–22: "And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?' — when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." Joseph Smith predicted things that did not come true. He said that New York would be destroyed if it did not accept Mormonism (Doctrine and Covenants 84:114–115); however, the Mormons were driven out of the area and the city is now one of the biggest in the world. He also predicted that the slaves would revolt, leading to a war between the states, and eventually an end to all nations from famine and natural disaster (Doctrine and Covenants 87). While the Civil War did happen, it did not result in an end to all nations.
The second test is provided in Deuteronomy 13:1–3: "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Joseph Smith was a polytheist and taught that men could become gods themselves through living righteous lives and doing good works (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). Joseph Smith did not pass either test, and therefore cannot be considered a prophet anointed by God.
The Bible is a compilation of 66 books divided into the Old and New Testaments. Each of the writers was inspired through the Holy Spirit to write and the Scriptures are said to be the actual Word of God. The Book of Mormon is not included in biblical canon for a few reasons. First, as explained earlier, Joseph Smith was not anointed by God and consequently not inspired by the Holy Spirit while writing. In addition, various of the historical facts recorded in the work have not been substantiated by archeological evidence and in some cases contradict historical facts that are widely accepted as true. Most importantly, many of the statements in the Book of Mormon directly contradict the Bible. The Bible is infallible and does not contradict itself (2 Timothy 3:15–17; Numbers 23:19). Mormons also believe their Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price are inspired works. Neither of these works satisfy the biblical standards for authentication as none of the writers were anointed by God, the writings have been changed by the church overtime, and the ideas taught in them greatly oppose biblical truth.
There are many things not taught in the Bible that are still true. However, the Book of Mormon not only lacks the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is also full of lies. Many Mormon beliefs contradict key principles of the Christian faith. They preach that God was once a man who became exalted after living a righteous life and doing good works (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). It also teaches that Jesus was an exalted human as well and not one with God. Mormons describe four levels of afterlife and that people are appointed a spot based on how they lived in this life. Finally, Mormons preach that salvation is a combination of faith and works. Ultimately, the goal of the Mormon life is to reach the highest level of heaven equating to godhood. This requires achieving various works of faith including belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet; repentance of sin; baptism and baptism of the dead; tithing; serving in the temple and the mission field; abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; and marriage in the Mormon church.
As Christians we cannot accept Mormonism without denying Christ (1 John 4:1–6). God is our creator and the one true God. Jesus is one with God and existed before the creation of man. After this life we will either go to hell if we have not put our faith in Jesus or heaven if we have asked for Jesus' forgiveness and accepted Him as our savior (John 3:16–18). Our own works will not save us, it is only through the gift of grace that we are cleansed from our sins. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9).
How do we know which book - The Bible, the Apocrypha, the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, etc. - is the Word of God?
What do Mormons believe? What is Mormonism?
Who was Joseph Smith?
Are Mormons Christian? Do Mormons and Christians believe the same things?
How can I best witness to Mormons?
Truth about Religion