I was having a discussion about Mormonism with a Mormon friend of mine in Utah last week. He’s an older gentleman — a very kind and gentle elderly man. During our discussion, he said something that struck me as odd. What he said was not novel; I had heard it many times before. But it was how he said it — or maybe it was just the context of the discussion — that caught my attention.
Our discussion had been about the New Testament. He made a comment about the New Testament (NT) where he said that he believed in it “insofar as it has been correctly translated.” This statement, of course, gave my Mormon friend some wiggle room about the meanings of various passages and their interpretations. In a sense, it gave him a way out if something in the NT did not line up with his Mormon beliefs or the doctrines of The Church of Latter-Day Saints (CJCLDS).
In my discussions with other Mormons in the past, they too have shared a similar line of reasoning with regards to the translations of the ancient Biblical documents originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. In fact, this belief about the Bible is actually an article of faith within the Mormon Church. The Articles of Faith Chapter 1 verse 8 says that “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” So this line of reasoning about the Bible finds itself in the most central of beliefs of Mormonism.
So exactly what is it about this statement that struck me as odd?
It’s simply this: A Christian could make this same kind of claim about the Book of Mormon to reveal how inconsistent the Mormon position about the Bible is. So, for example, one could claim to believe the Book of Mormon to the be the word of God “insofar it has been correctly translated.” The challenge for the Mormon then, or rather the CJCLDS, is to let us examine the book of Mormon in its original language!
But alas, they cannot allow us to do so — even if they desired it. Why? Because no one has the golden plates that Joseph Smith supposedly translated the Book of Mormon from. To state it more accurately: Moroni, the angel that told Smith about the plates, and allowed him to translate them, took those plates back (presumably to Heaven) after Smith was done allegedly translating them.
The significant difference between the Mormon claims about the Bible and the Book of Mormon is this: The Biblical translations can be examined; the Book of Mormon “translated” from Moroni’s golden plates cannot be examined.
We have no way of knowing if the Smith’s translation was accurate — if the golden plates actually existed.
One can only wonder how many Mormons there would be if they applied the criterion they used for the Old and New Testaments to Joseph Smith’s translation.