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The LDS and the Scriptures

In the previous lesson, Mormonism, I: Authority, we examined the supposed scriptures of the Mormons. Let us now examine their attitudes toward the received Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments.

We read from the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Article VII:

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.

This is the explicit statement that is seen more implicitly in many of the statements of Smith, declaring that he had received revelations concerning the “true interpretation” of the Scriptures, many of which we will examine below.

Many members of the LDS church will attempt to discredit various portions of the Bible in order to bolster their own claims about The Book of Mormon and their other scriptures. However, the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 should be sufficient:

Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

Many Mormons will assert that this refers to the Old Testament or perhaps to some of the New Testament, but not the whole. Yet the text does not say which “scriptures” are the “Scripture” discussed except for the phrase “inspired of God.” Any Scripture “inspired of God” will be profitable for equipping the man of God for every good work. Our previous examination of the Mormon scriptures (found in Mormonism, I: Authority) has demonstrated that the Mormon scriptures are not inspired of God, yet we all agree that the Old and New Testaments are “inspired of God.”

Many LDS will argue the main point of the article of faith, that the Bible is only as good as its translation. They will argue that any translation will lose much of the meaning of the work and is not as reliable. They will further argue that the translations themselves are based on copies of the New Testament that were made by unreliable copiers, therefore, they are justified in saying that the Bible is the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.”

It is true that some meaning is lost in translating a work; however, there are plenty of ways to determine the meaning of the text. The Greek language is much more specific in its usage than English; further, we possess the ability to know the different meanings for various words, and we can examine the words in context in Scripture to determine the best meaning. Concerning the text of the New Testament itself, there are many sources that can be used to prove that the text we possess today is highly accurate, and we can rest assured that the New Testament we use today is very similar to the one written by the Christians of the first century1.

Therefore, there is no reason to add a disclaimer to our belief in the Scriptures, that they are the word of God “as far as [they are] translated correctly.” We have every reason to trust the Scriptures as our source of the truth of God. Attempting to discredit the transmission of the Scriptures is extremely reckless, especially considering the wealth of attestation we now possess for the New Testament, dating as far back as 175 CE.

It is also not inappropriate to mention that The Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures, which Mormons claim to be “perfect” and without such difficulties, cannot be verified. The LDS church does not even claim that Joseph Smith wrote down actual translations of his sources; instead, it is claimed that he wrote down whatever he was inspired to write down when looking upon them. There is far greater reason to cast doubt on the LDS “scriptures” than upon the Old and New Testaments.

Eternal Progression

The LDS Church has developed the doctrine of eternal progression to describe the life of man. In this system, a man’s spirit exists, develops, and takes on the form of a man to gain earthly experiences; those who are exalted are able to develop into immortality and equality with God2. There are many aspects to this doctrine involving the nature of God, our relationship with Jesus, and the nature of our existence. Let us now examine the points of this doctrine in order to see if it is in conformity to the Scriptures.

The Nature of God the Father

Joseph Smith taught that God Himself was once a man and was exalted into His godhood3. He further claimed that if we were to see Him as He is, we would see a man4. These statements come from the “King Follett Discourse”, and many are verified in the D&C 130:22:

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell with us.

Are these teachings compatible with the Scriptures?

Concerning the nature of God the Father, we read in Numbers 23:19 and John 4:23-24:

God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says here unequivocally that the Father is a spirit. However, many of the LDS will point to examples in the Old Testament where men, such as Moses or Jacob, “saw” God. Contrary to their claims, we find the following in John 1:18:

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

We could also examine Hosea 11:9 to see that God is most assuredly not a man. It is evident, then, that those individuals in the Old Testament perhaps saw a manifestation of God in some way, but not God Himself.

To this, sometimes Mormons will simply deny the validity of John 1:18 or try to emphasize the “anthropomorphic” Scriptures against statements indicating that God is not a man. Such attempts to create conflict within the Word of God should be assiduously avoided (Psalm 119:160).

There is also the issue of God’s “exaltation,” that God was a man who was exalted to godhood. This requires that there must have been a time when God the Father was not God. In fact, Smith went much further than this, claiming that there were in fact many gods, as evidenced in Abraham 3:3-4:

And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light, and there was light. And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright, and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.

Smith went further in D&C 93:29, claiming the following:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not ceated or made, nor indeed can be.

Do the Scriptures teach that there were gods, some before God the Father, and that man existed in the beginning with God?

We have evidence in the Scriptures in Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8:

“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.”

Thus saith the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and that shall come to pass, let them declare. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have I not declared unto thee of old, and showed it? and ye are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any.”

These passages, along with Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Isaiah 45:21-22, Galatians 4:8, and Isaiah 40:13-18, 21-28, demonstrate clearly that God is one and that there are no other gods. We also read the following in Psalm 90:2:

Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

There is further evidence in Malachi 3:6:

For I, the LORD, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

Therefore, it is evident that God has not changed nor was ever created, but was the Creator. We also have evidence of man’s nature in Romans 9:19-21:

Thou wilt say then unto me, “Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?”
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, “Why didst thou make me thus?”
Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

It is evident that man is a created being; therefore, he could not have possibly been present at creation. God’s nature is not changed. How can Smith thus assert that God “became” as such through exaltation or that other gods exist? How can man, a creation, be present in creation? These ideas are inconsistent with the Scriptures.

Joseph Smith also claimed that God did not really create the heavens and the earth, but merely organized them:

You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos — chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end5.

Yet we read the following in Psalm 33:6, 9:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth…For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

There is further, more definitive evidence in Isaiah 44:24 and Isaiah 45:18:

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb: “I am the LORD, that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth (who is with me?).”

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

How then can we say that God did not create, but merely organized, when He says clearly that He has created the heavens and the earth?

We must see the awesome nature of God, not to be confused in any sense with humanity, as He has made perfectly evident in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” saith the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The Relationship Between Jesus and Man

Smith also asserted in his “King Follett Discourse” that man will be “joint heirs with Christ”, and that this “inheritance” is understood as the following:

…the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before6.

Therefore, Smith determines that we will be equal heirs with Christ. Do the Scriptures support this conclusion?

The Scriptures do teach that we shall be joint-heirs with Christ, as seen in Romans 8:16-17:

The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

This is also seen in Galatians 3:26-29 and 4:1-7. Yet the question remains: does being a joint heir with Christ necessitate that we will be equal heirs with Christ? The text does not support this conclusion. For example, if my grandparents die and they will my father $100,000 and me $20, we are both heirs of my grandparents, and could be rightly called “joint heirs.” Yet we are by no means equal heirs of my grandparents. The situation is similar with our relationship to Christ. Jesus Christ is called the “firstborn from the dead” in Revelation 1:5, and in this sense, we are equal heirs in Christ: we all will receive resurrection from the dead by the power of God and we will all be granted eternal life. We see in Ephesians 5:23-29, however, that Christ is the head of the church, the body of Christ, and that since we are members of that body, we are subject to Him. In this sense we are not joint heirs with Christ, for He is the one who has been granted the authority over heaven and earth (cf. Matthew 28:18-20), and not ourselves.

Therefore, the determination that “joint heirs” means “equal heirs” is not made evident in the Scriptures, and we have seen that the opposite is in fact the case.

The Eternal Nature of Man

The previous discussions concerning the nature of God and our relationship with Jesus Christ all work to the end of the nature of man. Smith’s belief would be clearly articulated later by Lorenzo Snow:

As man now is, God once was: As God is, man may be7.

This is further spoken of in D&C 132:19-20:

…and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then they shall be above all, because all things are subject to them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject to them.

The concept of exaltation runs through this theology, for it is the idea that a man, through his righteousness and obedience to God, shall be exalted to godhood (cf. D&C 76:50-60). Do the Scriptures teach that man can become as a god?

The LDS church will often point to the Eastern Orthodoxy’s concept of theosis as a justification for their belief system, for, as we have seen in Eastern Orthodoxy: Theosis, the Orthodox also have the belief that man can reach a level of godhood. The Eastern Orthodox, however, by no means believe that the Father was once a man nor do they accept the concept of eternal progression.

The LDS use the same Scriptures as the Orthodox do to justify their beliefs, Psalm 82:6 and John 10:33-36:

I said, “Ye are gods, And all of you sons of the Most High.”

The Jews answered him, “For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ye are gods?’ If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘Thou blasphemest;’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?'”

Many observations were made concerning these passages in Eastern Orthodoxy: Theosis, but let us also see what Asaph declares in the word of God in Psalm 82:6 as to whether the Jews “are” gods. It is not taught within the LDS system of eternal progression that a man may become a god while on earth. Jesus also uses this same language in John 10, that the Jews, at this time His adversaries, “are” gods; are we to believe that those who deny Jesus’ position as the Son of God are “gods?”

It is evident when reading the whole of Psalm 82:1-8 that Asaph is condemning the unjust rulers of Israel, for God had placed them in their position to be like “gods,” the rulers of His people. Yet they are unjust, and their end is made evident in Psalm 82:7-8:

“Nevertheless ye shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth; For thou shalt inherit all the nations.

Therefore, Jesus’ usage of this passage in John 10:33-36 is made evident: the Jews of His time are acting as unjust judges like those in the time of Asaph. Jesus is by no means calling these individuals gods, but is simply declaring what they are: unjust, inconsistent judges of Him.

We do see from the Scriptures that we shall inherit eternal life (Matthew 25:31-46), but we see no indication that we will ascend to the level of God. We must always keep in mind that God is higher than we are (Isaiah 55:8-9) and that Jesus Christ is our head, our authority, and our High Priest, not our equal (Ephesians 5:23-29, Hebrews 7:26-29). We should be more than content to be able to have eternal life through fellowship with Him, for even that is far more than what we deserve.

The Nature of Marriage

Another fundamental teaching of Joseph Smith concerning exaltation was the necessity of marriage, and not only marriage, but what was deemed “celestial marriage.” This marriage was deemed to be performed by God and necessary for entrance into the highest levels of exaltation and godhood8. The doctrine further states that this marriage will endure for an eternity if both partners live properly9. Do the Scriptures teach this?

We do not see in the Scriptures that marriage is necessary for entrance into Heaven. In fact, the opposite is proclaimed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 32-35:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

But I would have you to be free from cares. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided. So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

We also have the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:12:

For there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

How could any who make themselves “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” possibly enter into a “celestial marriage?” This concept is not in harmony with the Scriptures.

Jesus also speaks about the permanence of marriage in Matthew 22:23-32:

On that day there came to him Sadducees, they that say that there is no resurrection: and they asked him, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.’ Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first married and deceased, and having no seed left his wife unto his brother; in like manner the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And after them all, the woman died. In the resurrection therefore whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.”
But Jesus answered and said unto them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.'”

Jesus makes it plainly evident in His refutation of the Sadducees’ teachings that marriage is not present in the resurrection. Therefore, we can see that there is no Scriptural basis for a belief in a “celestial marriage,” nor is there any Scripture to justify any precept of eternal progression. These doctrines of Joseph Smith are not in conformity with the teachings of God in the Old and New Testaments.

The Nature of the Afterlife

Joseph Smith taught that the afterlife consisted of four kingdoms, the celestial, terrestrial, and the telestial kingdoms, along with the “outer darkness,” or hell10. He asserted that this information was revealed to him while he was studying John 5:2911. Smith claims that the celestial kingdom has three levels12, that a celestial marriage and baptism will guide one to the highest level13, and that these will receive the exaltation to godhood14. Any who are in the celestial kingdom are there, supposedly, because of their adherence to the “celestial law,” or the law of Christ15. The terrestrial kingdom is given to those who could not know Jesus in this life or were deceived into not following Him, and also those members of the LDS church who are not fully devoted to God16; these individuals are characterized by living uprightly but not according to the standards of the sanctification of God17. These individuals do not receive the full glory of God, but live in “reflected glory,” living for eternity but without the benefits of the “celestial kingdom18.”

The telestial kingdom and the “outer darkness” are for those who did not live uprightly. The telestial kingdom is for the vast majority of people19, for this kingdom is supposedly filled with the individuals who have lived according to the guidelines of the world, called the “telestial law,” freely indulging in the deeds of the flesh20. They will live outside of the presence of God, but not in hell proper21. The “outer darkness” is reserved for those deemed the “sons of perdition,” or those who live in open rebellion against God, breaking even the “telestial law22.” Do we see these “kingdoms” in the Scriptures?

Jesus gives us a picture of the Judgment in Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46:

“But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels…’
And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.”

We see two kingdoms here, not four: the righteous enter the kingdom of the Father; the unrighteous, the eternal fire. There is further evidence against the notion of two “middle” kingdoms in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9:

If so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

We are told that any who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus will suffer punishment from God, yet Smith stated that many who did not obey the gospel would be in the “reflection” of His glory or away from His glory but not in eternal destruction. We do not see anywhere in the Scriptures where God shows mercy to any who do not obey His Son Jesus in the Judgment. An individual will either enter Heaven or be cast down into Hell. Smith’s four-level kingdom structure of the afterlife does not conform to the teachings of the New Testament.

Premillennialism

The LDS church believes in premillennialism, as discussed in detail in Plymouth Brethren: Premillennialism, but have a few adaptations of the belief system to conform to the LDS beliefs concerning The Book of Mormon, the priesthood, and other such things. Let us examine some of these differences now.

The LDS church teaches that a universal apostasy occurred, requiring the gospel to be “restored” by Joseph Smith, and they point to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 as evidence23:

Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.

Is there any evidence here to demonstrate that the apostasy would be a universal one? That none would be left to preach the true Gospel? This would be contradicting Matthew 28:20:

“…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

How can Jesus be with us “always” if there was a universal apostasy? This claim does not conform to the message of Jesus.

The LDS church also claims that the Book of Mormon was to be revealed in the “last days,” as prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 29:1-24 and the building of a temple by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:1-2824. Is this true?

The text in Isaiah is Isaiah 29:11-14:

And all vision is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, “Read this, I pray thee”;
And he saith, “I cannot, for it is sealed”:
And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, “Read this, I pray thee”;
And he saith, “I am not learned”.
And the Lord said, “Forasmuch as this people draw nigh unto me, and with their mouth and with their lips to honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”

Are these “mysteries” the Book of Mormon? The evidence in the Scriptures points more to the mystery of the kingdom of Heaven, as described by Jesus in Matthew 13:10-17:

And the disciples came, and said unto him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?”
And he answered and said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith,
‘By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.”

Here Jesus says clearly that the disciples were to understand the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven and that the Jews had hardened their hearts to this mystery. Therefore, the prophecy of Isaiah stands fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

The passage in Ezekiel under discussion is Ezekiel 37:21-28:

And say unto them, “Thus saith the LORD God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And my servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in mine ordinances, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctifieth Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”

Ezekiel clearly is referring to the new covenant with Jesus Christ, of the lineage of David (see Matthew 1:1-17). Does Ezekiel mean in Ezekiel 37:27 that God will build a literal tabernacle in Jerusalem? What does Paul think in 2 Corinthians 6:16?

And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? For we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Paul here calls Christians the “temple of God,” the same as spoken of in Ezekiel 37:27, demonstrated explicitly in 1 Corinthians 3:16:

Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

The passage in Ezekiel has spiritual ramifications, not literal ones. We can be sure, then, that the Scriptures speak nothing of any unveiling of the Book of Mormon or the building of another temple.

The LDS church also believes that the prophecy concerning the return of Elijah in Malachi 4:5-6 refers to the coming of Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 183625. We have seen, however, in Plymouth Brethren: Malachi 4: Elijah, that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophecy, as stated by Jesus Himself. Are we to trust Jesus or Joseph Smith?

There are many other small detail changes between the premillennialism of the LDS church and the premillennialism of other denominations, especially those in the Evangelical movement, but this should suffice to demonstrate that the LDS version of premillennialism is also not in accordance with the Scriptures.

Baptism for the Dead

The LDS church practices what it calls baptism for the dead, which is a baptism performed by a living person that is done for another who is dead and who may wish to accept that baptism in order to gain a higher standing in the “kingdom” structure26. This practice is performed with the justification of 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

Does this mean that a practice called “baptism for the dead” is legitimate? Let us examine this issue.

First, it is notable to see that there is not one example in the New Testament of anyone being baptized “for” someone else. All baptisms are performed upon an individual for remission of his sin.

Regardless, let us examine 1 Corinthians 15:29. We see that Paul is asking a question about “they” who baptize for the dead. Who represents this “they?” Paul is not issuing a command nor an example here, for he is not saying who is doing this work. Paul is not. The Corinthians are not. Who, then, is?

The Scriptures never speak about this practice nor about any group actually performing it. The only verse that mentions this is 1 Corinthians 15:29, and since Paul is not actually speaking about those who perform this act, we can conclude that Paul is merely asking a hypothetical question, reinforcing his message throughout the chapter: if Jesus has not been resurrected from the dead, all of our hopes are in vain. Therefore, it is not possible to conclude from this verse that we are to “baptize for the dead.”

Furthermore, we have evidence from the Scriptures that speak of an individual being judged for what he has done himself, and not by what others have done perhaps for him, in Matthew 16:27, Acts 17:30, and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9:

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds.”

“The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent.”

If so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

We see in these passages (and also in many others, including Matthew 25:31-46, partially quoted above) that we will each individually be judged by the actions that we perform, and not by the actions that others may perform on our behalf.

Likewise, the Hebrew author makes it clear in Hebrews 9:27-28 that there is no “intermediate” stage of accepting Christ between death and Judgment:

And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.

The LDS may argue that Jesus preached to spirits in prison as seen in 1 Peter 3:19. Yet, as is discussed in Creeds: The Apostles’ Creed, that Peter does not actually say where the spirits were when Jesus preached to them. There is no need to speculate that Christ preached to them in prison or that Jesus will save those who have already perished without having been justified by either the Law or through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. We have been told that we will be judged on the basis of our deeds in the flesh, no more, and no less. Therefore, the Scriptures do not teach that we must baptize for the dead.

Temple Services

The LDS church has instituted a system of temple services wherein temples are built in a locality so that all may assemble there. These temples are supposedly commanded by God in D&C 124:39-40:

Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your must holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. And verily I say to you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people.

It is supposed in D&C 110:7 that God will dwell in these temples:

For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.

Bruce McConkie, in his Mormon Doctrine, makes the following declaration:

The inspired erection and proper use of temples is one of the great evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s work. Without revelation they can neither be built or used. Where there are temples, with the spirit of revelation resting upon those who administer therein, there the Lord’s people shall be found; where these are not, the church and kingdom and the truth of heaven are not27.

These are serious statements. Are we commanded to build temples according to the New Testament?

Stephen, as part of his condemnation of the hardheartedness of the Jews, says the following in Acts 7:48-50:

“Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands; as saith the prophet,
‘The heaven is my throne, And the earth the footstool of my feet: What manner of house will ye build Me?’ saith the Lord: ‘Or what is the place of My rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'”

Stephen is here quoting Isaiah in Isaiah 66:1-2. Let us read that passage:

Thus saith the LORD, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what manner of house will ye build unto me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be,” saith the LORD: “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.”

Isaiah makes it evident here that God looks for the heart of a man for a dwelling place, and not a creation made with hands. Paul often refers to this, as is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20, and 2 Corinthians 6:16:

Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye.

Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.

And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said,
“I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Paul also notes that the church itself, being the individual Christians, is technically a collective temple in Ephesians 2:19-22:

So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

Therefore, it is evident that in the New Testament, we do not build temples with our hands to God, for we are to be His temples. God does not dwell in a temple made with hands; and if there is no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints without a temple, will you follow the teachings of Joseph Smith or will you follow the God of the New Testament?

Notes

1: Some resources for the textual information are Can I Trust the Bible? and Bruce Metzger’s works The Text of the New Testament and The Canon of the New Testament.
2: Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 238-239
3: Joseph Smith, “The King Follett Discourse,” 1844.
4: Ibid.
5: Ibid.
6: Ibid.
7: Popular saying among Mormons; its origin in printed form is in Improvement Era, a Mormon publication, in 1919.
8: D&C 132:15-20
9: Ibid.
10: See D&C 76 and 88
11: D&C 76:15-16
12: D&C 131:1-4, 132
13: Ibid.
14: Ibid.
15: Ibid., 88:16-32
16: Ibid., 76:71-80
17: Ibid., also 88:16-32
18: Ibid., 76:77, 132:17
19: Ibid., 76:81-112
20: Ibid., 88:16-32
21: Ibid., 76:112
22: Ibid., 8
23: Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 689
24: Ibid., p. 690
25: D&C 110:13-16
26: see D&C 124:28-36, 127, 128
27: Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 781

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