We often hear that The Book of Mormon was “written for our day.” I’ve always believed it, but frankly, I’ve sort of written it off as a pithy one-liner good for missionary discussions and sacrament meeting talks. Until recently, that is.
You see, in my line of work I’m unfortunately exposed to just about every existing argument against the Church. But in a recent scripture study I realized that that’s not exactly true. People in the Book of Mormon faced the same arguments some 2000 years ago, and they wrote their experiences down so we’d learn from them. Truly, The Book of Mormon was written for our day.
Argument set #1:
- You’ve never actually felt the Spirit. It’s all manufactured by your own emotions. All of your spiritual experiences are nothing more than illusions or chemical responses in your brain.
- If you actually did have a spiritual experience, it was from Satan. He must have appeared to you as “an angel of light.” You’ve been duped.
Book of Mormon equivalent: 3 Nephi 2:1-3 (about 4 or 5 years after the new star appears; a sign of Christ’s birth)
And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen—
Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people; and thus did Satan get possession of the hearts of the people again, insomuch that he did blind their eyes and lead them away to believe that the doctrine of Christ was a foolish and a vain thing.
And it came to pass that the people began to wax strong in wickedness and abominations; and they did not believe that there should be any more signs or wonders given; and Satan did go about, leading away the hearts of the people, tempting them and causing them that they should do great wickedness in the land.
It wasn’t true. The signs were real. The wonders were real. People really had legitimate spiritual experiences, and so have you. Don’t give in to the same old tactic Satan has been using for millennia now.
Argument set #2:
- It goes against rational thought to believe in God. Where is the evidence? If you can’t see it, you can’t believe it.
- The only reason you believe in (X, Y, Z) is because you’ve been brainwashed by your parents and by the institution.
Book of Mormon equivalent: Alma 30:13-18
O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.
Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.
How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.
Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.
And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.
And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness.
It’s true that the “traditions of our fathers” can be terrible. That’s clear in The Book of Mormon. But if the “traditions of your fathers” teach you to love God, thy neighbor, and even thine enemies, your traditions are probably A-OK. And if the scriptures are true, a belief in Christ and the gospel is totally rational (as per the rebuttal of Argument set #4).
Argument set #3:
- All these Church ordinances and rituals are just control tactics by the leaders of the Church. All they’re after is power, wealth, and control.
- One of the weapons Church leaders use to get you to submit is guilt. They make you feel guilty and accountable to a being that doesn’t exist. It’s all psychology.
- Open your eyes. You’re a slave. Get out of this crazy cult while you still can!
Book of Mormon equivalent: Alma 30:22-24, 27-28
And it came to pass that the high priest said unto [Korihor]: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?
Now the high priest’s name was Giddonah. And Korihor said unto him: Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.
Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.
… And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
Say what you will, but Korihor is the guy who ends up losing his ability to speak, becomes a vagabond, and ultimately gets trampled to death. A lot of good his philosophy did him.
Argument set #4:
- Is God real? Prove it.
- Is The Book of Mormon true? Show me the archaeological evidence.
- I can’t believe anything in the world of faith without undeniable, tactile evidence.
Book of Mormon equivalent: Alma 30:43-45
And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign.
If you’re waiting for God to make a Prince Ali performance on your doorstep, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Argument set #5:
- You received revelation that The Book of Mormon is true? Well, I received revelation that it’s not.
Book of Mormon equivalent: Alma 31:15-18
Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
Well, somebody is doing something wrong.
Argument set #6
- I feel sorry for you, because you believe in a false gospel. That’s tragic, because if you don’t believe the same way I do, you’ll go to Hell.
Book of Mormon equivalent: the verses right after Argument #5, in Alma 31:17-18
But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
The Zoramites were royally messed up. Unfortunately we see the same beliefs today, sometimes even within the Church.
Argument set #7
- Why did Joseph Smith/Brigham Young do (X, Y, Z) in the past? It doesn’t make sense. It’s wrong. How can you possibly follow men such as these?
- Why is President Nelson doing/saying (X, Y, Z) right now? It doesn’t make sense. It’s wrong. How can you possibly follow men such as these?
Book of Mormon equivalent: 1 Nephi 2:11-13
Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.
According to the 1828 dictionary, dealings means behavior, or “conduct in relation to others.” Part of God’s conduct in relation to others (even His prophets) involves letting them process revelation in their own way and at their own pace. If they make mistakes, He oftentimes lets them play out. Lehi indeed may have made mistakes in the process of their prophetic exodus, but that didn’t bother Nephi. Nephi understood the behavior of his God in relation to others and took things in stride. He had the big picture.
Again, The Book of Mormon was written for our day.