Author Archives: Jonathan Whitcomb

Angel Moroni and young Joseph Smith

Warning Against “Another Gospel”

The other day, I noticed a comment on one of my posts on Facebook. A man quoted to me a few verses from the first chapter of Galatians in the New Testament:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Before getting into my original post, let me mention the writer of the above scripture.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Taught by the Apostle Paul

What was the gospel taught by Paul the apostle in the New Testament times? It was the same gospel taught by Peter and the other apostles of the Lord: the good news that the Messiah had come to the earth and fulfilled prophesy and was resurrected and still lives.

Consider how Jesus concluded many days of teaching his disciples (beginning of the first chapter of Acts in the New Testament):

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God . . . And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

This was not a God who left his friends by evaporating into an ether, never again to be seen in the form of a man. This was not a Savior who would never again send an angel to minister to Christians. This was not a Messiah who would never again inspire any mortal to write scripture. This was Jesus Christ, a glorified personage who appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, and that appearance was in his true form: a glorified man.

Let’s now look at the beginning of the second chapter of Galatians:

Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles . . .

Revelation From God

So the Lord communicated with Paul the apostle. Is that a new doctrine or “another gospel?” No, it’s the same way that Peter the apostle lived after his conversion: a life led by revelation.

So what would cause Paul to write the following? “I marvel that ye are so soon removed . . . [from Christ] unto another gospel . . .” It was a system of long-standing traditions that lacked that essential ingredient of spiritual life: our need for a Redeemer, even Jesus Christ. So how do we know Christ and know about him and know about his great works? It’s by revelation from God, both personal communication with God and by revelations from true apostles and other truly authorized messengers from God, including angels.

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Angel Moroni and young Joseph Smith

Like at the time of Paul the apostle, angels still minister to people in modern times

What was my original comment on Facebook, that caused a man to quote to me a few verses from the first chapter of Galatians? It was my testimony of the Book of Mormon a glorious book that has led thousands of persons, if not millions, to search the Bible. The Book of Mormon is a revelation from God. It is filled with exhortations to believe in Jesus Christ and follow him, listening and reading of his eternal gospel. Outside of the Bible itself, what book, other than the Book of Mormon, has done more in turning people to read and believe in the Bible?

Beware of old Christian traditions that include dogmas about God never again giving us any new scriptures and never again sending angels. That was not the gospel preached by Paul.

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Reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon

Encountering the book published by Joseph Smith, in the early 19th century, promotes Bible reading.

A New Word for Marriage Between a Man and a Woman

A new word has been appointed for traditional marriage between a man and a woman: Adahmeve.

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March 31, 2015 version of sacrament hymn

“Through my Savior” Sacrament Hymn

The following is a revision, the March 31, 2015 version; the earlier one (Mar 19) was improved.

Over thirty years ago I wrote the music for what soon became my sacred song about Jesus Christ and his atonement. On occasion I revised the music and the text. This week I modified the song further, making it a sacrament hymn: “Through my Savior.” For those unaware of the meaning of sacrament hymn, it is sung by an LDS congregation right before they partake of the sacred emblems of bread and water. It’s very similar to what some Christians call the Holy Communion. But this one is an exception in one way.

I do not expect any LDS congregation to adapt my hymn and sing it instead of a sacrament hymn in the official hymn book. It is arranged in simple choir format, for a ward choir to sing in a sacrament meeting. Of course this should only be done with the approval of the bishop of the ward, for he has that stewardship and responsibility for his congregation.

March 31, 2015 version of sacrament hymn

For us who are baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sacrament helps us remember our Savior, but it is more. We renew our baptismal covenants, promising that we intend to always remember him and keep his commandments and take upon ourselves his name.

In the Book of Mormon, in Third Nephi, we read of the Savior’s visit to Christians in this American continent. He gave them the sacrament and authorized those who would continue to give the people those sacred emblems.

With all the many wonderful sacrament hymns we have in our LDS hymn book, it took over thirty years for me to arrive at a point where I felt it appropriate to write one, revising the first two verses of my song and changing the melody somewhat. Still, my own contribution is provided for choir singing, not to replace any sacrament hymn choice. Here are the words of the revised two verses:

Verse One

Father in Heaven, thy name is blessed. Heeding thy Spirit’s pleading we repent. For thy Beloved, with our assembling blessing his name, we take the sacrament. When I remember his cup of trembling, Drop after drop of blood was shed for me, Oh, my Father, because of Jesus, then I know I may return to thee.

Verse Two

I was begotten by thee my Father, nurtured in wondrous realms in ages past. My older brother to be my savior. Then came the time: mortality at last! Now in the shadow of mortal weakness, sorrow and sin and counterfeit I see. Oh, my Father, premortal Father, through my Savior I return to thee.

This hymn I approve for non-commercial church and home use.

Addendum: The following two words were changed on August 16, 2015:

Verse #1: “pleading I repent” instead of the early-2015 version which had “pleading we repent”

Verse #2: “would be my Savior” instead of the earlier version of “to be my Savior”

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Book of Mormon text, beginning of book

Getting People to Read the Bible

Introducing the Book of Mormon

Why would I title this post “Getting people to read the Bible” when it’s mainly about the Book of Mormon? Encountering the book published by Joseph Smith, in the early 19th century, promotes Bible reading. That needs explaining.

I, Jonathan Whitcomb, am one of millions who have been influenced by the Book of Mormon in this way: My faith in Jesus Christ has been strengthened; my knowledge of his Gospel has been enlarged; my understanding of his divine existence has been elevated. And there’s something else.

Like millions of other ordinary persons, I have come to better appreciate the Bible and believe in its divine origin because of the Book of Mormon. In other words, we have greater confidence in the Bible because of the Book of Mormon, greater faith in the truths in those 66 books than we would have if we had never encountered the Book of Mormon.

Reading the Bible—a fruit of the Book of Mormon

What is the greatest tool that God has given to modern mortals, to turn their hearts to reading the Bible? Other than the printed Bible itself, it is the Book of Mormon.

The greatest tool in defending the divine origin of the Bible—that’s the Book of Mormon? Exactly. How many people had never touched a Bible until they had been touched by the Book of Mormon! I’m not one of those many readers but my wife is. (I was converted to Jesus Christ from reading the Bible, before I found the Book of Mormon.)

I intend no special criticism of the Roman Catholic church nor any of its members by the following statements, for we are all human, with weaknesses in knowledge and understanding that God has given to us while we live in this short estate of mortality. With all the qualities of character and faith that I have seen in the lives of my Catholic friends, persons whom I have loved and admired throughout my life, many of them have not read the Bible. Notable exceptions are those many Catholics who have encountered the Book of Mormon and felt the influence of the Holy Spirit, testifying to their hearts that it is true. That leads them to the Bible.

Origin of the Book of Mormon

The key mortal in organizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in bringing forth the Book of Mormon—who was he? Let’s approach it thus: Can any person be sure of coming to know who Joseph Smith truly was by first rejecting the man’s claim to being a prophet of God?

Beware of that approach, the same faulty approach used by those Jews who rejected Jesus Christ during the mortal ministry of the Savior. Jesus tried to reason with those who opposed him, asking them to consider his works, even if they disliked him. If they had followed his counsel, they might have recognized the truth: His life was evidence that he was who he said he was: the Messiah.

Who is a prophet of God?

Consider what Jesus said (7th chapter of Matthew):

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Notice that he did not say that the world would never again have prophets in the future. If our Father in Heaven intended that no prophets would be sent to the earth, after the Savior’s redeeming sacrifice was accomplished, Jesus would then have simply said that no more prophets would come. He said nothing like that, but gave us a way to tell the difference between true and false prophets. Now apply that to Joseph Smith.

The Book of Mormon—a fruit of the life of Joseph Smith

A farm boy in the back woods of New York state in the early 1800’s—Joseph Smith could hardly finish writing an intelligible letter, let alone hundreds of pages of apparent ancient scriptures, when the Book of Mormon first began to emerge. What greater evidence could we find, of a man being a true prophet or a false prophet, than a new publication of proclaimed scripture?

Consider the following, if you have not yet read anything in the Book of Mormon. Regardless of what you had previously assumed about it, use portions of it to test whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet.

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Book of Mormon text, beginning of book

What early-18th-century farm boy anywhere on this planet would have known that many people in Jerusalem, in 600 B.C., were strongly influenced by the Egyptian language? Only recently have scholars come to understand how deeply those people were involved in the culture and language of Egypt at that time in history.

And that is only the beginning of the countless evidences for the historical validity of the Book of Mormon, that first page. Beware of those critics who use improper tactics to try to discredit this modern book of scripture, for some of those tactics have also been used to try to discredit the Bible, in particular vain declarations based on the assumption that all scripture is of human origin, without divine authority.

Beware of careless criticisms against the greatest tool that God has given us to defend the divine origin of the Bible: the Book of Mormon.

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Book of Mormon and baptism of little children

The ancient American prophet Mormon is teaching his son Moroni what was revealed  by God through revelation, after Mormon had become troubled about disputations on  this subject of infant baptism.

Textual Evolution in Book of Mormon?

It appeared to me that this commentator had not actually read the Book of Mormon but was speculating based on his imagination (and perhaps on what other critics had speculated) for he gave no detail, no example, no reference. . . . [in reality, however] How obvious that there was no textual evolution from 1830 to the present!

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Lehi-versus-Laban rather than Nephi-versus-Laban

As I was watching a documentary about the journey of Lehi’s family across the desert wilderness, as recorded in First Nephi of the Book of Mormon, a thought came to me (not directly from that documentary by LDS scholars): the concept that Lehi may have had the legal right to the plates of brass that were possessed by Laban around 600 B.C.

We know that both Laban and Lehi were descendants of that Joseph who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, known from Genesis; we also know that an important part of the record on the plates of brass was a genealogy of descendants of Joseph. Why assume that Laban had the legal right to the plates? We know from First Nephi that Laban was guilty of theft and attempted murder, so why assume he had honestly and legally obtained that record?

The Book of Mormon gives us few details, but careful consideration does suggest the possibility that Lehi’s family actually had the right to possess those records. Consider the following.

Lehi said, “go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.” Notice he said nothing about buying the plates. It suggests he had the legal right to them, even though Laban had physical possession.

Notice also, from the first few chapters of First Nephi, how little faith Lehi’s oldest son, Laman, had in God. Yet what did Laman do when the lot fell on him to go to the house of Laban? He simply went to Laban and requested the plates of brass. Doesn’t that sound too far fetched, if Laban had legal ownership of that set of records? Surely Laman would not have asked for a gift like that, if Laban was the legal owner, but Laman would have taken some kind of payment to offer in exchange.

Soon after Laman’s request was refused, all four of the sons of Lehi tried a different approach:

And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things. [I Nephi 3:24]

Notice the absence of any word like buy and purchase. That kind of word is surely basic to many, if not all, languages. I suggest it is absent in the above passage because the gold and silver were offered as an inducement, not a purchase, for Lehi’s family already had the legal right to the plates of brass.

The foundational physical contest, early in the Book of Mormon, was not so much Nephi-versus-Laban but Lehi-versus-Laban, regarding who would obtain physical possession of those plates.

The word “buy” in Second Nephi

Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. [2 Nephi 9:50, which quotes Isaiah 55:1]

We find the word buy in Second Nephi, why not in First Nephi? Most of the chapters of First Nephi deal with traveling through the wilderness, not with common human activities in communities like Jerusalem. It mentions hunting animals and bringing back game to feed the families who were camped in the wilderness, where buying and selling are uncommon. I suspect the reason the word buy is absent from the account of the four brothers with gold and silver is quite simple: It was an inducement to respect the rights of the legal owner rather than a purchase of the plates of brass.

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Life and Law Early in the Book of Mormon

I have noticed, on occasion, someone may become disturbed by reading about the bloody ending of Laban’s life; Nephi himself was disturbed by what he was commanded to do. . . . People in Jerusalem, at about 600 B.C., acted under the law of Moses, or they should have. Under that law, a citizen could indeed be justified in taking another person’s life, under certain specified conditions.

Examining a Verse in First Nephi

Nephi probably meant something like this: “I am now writing in the way that my father communicates, which includes the cultural perspectives and beliefs of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.”

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Excerpts from the writings of Hugh Nibley - LDS nonfiction book

The Essential Nibley

Book Review This nonfiction paperback book is a compilation of some of the writings of Hugh Nibley, a highly-esteemed LDS scholar. Let’s here focus on the eighth chapter of The Essential Nibley, “The Jaradite Epic.” Part One: “The Book of Ether: A Perfect Organic History”

Individually, I find the parallels between the Jaredites and the early Asiatics very impressive, but taken together their value increases as the cube of their number. In the Book of Ether they are woven into a perfect organic whole, a consistent picture of a type of {epic} society the very existence of which has come to be known only in recent years. The only alternative to Joseph Smith’s explanation [of the origin of the Book of Ether and the Book of Mormon] is to assume . . . the existence of a forger who at one moment is so clever and adroit as to imitate the archaic poetry of the desert to perfection and supply us with genuine Egyptian names, and yet so incredibly stupid as to think that the best way to fool people and get money out of them is to write an exceedingly difficult historical epic of six hundred pages. . . . As with the Lehi story, if {the book of Ether} is fiction, it is fiction by one thoroughly familiar with a field of history that nobody in the world knew anything about in 1830. . . .

Part Three: “The Jaredite Epic”

. . .  The book of Ether takes us back thousands of years before Lehi’s time to the dawn of history and the first of the great world migrations. A vivid description of {the} Volkerwanderungszeit concentrates on the migration of a particular party—a large one, moving through the years with their vast flocks and herds across central Asia . . . and then undertaking a terrifying crossing of the North Pacific. Totally unlike the rest of the Book of Mormon, this archaic tale conjures up the “heroic” ages, the “epic milieu” of the great migrations and the “saga time” that follows, describing in detail the customs and usages of a cultural complex that Chadwick was first to describe in our own day.

Part Five: “Fierce and Bloody-Minded men out of Asia”

Though {the Book of Ether} comes to us a digest and an abridgment, stripped and streamlined, it is still as intricate and complex a history as you can find; and in its involved and tragic pages nothing is more challenging than the sinister presence of those fierce and bloody-minded “men out of Asia” known in their day as Jaredites. The whole structure of Jaredite history hangs on a succession of strong men, most of them rather terrible figures. Few annals of equal terseness and brevity are freighted with an equal burden of wickedness. The pages of Ether are dark with intrigue and violence, strictly of the Asiatic brand. . . .

. Excerpts from the writings of Hugh Nibley - LDS nonfiction book

The Essential NIbley

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Walls of Jerusalem

While translating the Book of Mormon plates into English, Joseph Smith noticed the record mentioned the walls of Jerusalem. He asked his wife if Jerusalem had walls and Emma replied that they did. Perhaps the prophet had read these words in First Nephi 4:4:

. . . nevertheless they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem.

The modern English usage of “without” usually relates to words like “absence” or “omission” or “avoidance.” But in earlier generations of English speakers, it was often used as the opposite of “within,” meaning “outside of.” This is the meaning of “without” in an LDS sacrament hymn:

 There is a green hill far away, Without a city wall.

This is also the meaning in First Nephi, for Jerusalem did indeed have walls.