(The following article is the English version of a Japanese booklet I put out in about 1995, entitled "Sugao wo Kakushite Chikazuite Kuru Morumonkyo," which literally translates as "The Mormonism That Approaches You While Hiding Its True Face." I don't have the digital version anymore, but hope to restore that and put it on this website sometime.)
Choosing a religion that is different from one's parents' faith is, for the vast majority of the world's people, something that is very difficult indeed. The religious background of the culture one is born into is not something one can choose anymore than one can choose one's parents. And even in a country such as Japan, with its tolerance to so many religions, deciding to follow a religious belief system radically different from that which one was brought up in often generates friction and misunderstandings within one's family and circle of friends.
One question that should occur to anyone who is searching for the truth is, "How do I know that the religious faith I was raised in is true? With so many conflicting ideas out there, how is one to know what is true?" The fact that you as a Japanese have already joined or are considering joining the Mormon Church means that you are searching for answers to life's questions, and that is good.
One thing that makes it difficult to choose, however, is that we don't usually have all of the relevant facts beforehand. It would be an unusual case indeed, if we could line up all the facts about various religions and rationally choose which one is best. Instead, it is typically a chance meeting or happening that leads us into one or the other. This may be the leading of God, but then again, it may not be. How are you to know? That is why it is so important to look at the facts and not depend on feelings alone, as important as they are. So let's look at the claims of Mormonism to see how they stand up against the facts.
Mormonism is a religion that originated in the United States over 160 years ago. Particularly in the last 40 years, it has grown very rapidly, and world-wide, it claims over 8.5 million people as members, with an additional million being added every 2 or 3 years. In Japan, the number of members claimed is over 100,000, and the Mormons have built a beautiful temple in Tokyo and numerous churches throughout Japan.
Many people are impressed by the apparent sincerity and enthusiasm displayed by these clean-cut, friendly young men bicycling around the neighborhood two by two. They typically learn the language surprisingly well in the relatively short time they are in Japan, and a few of them have remained in Japan in various pursuits, such as the "two Kents," Kent Gilbert and Kent Delicutt, who are well-known and popular television personalities, and who I really admire as persons.
It is likewise undeniable that the educational, financial and other such institutions built up by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are indeed impressive, when looked at from a human standpoint. The Mormon Church has done a very good job at presenting a positive public image while emphasizing family values and wholesomeness. I certainly have no quarrel with these positive aspects of Mormonism. Likewise, in no way do I intend to put down individual Mormons, most of whom are good, sincere people.
I have, however, done a great deal of research into Mormon history and teachings, and it is this aspect that I want you to consider along with the many positive things that have attracted you to the Mormon Church. It is a wonderful thing that here in Japan you have the freedom to accept any religious faith that you so choose. There are, in fact, numerous religious movements actively seeking converts here in Japan, many of which claim to be the only "true" religion. How is one to know which one is really telling the truth, since these mutually exclusive and contradictory systems of belief obviously can't all be true?!
The Mormon "testimony"
The Mormon Church's founder, Joseph Smith, faced a similar dilemma when he went into the woods to pray as a young man. In The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 1:18-19, Joseph Smith tells of how he inquired of the Lord "to know which of the sects was right, that I might know which to join." The answer he says he received was that the Christian denominations "were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt."
Joseph Smith and every one of his followers since has claimed to have a "burning in the bosom" testimony that proves Mormonism is true. Likewise, those who are looking into Mormonism are exhorted to pray "to know" that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Moroni 10:4 is quoted, which states that if we "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."
In other words, you are being asked to make a subjective judgment based on your feelings of the moment, with the implication that if you don't feel that "burning in the bosom" that the Book of Mormon is true, you aren't really sincere or don't really believe in Christ. While feelings are, of course, important, they are also indisputably unreliable when it comes to such things as religious faith. In the summer of 1992, there was a big splash in the Japanese news media concerning pop singer Sakurada Junko and former Olympian Yamasaki Hiroko, who spoke with great conviction, as they prepared to go off to Seoul to get married in the Unification Association's mass wedding, about how they "knew" the Moon doctrine was true. Likewise, people who have joined a variety of other religious groups have also similarly claimed to "know" that theirs was the one true religion. In April 1993, however, Yamasaki Hiroko renounced her former position saying that she had been under "mind control" and unable to think through or even objectively look at the evidence proving that Sung Myung Moon is a false messiah and that the Unification Association's grandiose claims are all based in distortions and lies. What she "knew" before was entirely subjective; what she "knows" now is based in objective facts.
People in all of these movements have sincerely prayed to whatever concept of God they had to "manifest the truth of it" to themselves, and they all claim to have received such a testimony. Now, obviously, somebody's testimony is in error, as they can't all be true. In bringing up this point, I do not mean, of course, that one's feelings are to be ignored entirely. The point I want to make here is that they must also be supported by objective facts.
For instance, the Mormon Church's emphasis on strengthening the family is certainly a laudable goal with which I have no quarrel. As part of this emphasis, however, claims are made as to the superiority of Mormon families. No doubt there are many strong Mormon families, but statistics do not bear out the claims of Mormon superiority. If Mormon claims to superior families were true, Utah, which is approximately 77% Mormon, should have very low rates of divorce, child abuse, wife beating, and other such statistics that go along with families in trouble. That is not, however, the case, as Utah's rates relative to total population for all of these family related statistics are among the highest in the nation. Of course, one could argue that the 23% non-Mormons are to blame, but that is highly unlikely. Thus, these statistics show that Mormons are no better or worse than others and are, just like the rest of humanity, sinners in need of God's grace.
Likewise, the Mormon Church claims to be the "true" Christianity and the "restored gospel." The various Christian denominations are said to be apostate, with the fact that there are so many divisions being proof of that total apostasy. What they fail to consider, however, is that if in fact the numerous denominations of Christianity prove that it is false, then the same standard should apply to the followers of Joseph Smith. While "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" is by far the largest such organization, there are over 200 groups that have splintered off from the original church founded by Joseph Smith in 1830, all of which claim him as their founding prophet and the Book of Mormon as the word of God. Thus, if the Mormon Church is going to use such a criterion as splintering into many groups as a standard for truth, then that same standard has to apply to themselves as well if it is to be true (which, of course, it isn't)!
It should also be remembered that other groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Association of Sun Myung Moon also claim to be the "true Christianity," even though each is radically different from each other as well as from Mormonism and the traditional Christian denominations. Thus, the use of the name Jesus Christ in its title or in its doctrines does not in itself make any group "Christian" in the true sense of the word. To determine that, one must analyze the content of the belief system in light of known, objective facts (historical and otherwise).
Now, there is nothing inherently impossible about any religious belief system. The Mormon belief that there is a master planet named Kolob, "the first creation"…"nearest unto the throne of God" (Abraham 3:1) from which life originated, that there are now billions of planets in the universe inhabited or soon to be inhabited with beings that are begat by Mormon gods who were themselves once men, and that our earth is just one such planet is not inherently impossible. The idea that the God of this earth, Elohim, was previously a human who became a god and who through his myriad wives then procreated all human beings here on earth as spirit children who were later given a physical body is likewise not something that is automatically beyond the realm of possibility. Moreover, personal experiences like those claimed by Joseph Smith — such as God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the angels Moroni and Nephi personally appearing to him — are beyond direct confirmation. How could one prove that John the Baptist didn't appear to Joseph Smith to restore the Aaronic priesthood or that Peter, James and John didn't appear to him to restore the Melchizedek priesthood from which comes all spiritual authority? We can only look at the evidence we have and then decide if there is really any evidence to support that belief system and its related claims (which, however, still must be accepted by faith).
While there is no way to directly confirm or deny such personal experiences claimed by Joseph Smith, it is possible to scientifically test such teachings as the master planet Kolob to see if they match reality, and so before examining further the claims of the Book of Mormon, let's see what light astronomical observations throw on this subject. It has only been in the last few years that the approximate size and the various parameters that describe the physical universe have actually been measured. These measurements have fit in perfectly with the biblical description of the universe (that time, space and matter all had a definite beginning in the finite past), and they have also disproven a number of ideas taught by other religious systems. For instance, Hinduism teaches that the universe is cyclical and subject to the law of reincarnation just like everything else. Interestingly enough, the ancient Hindu scriptures claim that each cycle between the infinite reincarnations of the universe lasts some 4.32 billion years. A few years ago, the concept of a "bouncing universe" with an infinite succession of "big bangs" that collapsed back on themselves and then exploded outward again was being seriously promoted by some astronomers who didn't want to have to deal with the idea of a supernatural Creator, such as the Bible describes. Those who promoted this idea were impressed that ancient Hinduism could have come so close to the time scale they proposed, but more recent observations have proven beyond any doubt that such a scenario is absolutely impossible. In other words, even if the present expanding universe were to reverse itself and collapse back to its original point, the "Big Bang" could not be repeated. Thus, this foundational teaching of Hinduism has been shown to be in error, which therefore means that the religious system of thought of Hinduism is likewise false.
In a similar manner, Mormonism's teaching of a master planet Kolob and billions of other inhabited planets can be tested scientifically. Astronomers now recognize that the universe as a whole is extremely hostile to life and that over 100 different parameters we can measure with respect to the sun and earth have to all be within narrow ranges of value in order for humans to survive. Astronomers can now prove statistically that the probability of there being even one earth-like planet anywhere in the universe by chance alone is extremely remote, and this strongly supports the idea that God had to carefully design the earth specifically to support advanced life. Theoretically, of course, God could do likewise for the billions of other life-supporting planets claimed by Mormonism, but the description of the master planet Kolob clearly does not fit that picture. For one thing, Kolob is described as being surrounded by many great stars with itself being the second largest created object near God's throne (Abraham 3:2). We now know, of course, that stars are far larger than the planets revolving around them. In fact, astronomers have shown that a planet much bigger than earth could not support advanced life at all. Likewise, being close to more than one star, such as would be the case for a planet located near the center of the galaxy, would also make life impossible, since a planet could not maintain a stable orbit and the radiation levels would be far too high. On top of that, the ridiculously slow rotational period of 1000 earth years claimed for Kolob would mean that daytime temperatures would be so hot and the 500-year night so cold that any life would be impossible. Imagine a 500-year-long winter in Antarctica followed by a 500-year-long summer in the Sahara Desert! The astronomy department at the Mormon Church owned Brigham Young University may try to legitimatize the Kolob theory, but no serious astronomer would give any credence to such a scenario!
The Evidence of the Book of Mormon
In a similar manner, it is important to test the historicity of the Book of Mormon against the established facts of history. So let's take a look at the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claimed to be "the most correct book on earth," and see how it stacks up. First of all, why is this such an important issue? The recent prophet of the church, Ezra Taft Benson, confirmed the words of one of the church's most respected scholars, Bruce R. McConkie, when he quoted his words, "There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?" Mormon leaders have repeatedly said that the truth of Mormonism depends on the truth of the Book of Mormon and of its founder, Joseph Smith. So let's follow the Bible's admonition to "put all things to the test and keep what is good" (I Thes. 5:21). In other words, check it out to see if it is really true instead of just depending on subjective feelings alone.
Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt said that if the Mormon religion had errors in it, the members would be grateful if someone would point them out: "...convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds" (The Seer, pp. 15-16). In his 1851 book entitled, "Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," Orson Pratt says this in his introduction: "The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited Ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it." He then goes on to say that if it is true, it is "one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man," but if it is false, "it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world." He then says, "The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it." And finally, he says, "If after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced."
Brother Pratt certainly has laid the issue squarely on the line. It is of crucial importance to the lives of millions, and so this is why we need to take a close look at the Book of Mormon in light of archaeology to see if there is any actual evidence of its historicity. Hopefully, our Mormon friends will be grateful for the information received.
Likewise, as Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. said, "The (LDS) Church stands of falls with Joseph Smith" (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, pg. 188). He went on to say that there is "no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith." And thus, we also need to examine the life of Joseph Smith to see if he really is God's special prophet who deserves to be placed on an equal or almost equal plane with Christ. But first, let's look at the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon and Archaeology
Have you ever wondered why there are no maps shown in the Book of Mormon? Practically every place mentioned in the Bible can be located today, and thus most Bibles are accompanied with maps showing where important events actually took place. Likewise, archaeology is continually bringing to light new information that confirms the historicity of biblical events.
Can the same be said concerning the Book of Mormon? Mormon missionaries continue to tell people that the Book of Mormon is archaeologically, historically and geographically true. But what sort of evidence can they show to back up these claims? In the past, claims have been made that the Smithsonian Institute has used the Book of Mormon as a guide in its research of ancient cultures in the Americas. Because of this, the Department of Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institute has released a "Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon" which emphatically states that there is no connection whatsoever between archaeology and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon, and thus it is not a valid guide for archaeological exploration.
In fact, an official textbook printed by the Mormon Church, entitled "Book of Mormon Student Manual" says essentially the same thing. This book contains an illustration of "Possible Book Of Mormon Sites" with the caption, "No effort should be made to identify points on this map with any existing geographical locations." In the preface of this book, it says concerning this "map" that "these Book of Mormon cities cannot be tied to any modern geography." Thus, even though unsuspecting people are still told by Mormon missionaries that the Book of Mormon is actual history, the Mormon Church itself admits in its official writings that this cannot be shown to be true.
Therefore, let us look at some of the important archaeological facts related to the Book of Mormon. Let's consider the following list: 1) No remains of even one of the numerous cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon has ever been positively identified. What if there were no evidence that cities such as Jerusalem, Damascus, Athens or even Rome ever existed? Would not the absence of any such corroborative evidence from external sources affect the believability of the biblical narrative? (That, of course, is not the case, since these cities are still lived in today!) 2) No mention of any persons, nations or places mentioned in the Book of Mormon has ever been found at any archaeological site (other than those which it has in common with the Bible that have been found in the biblical lands). 3) None of the inscriptions found in the Americas so far has been found in Hebrew or Egyptian or anything remotely similar which could correspond to Joseph Smith's "Reformed Egyptian." Reports of such have been printed, but none have stood up to examination by reputable scholars. (And since it is claimed that God directly communicated the English translation to Joseph while he looked at the "seer stone," one wonders why it mattered what language was written on the golden plates or that the plates even existed at all!) 4) Nothing has every been found to indicate that any of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas had anything other than pagan beliefs — certainly not anything corresponding to Jewish or Christian beliefs. 5) None of the Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) existed in the New World prior to Columbus and other Europeans bringing them, all of which was long after the time frame of the Book of Mormon. Specifically, this means that American Indians had no wheat or barley (just as Europeans had no corn or peanuts) prior to 1492, even though the Book of Mormon describes cultivation of such grains. Likewise, the all-important horse (and the chariots it pulled) and other animals such as cattle, pigs, donkeys and camels — all of which play important roles in the Book of Mormon — were entirely unknown in the New World prior to contact with Europe. There are no ancient inscriptions that portray any of these animals nor is there any other evidence that they existed on the American continents during the time frame of the Book of Mormon. 6) The use of iron, steel, glass and silk mentioned in the Book of Mormon is unsupported by any evidence. While there is evidence of metallurgy involving gold, silver, copper and their alloys prior to 1492, none exists for iron. The Spaniards brought that. Thus, there were none of the swords and armor described in the great battles of the Book of Mormon, and on top of that, the native Americans were even without wheel technology prior to Columbus. Likewise, not one single coin, such as the gold and silver coins mentioned in the Book of Mormon, has ever been found. No archaeological site has ever yielded any of these artifacts.
If the Book of Mormon is an account of the actual history of ancient peoples in the Americas, then after all these years of archaeological searching, some corroborating evidence to support that would surely have been found. Yet not a single shred of convincing evidence has been produced. It can be maintained, of course, that we just haven't looked in the right places yet, but after the concerted efforts of both Mormon and "Gentile" archaeologists over more than a century, not finding even one piece of real evidence that overcomes even one of the many historical problems must certainly be discouraging to any honest Mormon archaeologist!
Internal Inconsistencies in the Book of Mormon
Two other aspects of this "most correct book on earth" need to be mentioned as well. The first concerns the numerous internal inconsistencies it has, and the second is that the doctrines it teaches are very different from those of the Mormon Church!
First of all, let's look at the claim that the Book of Mormon is inspired by God and is his "mind, will and voice to all men." If one compares the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon to present editions, one finds that over 4000 changes have been made. Most of these are, admittedly, corrections of spelling, grammar, etc., but a number of them involve significant changes in the meaning. We will look at an important example of that later under the section on the racism inherent in the Mormon system. But the fact that any such corrections at all were needed in the "most correct book on earth" is a grave inconsistency.
Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni had given him what he described as two stones set in silver bows and resembling eyeglasses, which were called "Urim and Thummim." By using this magical device, he said that he then could translate the golden plates and their "reformed Egyptian" into English. Later on, Joseph said he found a special "seer stone" in the bottom of a well through which he could do the same thing. Through a kind of magical process, where Joseph put the stone into his hat and then drew the hat over his face so that no light could come in, the characters the text was written in would appear before him accompanied by their English translation. Joseph would then read that off to his scribe. Thus, in effect, the Book of Mormon was supposedly simply dictated through Joseph by God. In fact, Joseph Smith stated that when he and the 8 witnesses to the Book of Mormon went out in the woods to pray, "We heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, 'These plates...have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct..." (History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 54-55). If this were true, how could there be any errors at all that needed correction?
In their discussions of the Bible, Mormons often make statements to the effect that there have been many changes and alterations made in the biblical text, and so one can't really be sure what was originally meant. This, then, is used to try to establish the need for "present-day" revelation — namely, their first three standard works, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. While it is true that there are a few verses in the Bible where the original text is somewhat in question (because of differences in ancient manuscripts), none of them significantly affect any important teaching, and the vast majority are of a very minor nature. Likewise, when one looks at the thousands of changes that have been made in all of the Mormon scriptures, one wonders why the supposed changes in the Bible would be much of a problem to a Mormon. The facts are, however, that over and over, the Bible has been shown to be reliable historically and archaeologically, and through it, God has revealed everything that is important to know about him to mankind.
Returning to the reliability of the Book of Mormon, it is interesting to note that even the signed statement by the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon has been changed. In the original 1830 edition, it read: "...Joseph Smith, Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work, has shewn unto us the plates...." Today's version reads, "...Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates...." As one objectively looks at the evidence, it is obvious that the original wording is the more accurate!
It is also important to note that of the two sets of witnesses to the Book of Mormon (the "three witnesses" and the "eight witnesses"), some later changed their story. The first two witnesses named, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer both left the Mormon Church recanting their former positions and saying in effect that it was all a lie! And the other witness, Martin Harris, was even described in Mormon literature as being quite unstable. According to the Millennial Star (vol. 8, p. 124), Martin Harris "became partially deranged...flying from one thing to another." And yet the Mormon Church asks you to believe their "testimony" that the Book of Mormon is true!
Likewise, there are numerous clear absurdities in the Book of Mormon. For instance, in Ether 15:30-31, it talks about a man named Shiz who, after having his head chopped off, "raised up on his hands and fell, and after that he had struggled for breath, he died." A rather strange miracle indeed! And the time frame of a number of its statements do not agree with historical facts. For instance, in 2 Nephi 29:3-6, the word "Bible" is used many times. 2 Nephi was supposedly written between 559 and 545 B.C., but this was about 700 years before the word "Bible" (which comes from the Greek word for "book") was ever used to refer to the sacred writings of Israel. In fact, there are a number of Greek words and names that appear in the Book of Mormon, such as "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (3 Nephi 9:18, quoting Rev. 21:6) and the use of the Greek names "Timothy" and "Jonas" (the Greek form of the Hebrew "Jonah") in 3 Nephi 19:4. The Nephites, however, were supposed to have left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., long before there was any Greek influence in Israel, and thus they would not have known such words. Likewise, the use of the name "Jesus Christ" in 2 Nephi 30:5 and several other verses is totally out of the time frame of the Bible. These kinds of logical and historical absurdities are impossible to reconcile with the inspired writing of true history!
One recent ploy used by Mormons to try to counteract this sort of evidence for the falsehood of Mormon scriptures is to admit that there are inaccuracies in them, but then to down play the importance of that by saying that the Bible has even more inaccuracies. It is true that over the years, many scholars desiring to discredit Christianity have attacked the Bible, trying to show that it does not represent true history. While not all such problems have yet been solved, archaeological and scientific findings have repeatedly shown that what was previously thought to be erroneous is in fact in complete harmony with the facts of history and science. Thus, this new ploy that the Bible has even more errors in it than the Book of Mormon rings hollow.
The Book of Mormon and the Teachings of Mormonism
Perhaps even more important is the fact that even though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stresses the foundational importance of the Book of Mormon to their faith and that "it is God's revelation to the New World just as the Bible is God's revelation to the Old World," most of the actual teachings of the Church are not found in the Book of Mormon. In fact, not even one doctrine that is distinctive and essential to Mormonism is found in the Book of Mormon, and all such doctrines are actually contradicted by it!
The Mormon Church teaches that God has a body of flesh and bones. They believe in "eternal progression," which means that God was once a man who was then exalted into godhood. And they teach that faithful Mormon men can also work their way up to godhood to a state where they will produce countless spirit children with their many wives and rule some other planet. None of these teachings come from the Book of Mormon. These and many other peculiar teachings are based in part on Mormonism's other two sacred works, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, which are supposedly the numerous revelations given to Joseph Smith during the years after the Book of Mormon was written. These, together with the many utterances of Mormonism's "living prophets," form the basis for all Mormon doctrine. We will look in more detail at these later, but first let's look at what the Book of Mormon teaches about some of these key doctrines.
While the Mormon Church teaches that God has a physical body (because He is figuratively described even in the Bible as "talking," "walking," "extending his right hand," etc.), the Book of Mormon clearly declares that God is a Spirit, which is in agreement with the Bible. (See Alma 18:24-28 and Alma 22:9-11.) Likewise, Mormonism teaches that the God of this world, Elohim, is only one of countless gods on other worlds, while Alma 11:26-29 clearly states that there is only one "true and living God." This is the same point so clearly stressed in the Bible. If there did exist other gods on other worlds, as Mormons claim, certainly the "true and living God" would know of them. Yet Isaiah 44:8 and many other verses clearly state that no other gods even exit. "Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any."
Other crucial contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants includes the teaching in D&C 130:3 that Christ being able to "dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false." The Book of Mormon's teaching, however, agrees with the Bible on this point when is says that God does not dwell in temples made with hands, but in "the hearts of the righteous" (Alma 34:36).
Likewise, Mormonism's prophets have taught that the gods were once men who became gods. Prophet Lorenzo Snow put it this way, "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." (The Gospel Through the Ages, pgs. 105 & 106). The Book of Mormon, however, agrees on this point with the Bible when it says, "For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?" (Mormon 9:9, referring to Hebrews 13:8 and James 1:17 in the Bible). Mormon 9:19 adds, "And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God." And Moroni 8:18 says, "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity."
So what is it to be? Many or one? Limited to a physical body or able to be everywhere at once? Always changing and progressing, or "the same yesterday, today, and forever?" If Joseph Smith was right — that all gods were once men — then if we go back far enough, it follows that the first being in all the universe was not a god but a man! So, who created him?! And how could a god of flesh and bones be the Creator of the Universe and able to be everywhere at once?! The Bible teaches that "in the beginning" the eternal God, who is pure Spirit, created time itself and everything that exists in time.
In Japan, the idea that a person can become a god when he dies is certainly nothing new. That is an important part of the Shinto religion, though, of course, the concept is quite different from what it means to become a god in Mormon doctrine. But such a concept is totally incompatible with the faith of the Bible which is common to both Judaism and its descendant, Christianity (and yet Mormonism claims to be the "true Christianity"!).
Polygamy and the Book of Mormon
Numerous other such contradictions exist between the Book of Mormon and what Mormon leaders have taught as God's truth. Among these, one important example is the matter of polygamy. While not officially practiced any more by the main branch of the Mormon Church, many "fundamentalist" Mormon splinter groups still practice it in secret. And in the early days of the LDS Church, it was taught as an essential doctrine for salvation. A Mormon man could only hope to find "exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom" if he had more than one wife, and a Mormon woman could only be saved through her husband. Brigham Young put it this way, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269). Mormon apostles taught that God the Father has many wives by whom he begat our spirits and that he took on his physical body to have sex with Mary, one of his daughters (which by definition is incest!), in order to beget the physical body of Jesus. They also taught that Jesus himself was a polygamist being married to Mary and Martha as well as other women. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, page 210; The Seer, page 172, etc.)
This practice of polygamy was viewed as criminal by the American government, and a great deal of pressure was applied to the early Mormons to end the practice. Finally, in 1890, when a new "revelation from God" was received, the Mormon Church capitulated to the government demands, and polygamy was no longer officially sanctioned. It is still believed, however, to be the order of Heaven, with temple ceremonies being held even today to unite Mormons in polygamous marriages for the next life. And yet, the Book of Mormon plainly states that the polygamy is an abomination in God's sight! (Jacob 2:24)
Another Testament of Jesus Christ?
On the title page of the Book of Mormon, we find the words "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." However, when we look at the Jesus Christ portrayed in the Book of Mormon and in Mormon doctrine outside the Book of Mormon, it is apparent that it should read "A Testament of Another Jesus Christ!" The Mormon Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10), and was begotten by a sexual relationship between the Virgin Mary and God the Father (Mormon Doctrine, Pgs. 546-547; Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pg. 18). The LDS Jesus was the spirit brother of the Devil, Lucifer (Mormon Doctrine, pgs. 164, 192-193, 590), and he had many wives including Mary and Martha through which he begat many children (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1:345-346, 2:79-81, etc.).
These are in contrast to the Jesus of the Bible who was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2) of a virgin by means of a special miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-23). The Jesus of the Bible was co-Creator of both the material world and the spirit world which included the angel Lucifer who later became Satan (Col. 1:15-17, 2:9; John 1:1-3, 14; and many other verses), and although there were cases of polygamy among some of the Old Testament leaders, it was far from God's ideal (Gen. 2:24, Deut. 17:17). And after Jesus came in the flesh, leaders in the New Testament Church were instructed to be the husband of but one wife (I Timothy 3:2, 12).
The most important contrast between these two different Jesus Christs, however, is in what is recorded to have happened at Easter. The Easter story we find in the Book of Mormon deals not with the crucifixion and resurrection accounts we find in the Bible, but with what supposedly took place in the Western Hemisphere at the same time.
We are told that when Jesus was crucified, a great storm arose accompanied by a terrible earthquake. The result of these disasters was the destruction of 16 separate cities. The storm and earthquake lasted for three hours, and then a supernatural darkness fell that lasted for three days. During this period of darkness, the survivors of the storm and earthquake cried out, "O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah." (3 Nephi 8:25) During this period of darkness, a voice cried out listing the cities he had destroyed and how he had destroyed them. When the terrible litany was complete, the voice declared, "I am Jesus Christ the Son of God." (3 Nephi 9:15)
How different this story is from what we find in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Jesus ever injured anyone. As he was being nailed to the cross, rather that lashing out in righteous anger, he prayed for his tormentors saying, "Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) Yet in the New World, if we are to believe the Book of Mormon, this same Jesus attacked and destroyed 16 separate cities, killing not those who had harmed him, but those who were innocent of any crime towards him. So we have the ultimate paradox that he prayed for those who deliberately tortured and killed him, while he slaughtered those who never knew him.
The Bible warns about other Christs: "And then if anyone says to you, 'Look! here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect." (Mark 13:21-22) St. Paul talks about those who would "preach another Jesus" (II Cor. 11:4), and he says in Gal. 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed."
The Mormon gospel (which, incidentally, was preached by "an angel from heaven") is quite contrary to the gospel Paul preached. Likewise, it is quite apparent to anyone who honestly considers the evidence that the Christ of Mormonism (as well as the Christ of the Jehovah's Witnesses or Moonies) is very different from the Christ of Christianity. Only you can decide which Jesus Christ you will follow. But remember, if the Mormon Jesus is not the true Jesus Christ, he cannot save anyone.
Another important point is that Mormon salvation is basically a salvation of works. "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23) Have you done all that you can do? How would you know? How can you have any confidence in your own salvation if it is only after doing "all that you can do?"
In contrast to this, the Bible teaches, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:8-10) "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) Yes, Christians can have complete confidence in their salvation because it is a free gift of God. Our good works are not its prerequisite but are what result from it.
The Legacy of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith claimed and the Mormon Church believes that he was a special prophet of God. In many ways, he is put on a par with Jesus Christ himself. For instance, Mormon's compare Smith's death to that of Jesus Christ saying that he went as a "lamb to the slaughter." In their eyes, he is a martyr, which proves that his claims are true. However, it is entirely possible for a person to die for what he knows is a lie rather than face the shame of admitting it. And besides, the facts show that he was anything but a willing martyr. It is true that the Mormons were persecuted for their beliefs and practices. We certainly don't condone this, but when Joseph was murdered by the mob at the jail in Carthage, Illinois, he defended himself with a pistol that had been smuggled into him killing two men in the process. Now I don't fault him for trying to defend himself, but Joseph Smith's death can hardly compare with that of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had the power to defend himself from torture and death, but who refused to call upon it!
A sampling of statements made by Mormon leaders concerning Joseph Smith shows that "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" should really more properly be called "The Church of Joseph Smith of Latter-day Saints"! Brigham Young said "no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, pg. 289) Likewise, Joseph Fielding Smith, one of the recent presidents of the Mormon Church, wrote the following: "NO SALVATION WITHOUT ACCEPTING JOSEPH SMITH. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth when he said that he stood in the presence of angels sent from the Lord, and obtained keys of authority, and the commandment to organize the Church of Jesus Christ once again on the earth, then this knowledge is of the most vital importance to the whole world. No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pgs 189-90)
Joseph Fielding Smith also had this to say about its founder, Joseph Smith: "He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds the world has ever seen; there is no middle ground." (Doctrines of Salvation 1:188) With this, we couldn't agree more! Numerous false prophecies of Joseph Smith are recorded in Mormon writings. For instance, in 1832, Smith prophesied that a Mormon temple would be built in Independence, Missouri, "which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:4-5) To this day, there is no such temple. Smith also prophesied that the American Civil War "would be poured out upon all nations" (Doctrine and Covenants 87:2). History shows this was not the case. Likewise, in 1835, Smith prophesied that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was only 56 years away (History of the Church 2:182). Accordingly, Jesus should have returned in 1891! Like the Jehovah Witnesses' numerous claims of when Jesus would return, this too did not happen. It only stands to reason that a prophet who makes false prophecies is a false prophet and is not "the mouthpiece of the Lord." (See Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
To go along with his false prophecies, there is also the matter of false Scriptures. We have already looked at the numerous proofs that the Book of Mormon is not a history of events that really happened. How, then, did it come about? Since the "golden plates" were supposedly taken back up to heaven, they are beyond direct confirmation. However, it can be shown that tales of ancient civilizations was a common theme for novels of the early 19th Century. In fact, an author by the name of Solomon Spaulding wrote a novel that he called "Manuscript Found!" about how the Indians were really descendants of a band of Hebrews who had migrated from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Before he could get his novel published, his handwritten manuscript disappeared from the printer's shop, and Spaulding died shortly thereafter in 1816.
Before he died, Spaulding told others that he believed a man by the name of Sidney Rigdon, who worked at the print shop, had stolen the manuscript, but he couldn't prove it. Interestingly enough, this same Sidney Rigdon later became a close associate of Joseph Smith and a leader in the Mormon Church! So while numerous mysteries still surround the actual origins of the Book of Mormon, it appears highly likely that it is nothing more than a plagiarized romantic novel that has been added to and adapted by Joseph Smith.
A similar problem exists with the Book of Abraham found in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith claims to have translated it from an ancient Egyptian document that he claims Abraham wrote some 4000 years ago while in Egypt. The papyrus documents came into the possession of Smith when he bought them from an antique dealer, and the problem for the Mormon Church is that unlike the original "golden plates" of the Book of Mormon, these very documents still exist today. Qualified Egyptologists all testify that the contents of these ancient documents are Egyptian funeral rites and have absolutely nothing to do with Abraham. In fact, the hieratic script they are written in did not even exist until many centuries after Abraham. The particular documents Joseph Smith used for his "translation" are estimated to be roughly 2000 years old.
The Racism Inherent in Mormonism
These facts prove that the Book of Abraham, as well as the Book of Mormon, are complete fabrications by Joseph Smith in order to give authority to his own ideas in the name of God. One particularly important idea has to do with the racism that is inherent in Mormon doctrine. The traditional Mormon understanding is that blacks are not worthy of the Mormon priesthood because it is believed that their black skin is God's curse on them due to their not having been courageous and faithful like the rest of God's spirit-children in their pre-existence. The Book of Abraham 1:26 specifically states that the descendents of Ham (the blacks) are "cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood." Prior to receiving a new "revelation from the Lord" in 1978 that allows all faithful Mormon men to receive the priesthood regardless of race, the official Mormon teaching was that dark-skinned persons were merely receiving the due reward of their rebellion against God.
Thus, blacks were viewed as clearly being inferior to whites, with their dark skin and flat noses being the mark of their curse. Quoting from the Mormon publication "Juvenile Instructor" (Vol. 3, p. 157), "We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon the curse of heaven placed upon some portions of mankind....We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white."
Traditional Mormon thinking on race is clearly revealed in the following quotation. In his 1954 address at the Mormon owned Brigham Young University, Mormon apostle Mark E. Peterson said concerning the doctrine of pre-existence:
"Is there reason then why the type of birth we received in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life?...Can we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds."
He continues, then, by talking of God's "great mercy" to anyone who accepts the Mormon gospel. "A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the preexistence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life, accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn't the mercy of God marvelous?"
While I do not pretend to have any understanding as to why I was born a white American while you were born a Japanese, the very idea that this was because of some sort of reward or punishment due to our deeds in a supposed "pre-existence" is absurd, and is rooted in the sinful attitude of racism and white superiority. It is in total opposition to the teachings of the Bible and Christianity, which teach that all human beings are of equal value to God, their Creator. The clear implications of Mr. Peterson's statements, however, are that his being born into a white Mormon family is a reward for his faithfulness as a "spirit-child" in the pre-existence, while your being born a Japanese is a punishment for not having been such. Such ideas would certainly not be verbalized in a Japanese Mormon Church, but they are undeniably a part of the Mormon tradition.
When public opinion finally caused the Mormon Church to reverse its position on accepting blacks into the priesthood, a change was even made in the Book of Mormon. In the 1980 edition, 2 Nephi 30:6, a verse promising that in the "latter-days" many Lamanites would convert to Mormonism and receive many blessings, was changed from the original, "and many generations shall not pass away among them (the Lamanites), save they shall be a white and delightsome people" to "and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and delightsome people." Interestingly enough, the Japanese translation was left unchanged and still says that the dark skinned Lamanites will become white when their curse is removed. This is perhaps due to the fact that African blacks as such are not dealt with in the Book of Mormon. Their curse is supposed to be directly derived from the "mark of Cain," which the Bible tells us he received from God when he killed his brother Abel. The curse of the Lamanites was similar, in that it was caused by rebellion against God, but it did not apply to the blacks.
These dark-skinned "Lamanites" in the Book of Mormon are, of course, supposed to be the American Indians. According to the Book of Mormon, these people had originally been Israelites who had migrated from the Ancient Middle East. They had become "a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations" (1 Nephi 12:23), and had eventually killed off all of the Nephites, who were also descended from the same migration and who were "white, and exceeding fair and delightsome" (2 Nephi 5:21). Modern archaeology, of course, proves that American Indians are the descendants of people who migrated from Asia, and are thus much more closely related to Japanese than Jews.
This peculiar understanding of the origin of racial differences has been the source of much embarrassment for the Mormon Church, and it has led to the belief that as non-white people were converted to Mormonism, their skin would literally become progressively whiter. Spencer W. Kimball, who later became the twelfth president of the church, stated in his address to the LDS General Conference in Oct. 1960 that as Indians become Mormons, "they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised." As any sensible person knows, however, beliefs do not change one's genes! While I'm sure that such statements as these would never be said in a non-white context such as Japan, one wonders what such Mormon leaders would think concerning other non-white features such as narrow eyes and small noses.
By bringing up the issue of racism, I do not mean to imply that individual Mormons are any more bigoted than anybody else. Many would of course be appalled by such statements (just as I, as a Christian, am embarrassed by many things that have been said or done in the name of Christ). That white supremacy has been a part of Mormonism from its founding, however, is undeniable. Even though official policy was changed in 1978, none of the racist Mormon doctrines were revoked. Not one church leader has ever publicly declared that the church's teachings on why blacks are black are wrong. In fact, the late LDS apostle LeGrand Richards admitted that granting the priesthood to dark-skinned people was in essence a corporate decision, made in part because of the temple in Brazil, where pure whites are difficult to find! While fewer and fewer Mormons are aware of these doctrines as 1978 recedes further into the past, there has never been any indication from the Church that it is ashamed of the teachings or that they have been changed. While the overwhelmingly white Mormon Church now welcomes persons of other races into its ranks (as long as they are able to pay their tithe!), the teachings of white supremacy that are an integral part of it past will always remain a blight on its integrity.
Magic Underwear and Secret Ceremonies
One common strand among all human religions (including some aspects of the way Christianity is actually practiced) is the strong desire to gain some favor for oneself from God or the spirit world. Adherents of man-centered religions the world over try to manipulate the unseen spiritual forces to their advantage through various magical ceremonies and incantations and with religious objects thought to have special powers. The common theme behind all of these practices is that if one performs all of the ceremonies just right and properly manipulates the powers invested in any magical objects that are part of that religion, then God or the spirits have to protect one from evil forces and grant one the benefits so desired. The basic focus is thus on the self and what one can gain for oneself.
This is the exact opposite of what the true God has revealed concerning the kind of relationship human beings should have with Him. The focus is to always be on God and not the self. The idea that we can manipulate God through our prayers and ceremonies, as though they were magic, is foreign to true Christianity. It is, however, an integral part of Mormonism, as can be seen from their secret temple ceremonies and sacred endowment garments.
With the rapid expansion of Mormonism in recent years, the number of Mormon temples has increased dramatically, with new temples being added to the list every year. These temples, including the temple in Tokyo, are at the very heart of Mormon practice. I personally have visited several temples, and they are certainly impressive structures architecturally. I have also, incidentally, listened to several presentations made at the adjacent visitors' centers directed at the "Gentile" public. What struck me about these was that on the surface, they sounded very "Christian," with very little that would appear to be significantly different from traditional Christian understanding. In other words, the true content of the Mormon belief system is not being revealed. Technically, they may not be lying, but since their message is couched in traditional Christian terminology that has been given very different meanings and since they do not mention any of their peculiar beliefs, it amounts to the same thing.
Well, what is it that really goes on inside a Mormon temple anyway? It is not an easy thing for even a Mormon to get inside a temple to see what is going on. Only those faithful Mormons who have been deemed worthy of getting a temple "recommend" are allowed in to participate in the "endowment" ceremony, temple marriages and baptism for the dead.
a. Baptism for the dead
Baptism for the dead is one aspect of Mormonism that holds special appeal for those concerned about the welfare of their ancestors in the next life. Particularly in a culture such as Japan, with its traditions of ancestor worship and Buddhist rituals for consoling the spirits of the departed, many find this aspect of Mormonism attractive. The Mormon Church spends enormous sums of money on genealogical research, and its huge genealogical library is probably the best and most complete in the world. Mormons believe that persons who never had an opportunity to accept the Mormon message in this life can be saved by being baptized vicariously in a temple ceremony. Church President John Taylor said that Mormons "are the only people that know how to save our progenitors." Later on, in the same discourse, he also stated, "we in fact are the saviors of the world, if they ever are saved." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 163).
Another statement in the Journal of Discourses (vol. 19, p. 229) by another former church president Wilford Woodruff is particularly revealing: "...two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them....These were the signers of the (American) Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights....I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them."
This understanding is certainly far different from anything in orthodox Christian teaching. While understandings vary among Christian denominations as to what happens to the spirits of dead (particularly those who died outside the Christian faith), none have ever practiced anything like what the Mormons do. Nowhere is it taught in Christian tradition that one can change his or her spiritual destiny after death or affect that of others who are dead. The clear teaching of the Bible is that we live only one life here on earth, and then we appear before the judgement seat of God (Heb. 9:27, etc.). To go along with this, however, is the promise that those who place their faith in Christ need have no fear of being condemned at that judgement but can have absolute confidence in their salvation (Romans 8:1, Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 4:14-16). As for the fate of others, we can only leave that in the hands of a just and loving God and trust Him to do the right thing (which He always does!)
Interestingly, while the Mormon Church places such strong emphasis on baptism for the dead, the Book of Mormon (which is supposedly "the fullness of the everlasting Gospel") is strangely silent on the issue, not even mentioning it once. In fact, when Joseph Smith first came out with this new teaching several years after he had published the Book of Mormon, it would seem that he had forgotten what he had written there, for the Book of Mormon consistently denies even the possibility of salvation after death. Mosiah 2:38-39 is one of several such clear statements in the Book of Mormon. "Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendth up forever and ever. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment."
b. Secret ceremonies
In addition to ceremonies for the baptism of the dead and temple marriage ceremonies (which is considered absolutely necessary to obtain the highest exaltation and to obtain the power to beget children in heaven), the main business of the temple is to give devout Mormons their "endowments." This elaborate ceremony was first developed by Joseph Smith in conjunction with his involvement in a secret society called the "Freemasons" or simply "Masons" for short. Masonic Lodges still exist today, and with the exception of its elaborate rituals and vows of secrecy concerning them, it basically is a community service organization similar to the Rotary Club or Lion's Club. The ceremony developed by Joseph Smith is very similar to that found in Masonic Lodges, with its secret names, special hand signals and handshakes, and vows never to reveal the contents of the ceremony to outsiders.
The Endowment ceremony is a two-hour drama-ritual-ceremony that is done in large groups in lavishly decorated theater style rooms. The main performance, which used to be done with live actors, but is now usually done on film, is done in a melodramatic, exaggerated style, with Lucifer (Satan) as the villain, Elohim (God) as the hero, and Adam and Eve as the victims. Supporting roles are played by the Apostles Peter, James, and John; a Christian minister; Jehovah; and the archangel Michael (who becomes Adam).
The ceremony begins with a ceremonial washing in water, where each participant stands naked with only a white sheet lightly covering front and back. The ritual washing is to purify the person from sin, with men being washed in one room and women in another. The temple workers, which are also segregated according to sex, wet their hands and reach under the sheet to touch various parts of the body, blessing each part as they go. A similar ritual is then repeated using and anointing of the body with oil, symbolizing their "becoming a King and a Priest (or a Queen and a Priestess) unto the Most High God, hereafter to rule and reign in the House of Israel forever."
After this, the participants are given the special "Garment of the Holy Priesthood," a special undergarment with special signs on it and which they are to wear until the day they die. It is to be removed only when bathing and to change it, and for certain "public appearance" exceptions. They are told that these special garments have magical powers that "will be a shield and a protection to you from the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work on the earth." In recent years, there has been a considerable relaxation of the rules concerning the wearing of these garments as well as changes in the garments themselves so that they better fit under modern clothing. In the early days of Mormonism, however, devout Mormons would make sure that their body was in contact with the underwear at all times, even going so far as to not remove it entirely while taking a bath!
This idea that a mere garment would magically protect its wearer from evil is, of course, just a form of superstition, and nothing like it is found anywhere in the Bible. Instead, Christ's followers are instructed to "put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11) The following verses tell us that this spiritual armor included the "belt of truth," the "breastplate of righteousness," the "shoes of the gospel of peace," the "shield of faith," the "helmet of salvation," and the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." It is this spiritual armor of God, and not some magical umderwear that protects its wearer from the Evil One!
After receiving these temple garments and a new secret name, the participants are led into a theater to watch the endowment ceremony itself. This ceremony consists of a 4 act play: the creation drama, where Elohim sends down his agents, Jehovah and Michael, to create the world; the Garden of Eden, where Lucifer tricks Adam and Eve into disobeying God; the "Lone and Dreary World," where Lucifer hires a Christian minister to try to deceive and destroy all of mankind along with Adam and Eve; and the "Veil Ceremony," where each participant is ritually passed through the veil while spiritual powers are being invoked on him.
During these four sections of the ceremony, participants are given four "tokens" in the form of special handshakes and four "signs" in the form of special arm signals as they are inducted into the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. As each of these "tokens" for inductions into the two priesthoods is given, the participants also must vow never to reveal these secret and sacred signs under the penalty of death.
Originally, these penalties were clearly stated with, for instance, the penalty for the revealing the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood being to have one's throat slit open from ear to ear and one's tongue torn out. Over the years, however, these gruesome explanations have been eliminated along with other changes to this "sacred ceremony" that was supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith by God. In 1990, the ceremony was further modified, with the highly offensive part where Christian ministers were portrayed as the servants of Satan being removed as well.
The Mormon Church takes pride in saying that its temples are a kind of restoration of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. There is, however, very little similarity between what went on in the Jewish Temple in Old Testament times and what goes on today in the numerous Mormon temples. In the Aaronic Priesthood of ancient Israel, the high priest alone went through the veil and symbolically into the presence of God only once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. In the New Testament, however, we are told that this veil was torn in half during the great earthquake that accompanied Jesus' crucifixion, symbolically meaning that human beings could now freely go into God's presence through Jesus, our new high priest. The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament specifically tells us that with the coming of Jesus, the meaning of the Aaronic Priesthood was abolished and was replaced by Jesus, who is "a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:17). In fact, it says that Jesus is the only person to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Thus, the two Mormon Priesthoods are totally without the authority claimed, for the former Aaronic Priesthood was abolished by God and replaced with the superior Melchizedek Priesthood of which Christ is the one and only holder. "The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:23-25). Jesus Christ is our only high priest, and through faith in him, we have been made a "royal priesthood." "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (I Peter 2:9) Thus, Christians have the authority of Christ, the only high priest, and a "priesthood" that isn't dependent on any secret ceremonies or magical garments.
One more point that needs to added concerning the secret ceremonies of Mormonism is their embarrassing relationship to the secret society mentioned above — the "Masons." The early writings of Joseph Smith have numerous references of the very low opinion he originally had of secret societies and their oaths. In fact, we find one such very clear statement in the Book of Mormon which condemns all secret societies. Chapter 8 in the Book of Ether tells of the forming of "secret combinations" (secret societies) saying that they are "most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God; for the Lord worketh not in secret combinations." (Ether 8:18-19) While Mormons like to think of their ceremonies as "sacred" and not "secret," since they are totally hidden from the outside world and solemn oaths are taken swearing secrecy, that hardly can be the case. While Mormons have the right to think of them as sacred, the temple is very definitely a "secret society" — something clearly condemned in the Book of Mormon.
After persecution against Mormons arose in their previous settlements in Ohio and Missouri, Joseph Smith lead his followers to Illinois, founding a new town he called "Nauvoo." It is obvious that by this time he had thoroughly changed his mind concerning secret societies, for he proceeded to establish strong ties with the Masons. Both he and Brigham Young became "worshipful masters" in the Masons, and got permission to open a Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo. This Masonic Lodge actually served as the first Mormon Temple, as temple ceremonies were performed there. It was during this time Joseph Smith developed the Mormon Temple ceremony, patterning it not after Solomon's Temple but after the ceremonies of Masonry.
Before his murder in 1844, the Masons had already disenfranchised the Nauvoo Lodge and its Mormon members, and even today, in the state of Utah, the Masons will not accept Mormons into their ranks. The main reason for this is that they feel that the Mormons have stolen from them many parts of their ritual as well as their "Masonic emblems" (unique symbols which still adorn the walls of Mormon Temples today).
As a fellow seeker of truth, I have written this to you, a Japanese who is considering the claims of Mormonism. I do not deny that this human organization called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many fine qualities that may be able to meet your psychological and emotional needs. But then, so do many other religious groups, including many that have grown out of your own cultural milieu (such as Tenrikyo, Rissho Koseikai, etc.).
Thus, what I want to emphasize is that while the Mormon Church may perhaps be able to deliver on its temporal promises (such as a sense of belonging and friendship with nice people), it cannot deliver on its spiritual promises, because they are based on the teachings of a false prophet and his fraudulent writings. You may wonder how such an obvious fraud as Mormonism could be so successful and experience such phenomenal growth. Part of the answer lies in the fact that the Mormon Church has been very successful at hiding these embarrassing facts from its membership and potential converts. I would dare to say that as a Japanese investigating or already involved in Mormonism, you were also totally unaware of the facts presented above. Thus, it is very much an issue of "truth in advertising." If you were to see a product advertised and decided to buy it, you would certainly feel cheated if it didn't live up to its advertising. In fact, you would be justified in returning the item and demanding your money back. With religious "advertising," it is not quite so simple. At any rate, what the Mormon Church advertises itself to be and what it actually delivers are clearly miles apart. It is simply "false advertising" to claim to be the "restored gospel" and the "true Christianity" when its teachings are so vastly different from the Bible. What could it be considered to be a "restoration" of? Unless one connects it with Satan's temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden when he told her that she "could become like God," there is nothing in previous religious teachings within the Judeo-Christian traditions anywhere that I am aware of that this could be considered to be a restoration of.
If the Mormon Church and its missionaries were up front about what they really believe, I would not have such a problem with it. It would then just be one of a wide variety of other religious belief systems with which I disagree but which I don't feel any special calling to write a public exposé on. But the facts are that Japanese who are looking for answers to life's questions are being misled (whether intentionally or not) by Mormon missionaries to believe that they are receiving Christian answers and that they are joining a Christian church, when that is very decidedly not the case.
The hundreds of young Mormon missionaries coming to Japan basically come out of a very tightly knit society centered in Utah, and for them to even consider honestly looking at the kind of information I have presented to you is often more than they can bear. While many thousands of people who formerly had their "testimony" that Mormonism is true have since lost that "testimony" and have left the Mormon Church, it is often an agonizing decision to have to make. Their entire lives and that of their families typically have revolved around the Mormon Church. Thus, to think of leaving the Church because they've concluded it is based in falsehood usually means being ostracized by the people they love. I truly feel great sympathy for someone who is in that situation, as they are extremely vulnerable to emotional pressure to maintain the façade. It takes great courage to break out of that.
As a Japanese whose Mormon roots are still rather shallow by comparison, it should be far easier for you to rationally consider the evidence and follow your consciences as you seek the truth. Mormons are taught to revere their "living prophets" and not to think for themselves. "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done; when they approve a plan, it is God's plan" (The Mormon Word Teacher's Lesson 1945). This idea is expanded on in the Doctrine & Covenants when it states the official church position that "The prophet will never lead the church astray." In other words, since the church's prophet can never be wrong, there is no need to test what he says against what his predecessors have said as recorded in the Standard Works and other official church writings. The net effect of all of this, then, is to remove personal responsibility from the individual Mormon, since everything is decided from above. It is in reality a form of "mind control," a phrase that has been in recent news concerning such cults as the Unification Association (Church) and Aum Shinrikyo. There isn't, of course, the kind of sleep deprivation and other direct forms of brainwashing seen in these cults, but the strict measures taken to control information and to discourage independent thinking similarly results in a form of "mind control."
How different this is from the concepts taught in the Bible! We are taught to test all things against objective reality to confirm that they are indeed true (I Thessalonians 5:21, I John 4:1). God gave us minds with which to think through spiritual matters as well as temporal matters, and he expects us to do so. While avoidance of personal responsibility and blind acceptance of dictates from above have certainly been an integral part of traditional Japanese culture, the trend in the postwar democracy of Japan has been decidedly away from that. In a very real sense, the Mormon Church would have you move backwards, with the Mormon "prophet" and the hierarchy of church leadership in effect replacing the emperor-centered societal structure of the past. While there are obvious differences between the head of the Mormon Church and the prewar institution of emperor in Japan (for instance, successorship isn't determined by birth), there are many similarities, with the counselors and apostles being somewhat analogous to the Imperial Agency (Kunaicho) in Japan. The recent President and Prophet of the church, Ezra Taft Benson, who died in June 1994, was for the last few years of his life totally senile and incapacitated. His own grandson, Steve Benson, said that his grandfather wasn't even able to recognize family members, and yet he was portrayed by the church as maintaining a firm hold on the reigns of leadership until the end. The "Prophet" of the Mormon Church is elected for life, and so the idea of senile old man being the "mouthpiece of the Lord" was obviously a big problem for the church. Thus, in order to maintain the outward image, deception was deemed necessary. Incidentally, Steve Benson, who began to think for himself and to expose the truth of what was really happening, was recently excommunicated from the Mormon Church — a procedure that has become increasingly common as a tool for weeding out those who begin to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own beliefs.
I pray that Spirit of the one true God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, will guide you as you consider what you should do. These are the promises of the Bible: "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) These may seem to not be all that much different than the promise found in Moroni 10:4 and quoted above, which states that if we "ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it (the Book of Mormon) unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost." The difference is, however, that God does not ask us to seek him based on subjective feelings alone but together with the objective facts we have available to us through history, science, etc. Anyone who does that will surely come to the conclusion that Mormonism's claim to be the true Church of God is a hoax and that the one true God is none other than the God revealed in Jesus Christ as is recorded in the Bible.
Our Lord Jesus Christ's promise is: "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32) May God bless you in your search for truth!