Lately I’ve come upon another website while researching the Joseph Smith papers. Evidence they present based off historical documents from the Church history and journals are incredibly compelling. However, I truly want to believe the church is true. In particular, they claim that the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible in Matthew doesn’t correspond to 3rd Nephi which are identical to the KJV of the bible. Why wouldn’t the Book of Mormon contain the JST version of the Matthew verses? There is much more…
Thank you for your question and for sharing your concern. My original thought, upon reading your email, was to specifically address your JST Bible and Book of Mormon question. Upon further consideration, I feel you and other readers would be better served if I addressed your overall concern instead, that of finding bad information on other sites. I’m afraid that if I only address your one specific question, it alone would not suffice to set your mind at ease, since you also said, “There is much more…”. I am afraid that by visiting this “other” site, you probably feel like you’ve opened a Pandora’s box. I assure you it is not as bad as you think, which I will get to in a moment. For now I’d prefer to help you close the lid on this box, rather than going case by case addressing each individual concern that stems from it. Rather than spoon feed a single answer, I would like to share with you some helpful tools that I hope you will apply to your current and future gospel studies.
I make it a habit to not shy away from tough questions, in fact I welcome them. Though I will be addressing your overall concern instead, I’ve still decided to include a wonderful link regarding your specific JST Bible and Book of Mormon question. The link is to FAIRMormon.org. The article is called:
Moving on to your overall concern, below are four tools that I hope you will consider implementing in your studies especially when you come across “other” websites that are critical of the Church.
Tool #1: Recognize that there are few Original Criticisms: The truth is, in my experience, there are very few if any new or original concerns related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or to Church History. Most doubts and concerns brought forth by critics of the Church, are for the most part unoriginal rehashes of criticisms that have lingered for many years, if not since the early days of the restoration. Antagonists of the Church often try to repackage old criticisms differently, perhaps adding a superficial modern spin to them or declaring they have “exposed” a deep secret. In reality most criticisms boil down to a lot of the same old tired talking points. I’ve learned to no longer be “shocked” by what they claim is supposedly “shocking.”
Tool #2: Recognize the Source of the Criticism: Identify the source/author(s) of the criticism(s) and recognize it/them for who they really are and what their desired goal is for spreading such criticism. Some individuals or groups are overtly obvious in their attempt to criticize and make no qualms about their desire to basically tear down the faith of their readers. This is apparent as we read the chapter heading for Alma 30:
“Korihor, the anti-Christ, ridicules Christ, the Atonement, and the spirit of prophecy—He teaches that there is no God, no fall of man, no penalty for sin, and no Christ”
In contrast to the overtly obvious critic, there are those who deceptively hide their agenda behind the shroud of sheep’s clothing. This group of wolves employs the strategy of pretending to be concerned active members of the Church who are simply seeking “truth.” From the beginning, this group who professes the moral high ground in helping others to “think,” in reality have hidden their identity and what their true goals are. By masquerading as concerned faithful, active LDS members, they use a bait and switch technique to subtly lure innocent members into thinking they have found Church doctrine answers, when in reality it was never intended to strengthen or help the reader but was only ever designed to criticize the Church. This is the Pandora’s box that I feel you have inadvertently opened.
Tool #3: Recognize out of context “Truth”: Masterful critics of the Church are skilled at using lies mixed with truth. If everything they said was a lie, it would be much easier to dismiss. The best lie is the one sprinkled with some portion of truth, a half truth. Some criticisms are 100% true. While a 100% truth may be used by a critic, if it’s taken completely out of context and twisted, the once beautiful truth can suddenly seem highly illogical, suspect or dubious in it’s origins. Once a truth is placed back into it’s original context, it can become easy to understand and beautiful again. When presented with a criticism it is always helpful to remember Elder Uchtdorf’s talk entitled: Come Join with Us
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
Tool #4: Recognize there are Faithful Resources Instead: Since most criticisms are actually yesterday’s news, know and understand that counterarguments to most criticisms already exist. Please realize that either the Church or other, actual “real” faithful members of the Church already have produced faith-promoting, well-researched, educated, testimony-building counterarguments, as demonstrated by the previously linked FAIR Mormon article. In addition, over the years, I have tried to do my part in using Askgramps.org as another outlet for faithful “moral answers to everyday Mormon concerns, curiosities and uncertainties”. Lds.org contains an ever-expanding, wonderful library of authoritative resources. In fact some of my favorite recent-additions have been the Gospel Topic Essays addressing such topics as: BOM Translation, Race and the Priesthood, and Plural Marriage. There are many faithful sources to find testimony-building answers if we just choose to look in the right places instead of relying on the critics.
TC, I hope that you and others can benefit from some of these tools as you move forward in your studies and choose to close the lid on a box that is only designed to tear down faith. Remember to choose sources of learning that only uplift instead. D&C 88:118 reads:
“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith”
It is always good to “think.” Better than only thinking, is studying while pondering and praying in faith, thus inviting the Spirit to confirm actual truth to us. I would like to leave you with two quotes that I really enjoy. Elder Neil Anderson in his talk Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice says:
“Addressing honest questions is an important part of building faith, and we use both our intellect and our feelings. The Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart.” Not all answers will come immediately, but most questions can be resolved through sincere study and seeking answers from God. Using our mind without our heart will not bring spiritual answers. “The things of God knoweth no man, but [through] the Spirit of God.” And to help us, Jesus promised us “another Comforter” and called Him “even the Spirit of truth.”
Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, “I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.”
Immersing oneself in persistent doubt, fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful, weakens one’s faith in Jesus Christ and the Restoration. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.”
In a separate talk Elder Anderson also shared:
“Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, is “like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.”
Thank you again for your question TC.