A Response From (and to) S.H.I.E.L.D.S.

by Matt Slick

  • Following is a copy of the SHIELDS ARTICLE responding to my posting of Difficult Questions for Mormons To Answers by Ira T. Ransom.

  • Their original was located at http://www.shields-research.org but has since been moved or removed.
  1. The original web page information is in black with the word ORIGINAL preceding it.
  2. Their responses are in brown with SHIELDS preceding it (later it will be FARMS)
  3. My responses to their responses are in green with MY RESPONSE preceding it.

First of all, I apologize to Mr. Barker for taking far longer than necessary to answer his rebuttal. With my busy schedule and a series of personal responsibilities that arose, I put it aside and, in time, forgot about it. Nevertheless, here it is.

Also, I have changed some of the information on my website as a result of Mr. Barker's efforts.

For clarification, Mr. Barker's website is quoted here in its entirety. My comments are inserted in blue.

SHIELDS
Introduction by Stanley D. Barker

Matthew J. Slick has created a web site to promote himself, having been rejected for ordination to the Presbyterian ministry because of his ideas. He says:

ORIGINAL
I am Reformed in theology and believe in the continuation of the spiritual gifts which is why my denomination at the time, the Presbyterian Church in America, has refused my ordination; they are cessationist.  In other words, their creed did not approve of the position that the Charismatic Gifts are for today.  I affirm that they are.  Therefore, we separated over this issue.

MY RESPONSE
Notice that the first thing mentioned on their site is an attack on my character. I have stated on my website that the Presbyterian Church in America does not believe in the continuation of the spiritual gifts. I do. Therefore, they would not ordain me to the ministry. They did recommend that I continue in ministry and find a denomination that believed more along those lines.  They said I was a good and godly man.  I still enjoy fellowship with them, my Christian brothers. This is nothing unusual within Christianity. But, Mr. Barker, in an attempt to discredit me and, therefore, my position against them has begun with an attack on my character by trying to incite within the reader a suspicion concerning my trustworthiness and Christian character. Instead of beginning with the issues, he began with my person.  This is a weak approach and is a fallacy in argumentation.


SHIELDS
Mr. Slick has placed his views of Mormonism on the Internet. He has challenged:

ORIGINAL
Now, before you go slamming me with some irate e-mail telling me I don't know what I am talking about, first read my material on my site, and if I am wrong, correct me by showing precisely where I am wrong. Document the sources you want to quote to prove me wrong. If you do, I'll change my page. [emphasis mine--SDB]

SHIELDS
He also tells us "The web site is very well documented . . . " Yet all we find there are rehashes of old anti-Mormon material. Mr. Slick has fallen into the same unethical sloppiness that can be found amongst most critics of the LDS Church, i.e., he quotes word for word from some other anti-Mormon, but he fails to give credit to the original source.

MY RESPONSE
My site is well-documented. So what does a "rehash of old anti-Mormon material" have to do with it being well-documented. Whether or not my material is a rehash (and what is wrong with that considering Mormon doctrine is still wrong?), its truth, or lack thereof, should be the issue--not whether or not it is a 'rehash.'

Mr. Barker has now accused me of plagiarism and "unethical sloppiness." Both these accusations fall into the "attack-his-character" category. It is a shame to see that this is the method Mr. Barker chooses to begin his apologetic.

I learn from many sources. I cannot remember the origin of everything I learn (as, I am sure, is the case with Mr. Barker) in refuting Mormonism, nor should I be expected to. What becomes part of my apologetic approach via learning from others does not mean that I plagiarized. Some of what I say is original to myself. Other parts have been gained from other Christians far more knowledgeable than myself.

SHIELDS:
(We'll give him the possibility that he simply doesn't know the origin of some of these statements and merely chooses to repeat them). An excellent example of this can be found in the last question responded to by John A. Tvedtnes. This question came, word for word, from Bob Witte and can be found on our 42 Questions section, Question 36.

MY RESPONSE
On my website (http://www.carm.org/religious-movements/mormonism/difficult-questions-mormons-answer), I clearly state that the questions at issue here are the product of another author, Ira T. Ransom in the booklet "Ask Your Bishop." I gave full credit.

SHIELDS
Whether or not Mr. Slick will "change [his] page" as he claims, remains to be seen. We suspect that, as with most critics who have often made this claim, nothing will happen. We hope we are proven wrong. It would be a nice change.

MY RESPONSE
Perhaps Mr. Barker has failed to consider that the condition for changing my page is not that it be answered, but that I am proven wrong. Note again, an issue of my character is again raised with the hint that my integrity and honesty are at stake.

As with many cults, emotional manipulation of the reader/hearer is often used in an attempt to influence the potential convert to adopt the new position. It seems that Mr. Barker is attempting to recruit an emotional response from the reader of his material; namely, that if I were honest (a man of integrity), then I will change my position once I read his material.

SHIELDS
We have not provided a link to Mr. Slick's web site since we don't want to promote sites of our critics. Rather, we think the focus should be on the responses themselves. Some of the issues raised by Mr. Slick will be addressed further at a later date.

In contrast, I am not afraid of Mormonism nor its attempts at defending itself. At the beginning of this page I have provided a link to their site. I do so again here: S.H.I.E.L.D.S


Mr. Barker has copied the information from a Mormon apologetics site called FARMS. The following information is from them. Therefore, I will now change the notation from SHIELDS to FARMS.

Response by John A. Tvetnes (FARMS)

FARMS
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (C.A.R.M.), located on the Internet, has posted a list of "Difficult Questions for Mormons to Answer," taken from a booklet entitled, Ask Your Bishop by Ira T. Ransom. Here are the questions and some brief responses. (Actually, none of these are "difficult questions.")

ORIGINAL
If the Book of Mormon is true, why do Indians fail to turn white when they become Mormons? (2 Nephi 30:6, prior to the 1981 revision).

FARMS
"White" need not refer to skin color, as is clear from the following passages from the biblical book of Daniel: "And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed (Daniel 11:35). "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand (Daniel 12:10). In both of these passages, the meaning of the word "white" is most obviously pure; to "make white" is to purify. When Joseph Smith first translated the Book of Mormon, he gave the literal rendering of "white" for the passage in 2 Nephi 30:6. For the 1840 edition, it was changed to "pure," which better reflected the meaning of the word used by Nephi. Subsequent editions, however, relied on the 1837 Book of Mormon, which still read "white." This oversight was not rectified until the 1981 edition.

MY RESPONSE
I think you have completely missed this one, Mr. Tvedtnes. Let's look at your own Mormon writers:

The book of Mormon says in 2 Nephi 5:21, "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

3 Nephi 2:15 says, "And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites." This is obviously a reference to skin color.

Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon church said, in 1859, "You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation . . . When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people" (Journal of Discourses 7:336).

Brigham Young also said that those who fall away from Mormonism would, "become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil" (Journal of Discourse 5:332).

I do not know if Mr. Tvedtnes is aware of the references in the Book of Mormon, and perhaps he is also unaware of the quotes from Brigham Young, the second Prophet of his church. I do not mean this in a derogatory manner; but if he is not knowledgeable about this basic Mormon position, how can I trust him on other equally serious issues?


ORIGINAL
If the Book of Mormon is true, then why has the Mormon church changed it? Examples are: 1 Nephi 11:21; 19:20; 20:1 and Alma 29:4. Compare these with the original Book of Mormon. (Gerald [sic] and Sandra Tanner have counted 3913 changes in the book of Mormon, excluding punctuation changes).

FARMS
The reasons for changes in the Book of Mormon are similar to the reasons why the English Bible has experienced changes over time. Changes can be classified as (1) changes in punctuation, which was added by the typesetter, not Joseph Smith or his scribe, (2) correction of typesetting errors, (3) spelling errors made by either the scribe (Oliver Cowdery) or the typesetter, (4) changes to upgrade the language to make it sound more English than Hebrew, (5) restoration of phrases or sentences left out by the typesetter but later discovered to be in the manuscript. The addition to 1 Nephi 20:1 is an exegetical explanation and should have been placed enclosed by parentheses. All the changes listed in the question were made by Joseph Smith and not by "the Mormon church." As the translator of the record, who would have been better qualified to determine how the Lord intended those passages to be read?

MY RESPONSE
I will grant that minor variants could have crept into the B.O.M. text through typesetting errors, and that stylistic upgrades are occasionally necessary. However, the kinds of errors I am talking about are the ones where the entire meaning of the text has been changed. I have difficulty simply accepting the statement that they were left out of the original and latter corrected? If so, by whom and on what basis?

Wasn't the book of Mormon translated by the gift and power of God? Didn't Smith okay the final product at its printing? Why, then, did not God tell him there were problems?

Following is just a few of the differences that are noteworthy and don't fall under Mr. Tvetdnes attempt to answer.

1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon

1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 11:18

"And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of [ . . . ] God, after the manner of the flesh." "And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh."

1 Nephi 19:20

" . . . for had not the Lord been merciful, to shew unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old; [ . . . ] for he surely . . . " " . . . "for had not the Lord been merciful, to show unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old, I should have perished also. And he surely did . . . "

1 Nephi 20:1
changed in 1964 ed.

"Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah,[ . . . ] which swear . . . " "Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear . . . "

Mosiah 21:28
changed in 1964 ed.

" . . . king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; . . . " " . . . king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; . . . "

Alma 29:4

" . . . yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterale, according to their wills . . . " " . . . yea, I know that he allotteth unto men [ . . . ]according to their wills . . . "

3 Nephi 3:23

"And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla, and the land which was between the land of Zarahemla and the land Bountiful." "And the land which was appointed was the land of Zarahemla [ . . . ] and the land Bountiful . . . "

3 Nephi 10:4

"O ye people of these great cities which have fallen which are a descendant of Jacob; yea which are of the house of Israel; O ye people of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you . . . " "O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, [ . . . ] how oft have I gathered you . . . "

3 Nephi 16:10

"and thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you at that day, When the Gentiles shall sin against my Gospel, and shall subject the fulness of my Gospel, and shall be lifted up . . . " "And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, [ . . . ] and shall be lifted up . . . "

3 Nephi 22:4

" . . . for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, [ . . . ] and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more." " . . . for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more."

Ether 9:2

" . . . nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons and to his daughters, which were not, or which did not seek his destruction." "Nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons, and to his daughters [ . . . ] who did not seek his destruction."

The changes are rather blatant and have even changed the meaning of the text. The problem is definitely still there.


ORIGINAL
How did Joseph Smith carry home the golden plates of the Book of Mormon, and how did the witnesses lift them so easily? (They weighed about 230 lbs. Gold, with a density of 19.3 weighs 1204.7 lbs. per cubic foot. The plates were 7" x 8" by about 6". See Articles of Faith, by Talmage, page 262, 34th ed.).

FARMS
The record was not solid gold bullion, but a set of thin metallic sheets held together by metallic rings. So we're not dealing with a 7x8x6-inch block of gold. Besides, there's no evidence that the plates were really made of gold. The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses declares that they had "the appearance of gold." Joseph Smith spoke of them as "gold plates" (Joseph Smith History 1:34), but this need not mean that they were pure gold; they may have been a gold alloy. Indeed, the only plates said to have been "of pure gold" were the 24 plates of Ether's record, which were not part of the collection Joseph received (Mosiah 8:9; cf. Mosiah 28:11).

MY RESPONSE
Smith said the plates were gold. Now, it is possible that they were an alloy. But how much? 51% gold? If they were to say, 30% gold and 70% copper, would it be correct to say that the plates were made of gold when 70% was copper? I think it is fair to say that they were at least 51% gold. Nevertheless, they would have a substantial weight. F.A.R.M.S. has stated that the plates probably weighed about 50 pounds.

The account of Smith running with the plates includes him being attacked and knocked down by a robber, who hit Smith over the head with a gun, a "heavy blow." Smith then knocked him down and ran at the top of his speed for half a mile--was attacked and knocked down again but managed to fight off that assailant. He then ran again and was attacked for a third time in the same manner. He did all this carrying at the very least 50 pounds of metal under his arm traveling through a wooded area.

Sorry, but even given the minimal weight of 50 pounds, the account is far fetched.


ORIGINAL
If Moroni devoutly practiced the Mormon Gospel, why is he an angel now rather than a God? (Doc. & Cov. 132:17,37)

FARMS
Joseph Smith only once called Moroni an "angel," in the true sense of that word, i.e., a messenger. And this declaration is not found in a revelation, but in a letter Joseph wrote, which means that it need not reflect information he got from the Lord (D&C 128:20). It does not preclude Moroni from exaltation. Moreover, we really do not know whether Moroni appeared to Joseph as a resurrected being or a translated being, though most assume it was the former. If he has not yet been resurrected (or changed), then he will not yet have entered into his final estate.

MY RESPONSE
I know of no Mormon who does NOT believe Moroni was an angel in the true sense. If he was not, why don't Mormons call him the "Messenger Moroni" and clear up the confusion?


ORIGINAL
Why do Mormons emphasize part of the Word of Wisdom and ignore the part forbidding the eating of meat except in winter, cold or famine? (Doc. & Cov. 89:12,13).

FARMS
This is like asking why some Mormons smoke. As imperfect human beings, none of us does everything precisely the way the Lord asks, though we should be striving to do so. There are, in fact, Latter-day Saints who do observe the injunction about meat. We could turn this question around and ask why so many Christians emphasize part of the plan of redemption (grace) and ignore other parts (keeping God's commandments).

MY RESPONSE
Sorry, but Christian don't ignore the importance of keeping God's commandments. It is just that perfect obedience is not a prerequisite for salvation. If smoking is against the Word of Wisdom and is therefore sinful, why not the others? It is the Mormons who have made a big issue out of this--not us.


ORIGINAL
When Christ died, did darkness cover the land for three days or for three hours? (Luke 23:44 and 3 Nephi 8:19, 23).

FARMS
This is like asking why the snowstorm on Christmas day lasted two hours in Boston and two days in Denver. We are, after all, dealing with different geographical regions here. The answer is that the darkness lasted three hours in the Holy Land but three days in the lands inhabited by the Nephites, where there appears to have been a major volcanic explosion (see John A. Tvedtnes, "Historical Parallels to the Destruction at the Time of the Crucifixion," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/1, Spring 1994).

MY RESPONSE
I'll give this one to you though I think Smith simply made a mistake when he was copying from the Bible. It is not, technically, a contradiction to state the time of darkness difference is due to geographical location.


ORIGINAL
Joseph Smith said that there are men living on the moon who dress like Quakers and live to be nearly 1000 years old. Since he was wrong about the moon, is it safe to trust him regarding the way to Heaven? (The Young Woman's Journal, Vol. 3, pages 263-264. See reprint in Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, page 4).

FARMS
Just once it would be nice to see this statement in a document contemporary with Joseph Smith (who died in 1844), rather than in something written in a journal in 1881 and published in 1892, which is the source the Tanners cite. But even if Joseph Smith did believe this (which cannot be demonstrated), could one blame him? After all, the press in his day had reported that British Astronomer Royal Sir John Herschel had discovered people living on the moon. It was a newspaper hoax that was widely believed in the 1830s. Joseph Smith could believe such a thing and still be a prophet, for prophets, too, have a right to opinions.

it was Joseph who declared "I . . . visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that 'a prophet is always a prophet;' but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such" (History of the Church 5:265).

MY RESPONSE
I'll give you this one, too. However, Brigham Young taught there was life on the Moon as well and also on the sun (JOD 13:271). Are you saying we can't believe anything Smith said which was reported after he died. Also, you quoted the History of the Church to support your position. I guess that means I can do the same thing. Perhaps the Journal of Discourses are also fair to quote.

One more thing, how do we know that Smith's quote in History of the Church 5:265 isn't simply his opinion--just like the men in the moon part? Who decides? Or, is it only an opinion when it is shown to be false?


ORIGINAL
Joseph Smith prepared fourteen Articles of Faith. Why has the original No. 11 been omitted?

FARMS
(Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 2, three pages after page 160, among the photos). The Articles of Faith were not received by revelation, but were merely a summation of the beliefs of the Church. There are only 13 of them in the letter Joseph Smith wrote to John Wentworth in 1842. The fourteen published by Wood derive from a later source, a pamphlet published in England in April, 1849, by James H. Flanigan. It is therefore incorrect to associate Joseph Smith's name with that list.

MY RESPONSE
Okay, I'll give you that one, too.


ORIGINAL
Why did the Nauvoo House not stand forever and ever? (Doc. & Cov. 124:56-60).

FARMS
The original Nauvoo House is still standing and can be seen by visitors to that city. It is the Mansion House, Joseph Smith's residence, that had to be reconstructed.

MY RESPONSE
The problem is it was prophesied to be "for the boarding of strangers" "from generation to generation" not to be gawked at by tourists. The fact is Joseph Fielding Smith admitted this building was never finished. See Doctrines of Salvation 3:218.


ORIGINAL
How can a man who is not a descendant of Aaron hold the Aaronic Priesthood? (Numbers 16:40; Heb. 7:13,14).

FARMS
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promised that, in the last days, he would gather Israel and would "take of them for priests and for Levites" (Isaiah 66:21). If he intended to authorize only descendants of Aaron to hold that priesthood, why would he have to designate priests and Levites?

MY RESPONSE
Sorry, I am not sure I understand your point. But I'll take a shot at it.

The Isaiah citation is eschatological; that is, it is dealing with the future of Jerusalem probably in reference to the millennial reign. We could argue a long time on typologies and meanings, and it would accomplish little. But, for the sake of keeping it simple, I've removed the original question from the list.


ORIGINAL
Since Mormonism teaches that only God the Father had a physical body at the time Adam was created, why did God say, "Let us make man in OUR image"? Why didn't He say, "Let us make man in MY image?" (Gen. 1:26).

FARMS
According to Ether 3:15-16, Christ, as a spirit, appeared as he would in mortality, and it was after his spirit that man was patterned (see also Mosiah 7:27). Consequently, the shape of our bodies is the same as both the Father as a physical being and the Son while yet in his spiritual state. So there is no contradiction here.

MY RESPONSE
Instead of arguing technicalities, I'll give you this one, too. However, I had always thought that the Mormon's position was that it was the flesh and bones that made us in the image of God.


ORIGINAL
If Jesus was conceived as a result of a physical union between God and Mary, how was Jesus born of a virgin? (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, page 50).

FARMS
Mary was a virgin because she had known no man (Luke 1:34), not because she bore the Son of God.

MY RESPONSE
But that isn't answering the question. You simply say she was a virgin. Brigham Young said they had relations; that God didn't let any other man 'do it' with Mary, that Jesus' birth, etc, was the result of natural action.' Now, since the god of Mormonism is an immortal MAN, and, I assume with genitalia, and Young said it was a natural conception, then how did she remain a virgin? THAT is the question.


ORIGINAL
How did Nephi with a few men on a new continent build a temple like Solomon's while Solomon needed 163,300 workmen and seven years to build his temple? (1 Kings 5:13-18 and 2 Nephi 5:15-17).

FARMS
Nephi probably did it the same way the small Israelite garrison at Arad constructed a temple patterned after Solomon's in the ninth century B.C. Like the Arad temple, Nephi's structure could have been rather small. Half a dozen people could have completed the Arad temple working part-time for less than a year. [See also 42 Questions, Question # 2]

MY RESPONSE
Then it wasn't like Solomon's temple, was it?


ORIGINAL
Why was Joseph Smith still preaching against polygamy in October 1843 after he got his revelation in July 1843 commanding the practice of polygamy? (Doc. & Cov. 132; and History of the Church Vol. 6, page 46, or Teachings of the Prophet, page 324).

FARMS
Actually, Joseph Smith had received the revelation more than a decade before it was written in 1843. He always maintained that, unless commanded to do so by the Lord, a man should have only one wife. Similarly, the Lord commanded Lehi's family to have but one wife, but reserved the right to command otherwise should he wish to do so (Jacob 2:24-30). Joseph Smith's declarations against plural marriage were aimed at those who claimed to have the authority to perform them within the Church. He recorded, "Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives: for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise" (History of the Church 6:46).

MY RESPONSE
But I am still confused. If Smith received the revelation, then why did he go against it? I am sorry, but your explanation seems to reveal that a double standard is okay.


ORIGINAL
God rejected the fig leaf aprons which Adam and Eve made (Gen. 3:21). Why do Mormons memorialize the fall by using fig leaf aprons in the secret temple ceremonies?

FARMS
The aprons are mentioned only in Genesis 3:7. Nowhere does the text tell us that God "rejected" them, only that, in place of the temporary fig leaf aprons (fig leaves dry up and blow away), God provided more permanent skin clothing (Genesis 3:21). The Latter-day Saints recognize the symbolic nature of the fall, represented by the fig-leaf apron and of God giving mankind a probationary time in which to repent, as represented by the "coats of skins." [For additional discussion see the response to Question 36 (42 Questions).]

MY RESPONSE
I am sorry, but you fail to understand the significance of the biblical account. Adam and Eve covered themselves with their own works, and God rejected it by replacing their works with His: animal skins. This is significant because it involved the shedding of blood (in order to get the skins, typifying the atoning work of Christ).

Theologically, the fig leaf aprons symbolize their own efforts to be covered before God. This is not sufficient and is rejected by God.

Additionally, from what I understand of the temple ceremony, the aprons are the same as the one worn by Lucifer. After Lucifer is asked by Adam, "What is that apron you are wearing?" Lucifer replies that it is the symbol of his power and priesthoods. Immediately afterwards, the people going through the temple ceremony are asked to put their aprons on.
Please let me know if I am incorrect about this.

 

 

 

 
 
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