Note: This article is an excerpt from my book A Ready Reply: Answering Challenging Questions About the Gospel, Horizon Publishers, 1994. The complete version of this article, along with all references, can be found therein. This extract is followed by an addendum.
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Ed Decker and Dave Hunt's book The Godmakers (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1984) was written to discredit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the authors used the material in the book in a widely distributed film under the same title. However, to objective observers the book has proved to be an embarrassment to an already discredited anti-Mormon movement. Even as anti-Mormon books go, The Godmakers is one of the worst, most inaccurate attacks on Mormonism ever written. It is reminiscent of some of the hilariously irresponsible anti-Mormon works published in the early days of the Church. Yet, most anti-Mormons still use the book and view it as an accurate analysis of the LDS faith, and the video is still featured in many anti-Mormon catalogs.
Before going any further, a personal anecdote is in order. I used to work with an intelligent young woman who was raised in a fairly secular environment, but who had been interested in the study of religion for a number of years. She was well read, a college graduate, and was fluent in two foreign languages. Even before I met her, this woman had done some reading on Mormonism, both pro and con. As we became friends, we would on occasion discuss religion. One day we were talking about the Church when she told me she had read The Godmakers. I asked her what she thought of it. She described it with such terms as "inflammatory," "emotional," "hateful," and "superficial." She added that she did not consider it to be a serious work on Mormonism and that it was one of the "flakiest" books on religion she had ever read.
A number of responses have been written to the book The Godmakers (as well as to the film). Perhaps the most thorough reply is Gilbert Scharffs' lengthy work, THE TRUTH ABOUT "The Godmakers" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1986). Scharffs points out dozens of errors and distortions in The Godmakers, and demonstrates that the book is not an accurate portrayal of LDS history and belief.
To my knowledge, the authors of The Godmakers have yet to respond to Scharffs' book. However, another anti-Mormon, Tom Forehand, has come to The Godmakers' defense. Forehand's book is entitled Who Is Gilbert Scharffs? A Response To "The Truth About 'The Godmakers'" (Birmingham, Alabama: Watchman Fellowship, 1987). Unfortunately for Decker and Hunt, Forehand's work is wholly insufficient as a defense of The Godmakers or as a response to Scharffs' work. The purpose of this chapter is to consider some of the errors and weaknesses in Forehand's work. In so doing, we will, of course, also be discussing many of the errors in The Godmakers itself.
Repeating Ancient Arguments
Many of Forehand's arguments against Mormonism are almost identical to ancient Jewish and secular attacks on virtually all forms of Christianity. For example, the arguments he employs in his section on "What Is Mormon Doctrine?" resemble Jewish criticisms of those doctrinal statements in the New Testament that appear to contradict each other (1-2). Similarly, Forehand's section entitled "Early Mormonism: Secretly Treasonable?" is strongly reminiscent of the ancient Jewish and Roman claims that early Christianity was a subversive movement in league with the anti-Roman zealots (10).
Forehand's response contains a number of what can only be called wild statements that have no basis in fact and which exhibit a total lack of objectivity. Here are a few examples:
As long as anti-Mormons continue to make statements like these, they cannot expect to be taken seriously by the Church or by the public at large.
No Real Answers
In a number of instances, Forehand fails to deal directly and substantively with Scharffs' arguments and documentation. Instead, he simply repeats Decker and Hunt's claims without really responding to Scharffs' rebuttal material.
Forehand's section entitled "Smith Could Have Written The Book of Mormon" (33-36) is a perfect example of this. Forehand defends the claim in The Godmakers that the late B. H. Roberts, an eminent LDS scholar and General Authority, "confessed" in an unpublished manuscript that the evidence pointed to Joseph Smith as the author of the Nephite record. However, Forehand avoids some of Scharffs' most persuasive arguments against this claim and fails to refute those that he does address.
In the face of all of Scharffs' impressive historical evidence against the view that B. H. Roberts lost his faith in the Nephite text (Scharffs 164-167), Forehand can only offer a few quotes from Roberts' manuscript and a single journal entry by Wesley Lloyd (34), a BYU official and friend of Roberts. Scharffs observes that Roberts' manuscript was strictly a devil's-advocate venture, as Roberts himself clearly stated in his cover letter for the work. In addition, Lloyd's diary entry is by no means conclusive. Nowhere does Lloyd say that Roberts had lost his faith in the Book of Mormon.
Forehand's claim that Joseph Smith could have authored the Nephite record hinges on his assertion that Joseph borrowed heavily from Ethan Smith's 1823 book, View of the Hebrews (VOTH). This time-worn claim has been refuted by numerous LDS scholars, and Scharffs cites a number of their refutations (165-166, 168-169). However, it appears that Forehand failed to read any of these responses before defending the VOTH theory. He certainly does not deal with the mountain of evidence against the theory.
Forehand complains that Scharffs only mentions "a few of the dozens of parallels" between the Book of Mormon and VOTH (35). If Forehand had read the refutations by Richard Bushman, Ariel Crowley, Madison Sowell, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.), and others which Scharffs mentions, he would have known that many of those similarities don't hold up under scrutiny, and that none of the rest constitutes real evidence of borrowing. Scharffs does mention the principal parallels between the two records, but then he goes on to point out some of the many pronounced, and far more significant, differences (167-169). Forehand makes no effort whatsoever to deal with the dissimilarities between the two books.
Two of the most thorough refutations of the VOTH theory are John Welch's lengthy studies entitled Finding Answers to B. H. Roberts' Questions (Provo, Utah: F.A.R.M.S., 1985) and An Unparallel: Ethan Smith and the Book Of Mormon (Provo, Utah: F.A.R.M.S., 1982). No one can credibly advocate the VOTH theory without first dealing with these two formidable works.
Another example of Forehand's failure to refute Scharffs' arguments is his section entitled "Temple Interrogation Questions" (as opposed to "Temple Interview Questions") (9). According to Forehand, Decker and Hunt are correct in claiming that Mormons are asked during their temple recommend interviews if they associate with people who aren't members of the Church!
Scharffs correctly observes that during their temple worthiness interviews Latter-day Saints are not asked if they associate with non-Mormons, but if they belong to, assist, or sympathize with any apostate groups (246). Decker and Hunter are wrong in saying that in these interviews the term "apostate groups" is equated with "non-Mormons." (If it were, it would be rather difficult to do any missionary work!) I have been through numerous temple recommend interviews, in several different parts of the country and overseas, and I have never been asked if I associate with non-Mormons. It is incredible that anyone would even suggest that this is done.
Forehand disagrees, and he defends the misrepresentation in The Godmakers. As support for his view, he quotes from an old Church letter to bishops and stake presidents on what questions should be asked in a temple worthiness interview. However, even the portion which Forehand quotes reinforces Scharffs' argument. The letter says nothing about asking members if they associate with non-Mormons in general, but rather if they have "any connection, in sympathy or otherwise, with any of the apostate groups or individuals who are running counter to the accepted rules and doctrines of the Church." Obviously, this refers to anti-Mormon critics, polygamists, and other avowed enemies of the Church. It has nothing to do with non-Mormons in general. Indeed, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to be good friends and neighbors to members and non-members alike.
Opinion Becomes Fact
In a number of instances, Forehand presents as established facts conclusions that are based solely on his own theological interpretations.
For example, Forehand's unequivocal declaration that "Mormonism Belittles the Blood of Christ" (16-18) is not based on any objective evidence from which one could logically conclude that LDS theology is guilty of belittling Christ's blood; rather, it is based solely on Forehand's fundamentalist interpretation of verses like 1 John 1:7 and of statements by certain LDS leaders about Mormonism's blood atonement doctrine.
Citing 1 John 1:7, Forehand asserts that "the Mormon doctrine that the blood of Christ is not able to cleanse all sins of the repentant believer is a blasphemous and repugnant contradiction of the Holy Bible." (p. 16). If so, then Jesus' teaching that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven is false doctrine (Matthew 12:31). And what about the "sin unto death" spoken of in 1 John 5:16? And why did both ancient Judaism and early Christianity support capital punishment, which is a form of blood atonement?
A number of Forehand's criticisms are based on an apparent lack of knowledge of relevant Mormon studies.
For example, Forehand would have a very difficult time defending his section entitled "Proven: Smith Was An Occultic lawbreaker" (22-24) in light of the studies that have been done on this subject by Bushman, Paul Hedengren, D. Michael Quinn, and Richard Lloyd Anderson (Anderson 1984).
Another claim based on an apparent lack of knowledge of relevant LDS
research is Forehand's assertion that chiasmus can be found in Solomon
Spaulding's 1812 manuscript (which, according to some anti-Mormons, was the source
of the Book of Mormon) (48). Forehand simply quotes Vernal
Holley's claim that this is the case. However, Holley's alleged examples
of chiasmus in Spaulding's text are forced at best (see
Dr. John W. Welch has found chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. Chiasmus is a rhetorical device used prevalently in the Bible and in other ancient literatures and was unnoticed by modern Western civilization until the mid-nineteenth century. [quoting Welch] "Since there is no evidence that anyone in America understood chiasmus in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was published, the remarkable presence of complex chiasms in the Book of Mormon testifies to the ancient origin of the text. . . ." (129-130)
As mentioned, Forehand's answer to this is to quote Holley's claim that chiasmus appears in Spaulding's manuscript. If Forehand had read Welch's article, which Scharffs cites, he would have known that Holley's alleged examples of Spaulding's chiasmus aren't valid; and even if they were, they would hardly compare with or explain the highly complex type of chiasmus found in the Book of Mormon.
The claims in the section entitled "Archaeology: No Help For The Book of Mormon" (7-8) are extremely dated and uninformed. It is one thing for Forehand and other critics to continue to live in the past by claiming there is no archaeological evidence of the Nephite text's veracity; it is quite another thing to support this outdated claim by explaining the existing mountain of archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon's reliability. When are the critics going to deal with such books as John L. Sorenson's An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Diane Wirth's A Challenge to the Critics: Scholarly Evidences of the Book Of Mormon, and Bruce Warren's The Messiah in Ancient America? These works present an abundant amount of credible evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.
Forehand leans heavily on the Smithsonian Institution's negative statement
on the Book of Mormon (8). However, Sorenson, a professor emeritus of
Examples of distortion abound in Forehand's work. In his section on "Did Smith Practice Polygamy or Adultery?" (25-29), Forehand goes to great lengths to portray plural marriage as negatively as possible. Absent from his discussion is any mention of the positive aspects of polygamy, or of the biblical evidence for the practice. For those who would wish to examine this evidence, I would recommend that they read the text of the Orson Pratt-J. P. Newman debate that was held during the Brigham Young era (Pratt and Newman). Scharffs presents a good introduction to the subject (213-214, 226). HARPER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY has this to say about plural marriage and the Old Testament:
. . . the patriarchs practiced polygamy (Gen. 29:15-30). They also took concubines, especially in cases in which the wife had difficulty in conceiving children (Gen. 16:1-2). In the legislation of the Torah [the Hebrew Old Testament], it is taken for granted that a man may have two wives and that relationships were not always harmonious between them (Deut. 21:15). (Achtemeier 1985:608)
Forehand asserts that the revelation sanctioning plural marriage was not given until 1843, at least twelve years later than the Church says it was given (25). It would take a work of at least twenty pages in length just to correct the incredibly distorted manner in which Forehand quotes early Mormon leaders to support this erroneous claim.
One of the most brazen of Forehand's distortions is his defense of the claim in The Godmakers that the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk in which he spoke against people having a personal relationship with Christ (3-4).
Elder McConkie did not say that we shouldn't have a personal relationship with the Savior. What he said was that we should not do so at the expense of our relationship with the Father and the Holy Ghost. He was simply making a distinction between a proper relationship with Christ and an improper one. In other words, as Elder McConkie explained (and as Forehand even quotes him as saying), we should avoid singling out "one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of [our] devotion, to the exclusion of the others. . . ."
A fair reading of Elder McConkie's speech supports what Scharffs says about it: "In context, Elder McConkie was urging people to keep in balance in their minds an appreciation of the three separate personages of the Godhead" (357). Indeed, the calling of LDS apostles is to bear special testimony that Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He is the Savior of the world. Elder McConkie devoted his entire adult life to bearing this sacred testimony.
Echoing Decker and Hunt, Forehand criticizes the Church for not using the
cross as a religious symbol, and he accuses Latter-day Saints of having
"an aversion to the blood of Christ. . . ." (6). Here
is how this criticism reads in The
Godmakers: "Mormons have an almost fanatical aversion to the cross and
the shed blood of Christ." As we shall see below, the Church has very good
reasons for not using the cross as a religious symbol. However, we have no
aversion to the blood of Christ. Our books and sermons are filled with
expressions of thanks and reverence for the awesome and sacred work that the
Savior accomplished by allowing His blood to be shed on
Let's consider the matter of the cross in more depth. Says Forehand, "It is remarkable that today's Mormon church has a more correct perspective on the crucifixion than did the Apostle Paul." He then quotes 1 Corinthians 2:2 and 1:17 and Galatians 6:14 to defend his position on the crucifix. I have no problem with the New Testament verses that talk about the cross of Christ. What I dispute is Forehand's use of these verses as justification for using the cross as a religious symbol. In some verses, the cross is spoken of as something to be endured (Hebrews 12:2; Luke 14:27). The crucifix itself was used by the Romans as an instrument of death to punish those whom they considered to be criminals.
Any interpretation of the New Testament statements about the cross should be
in harmony with the historical fact that the early Christian church did not use
the cross as a religious symbol. The symbol of the crucifix was used by various
pagan cults long before the Christian era. The cross was first associated with
"Christian" symbolism at the behest of the semi-pagan Roman emperor
Constantine in the early part of the fourth century. One of the most
authoritative studies on ancient Christian symbolism to be published in recent
years is Graydon Snyder's book, Ante-Pacem:
Archaeological Evidence Of Church Life Before
Constantine. After noting that the cross was not used as a Christian symbol
In fact, according to biblical archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferis, prior to the fifth century early Christian artists even refrained from drawing scenes of the crucifixion (52).
Minucius Felix (A.D. 170-236), an early Christian apologist, said the following about the cross in response to a pagan anti-Christian writer:
For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal [the critic had accused Christ of being a criminal] and his cross, you wander far from the truth. . . . Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners . . . what else are they but crosses gilded and adorned? (Roberts and Donaldson 4:191)
Scharffs' and other LDS writers believe that Christ sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and that this is mentioned in Luke 22:44, which states that Christ "being in agony . . . prayed . . . and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Scharffs addresses this matter because the Book of Mormon records a prophecy in Mosiah 3:7, uttered in about 124 B.C., that Christ would sweat blood.) Forehand claims that Christ did not actually sweat blood. Says Forehand,
Scharffs claims that a literal interpretation is that Jesus actually sweat blood ([Scharffs] 53). However, the Greek language used by the physician Luke shows only that the profuse sweating of Christ was 'as' blood, not actually blood (The New International Commentary On The New Testament--Luke, by Norval Geldenhuys, p. 577, footnote 14). (6)
Although Forehand seems to believe he has settled the matter, Luke's
statement is still the subject of much debate. A detailed examination of the
verse is beyond the scope of this paper. However, I would point out that many
respected, capable Bible scholars have supported the Mormon view that Luke
22:44 does in fact say that Christ sweat blood in response to the great agony
He was suffering in
For a thoughtful presentation of the Mormon position, I would recommend the careful analysis of Luke's statement written by the late Dr. Sidney B. Sperry (137-145). In defending the Book of Mormon prophecy that Christ would sweat blood, Sperry presents a detailed examination of Luke 22:44. He analyzes the Greek of the verse and quotes a number of non-Mormon Bible scholars who agree with the LDS view on the matter (for a another supportive non-Mormon treatment, see Feuillet 397-417).
Surprisingly, Forehand takes issue with Elder McConkie's statement that it is the Father to whom we should pray, and not the Son (4). "So far as praying to Jesus," says our critic, "some of Stephen's last words were 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit' (Acts 7:59; also see John 14:13; 16:24). Did Stephen call out to the wrong member of the Godhead?"
No, but was Stephen really "praying" in the normal sense of the word? Forehand omits the fact that Stephen could see the Father and the Son in vision as he was being stoned (Acts 7:55-56). Stephen's experience was more along the lines of a vision than an example of how we should pray.
Stephen's sacred encounter was similar to Joseph Smith's First Vision, in which Joseph, too, saw the Father and the Son. The Father introduced the Son to young Joseph. From that point on, Joseph spoke only with the Savior. Would we say that the words Joseph spoke to Christ constituted "prayer"? Not really. Would it be right for someone to use the First Vision as proof that we should actually pray to Jesus? No, it would not.
The verses from John which Forehand cites (John 14:13; 16:24) are talking about the fact that the Father answers our prayers through the Son. They are not instructing us to pray directly to Jesus.
If we were supposed to pray to Christ in lieu of, or in addition to, praying to the Father, it is odd that the Savior Himself never said anything about it. The fact is that nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to pray to anyone other than God the Father. When the disciples specifically asked the Savior how we should pray, He answered that we should pray to the Father and even gave us a general outline to follow when we do so (Luke 11:1-13; cf. Matthew 6:1-13; 20:20-23; 19:17). The apostle Paul also taught us to pray to the Father (1 Corinthians 1:4; Colossians 1:3; Romans 1:8). Moreover, Christ Himself prayed to the Father (John 17, Luke 22:39-46).
Forehand repeatedly accuses Mormons of misinterpreting or misrepresenting the Bible; and yet, when it comes to such a basic doctrine as prayer, he ignores the Savior's example and teachings on the subject and instead focuses on the unrelated case of Stephen and cites two verses from John that say nothing about praying to Christ.
Forehand concludes his arguments on this subject by claiming that Elder McConkie contradicted the Book of Mormon because of what is said in 2 Nephi 25:29:
Apparently Apostle McConkie did not even believe his own Book of Mormon, ". . . wherefore ye must bow down before him [Christ], and worship him with all your might, mind, strength, and your whole soul, and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out" (2 Nephi 25:29). Was General Authority McConkie cast out? (4)
Nephi is not telling us that our prayers should be addressed to Christ, but
that we must worship Him--there is a difference, both in English and in a
scriptural sense (Achtemeier 1985:816-817, 1143). Even a basic, commonly
available source like The Merriam-Webster
Dictionary (New York: Pocket Books, 1974) distinguishes between prayer and
worship (s.v. "pray," "prayer," and "worship").
Nephi makes it clear that we are to pray to the Father in the name of Christ (2
Nephi 32:9; 33:12). The Book of Mormon confirms this teaching in many places (
The Changes in the Book of Mormon
In his section entitled "World's Most Correct Book: Changed 4,000 Times?" ( 18-20), Forehand claims that the changes in the Book of Mormon prove the book to be false. Says Forehand,
Scharffs quotes Decker, ". . . 4,000 changes had to be made in the Book of Mormon," and then proceeds with his retort, "Doesn't every first edition have errors? All books typeset from handwritten manuscripts . . . have many errors. . . ." Scharffs and other contemporary Mormon writers deserve credit for now admitting that there have been several thousand changes (approximately four thousand--not including capitalization and punctuation) made in the Book of Mormon since its first publication. However, these Mormons need to realize that by speaking of the changes, they fall into league with the sons of Belial according to one-term Living Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith. (18)
Forehand then quotes President Smith as saying that there was no truth to the charges which he had been reading that "there have been one or two thousand changes in the Book of Mormon since the first edition was published," and that the individuals who were circulating those reports were "the sons of Belial" (19).
In response to Scharffs' statement about every first edition having errors: not every manuscript for a first edition is proclaimed by an angel of God to have been "translated by the power of God. The translation of them [the plates] which you have seen is correct" (HOC, vol. 1, 54-55). Not every book is touted by a "Living Prophet of God" as "the most correct book of any on earth" (lbid., 4:461). Not every first edition manuscript was claimed to have been translated letter perfectly. . . .
Scharffs furthermore says, "Ninety-nine percent of the Book of Mormon has not been changed. Indeed, 4,000 changes seem amazingly few." Is this a boast or a confession? If the Book of Mormon is actually God's word (with every word translated correctly as the Mormons have claimed), then is even the change of one inspired letter permissible--much less than four thousand words? (18-19)
First of all, "No responsible authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ever claimed that God or an angel dictated the physical format of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, or directed what the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization of the text should be" (Sperry 183; cf. 184-199). The problem is that Forehand and his fellow anti-Mormons insist on judging the Nephite record according to their fundamentalist concept of scripture.
Forehand has misinterpreted the intent of President Joseph Fielding Smith's comments. President Smith was not saying that there had been no changes whatsoever in the Book of Mormon, but that there had been no vital doctrinal changes in the text (see J. F. Smith 2:199-201)
Forehand seems to be implying that Mormon writers have only recently begun "admitting" that changes have been made in the Nephite text. This is simply incorrect. Mormon writers have discussed and answered charges about the changes for at least one hundred years.
I honestly wonder how much longer anti-Mormons will continue to misuse Joseph Smith's statement about the Book of Mormon being "the most correct book of any book on earth." Joseph Smith knew as well as anybody that there were grammatical and spelling errors and the like in his translation. Indeed, at the time the Prophet made this statement, the Nephite record had already gone through two editions, in which a number of the errors had been corrected and in which he personally had made a few clarifications. As many Mormon scholars have pointed out, in using the phrase "the most correct book," Joseph was referring to the Book of Mormon's doctrinal purity, not to its grammar, punctuation, and spelling (see, for example, Nyman).
The angel of God was right: The Book of Mormon was translated correctly. All but a handful of the "4,000 changes" have been to correct minor grammatical and spelling errors. A couple of them were merely to correct two verses wherein King Mosiah was accidentally mistaken for his father, King Benjamin. The remaining few changes have been clarifications (Nibley 1976: 3-12, 246-251; Scharffs 160-164). The angel certainly wasn't judging Joseph's translation by Forehand's unreasonable standards; rather, he was saying that the Prophet had sufficiently conveyed the sacred truths contained in the ancient record. Furthermore, Joseph did not interpret the angel's words to mean that he could not make improvements in word choice, grammar, spelling, and the like, as is shown by the changes that he himself made in the second edition.
Moreover, Joseph Smith never said the Book of Mormon was translated "letter perfectly." Although some of his associates, such as David Whitmer, speculated that it was, the available evidence indicates otherwise, as Stephen D. Ricks has shown (Ricks; cf. Welch and Rathbone). A number of Joseph's closest friends and fellow Church leaders--including Oliver Cowdery and the Pratt brothers--indicated they did not believe the Nephite text was translated in an automatic, letter-for-letter manner. When Joseph's brother, Hyrum, was asked how the Prophet translated the Book of Mormon, he replied that he did not know because Joseph had not disclosed this information to him. If the Prophet didn't tell his own brother the particulars of the translation process, it is highly doubtful he told any other Church official.
The numerous changes made in 1837 by the Prophet himself in the second
edition argue strongly against the idea that he rendered the book into English
by automatic translation. Undoubtedly, when it came to certain personal and
place names, Joseph received specific assistance; otherwise, it was his
responsibility to express in English what was written on the plates--and
judging from the wordprint tests that have been done on the Nephite record, it
appears the Prophet did a very good job of preserving the ideas and writing
styles of the book's ancient authors (Larsen and Rencher; Hilton). After
examining the evidence relating to the translation process, Ricks, a professor
of Semitic languages at
A more reasonable scenario, in my estimation, would be one in which the means at Joseph's disposal (the seer stone and the interpreters) enhanced his capacity to understand the basic meanings of the words and phrases of the book as well as to grasp the relationship of these words to each other. However, the actual translation was Joseph's alone and the opportunity to improve it in grammar and word choice still remained open. All who have had experience in translating are aware of the often considerable cleavage between being able to construe a sentence and actually rendering it in a felicitous translation. All who have translated are also keenly aware that it is a rare translation which cannot be improved. Thus, while it would be incorrect to minimize the divine element in the process of translation of the Book of Mormon, it would also be misleading and potentially hazardous to deny the human element. (5)
Forehand ridicules Scharffs' statement that "4,000 changes seem amazingly few." However, it must be remembered that the total number of words in the Book of Mormon is a trifle over a quarter of a million--around 260,000. For a manuscript of that size, four thousand changes (and minor changes at that) do, in fact, "seem amazingly few."
Using Forehand's logic and hypercritical standards, one could easily repudiate the New Testament. For example, in Mark 13:31, Jesus says, "My words shall not pass away." I have heard several anti-Mormons and other fundamentalists use this verse to support their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Yet, there are thousands of grammatical and spelling errors in the New Testament manuscripts. A number of these errors are very severe. Using Forehand's line of reasoning, one could well ask, "If Christ's words were not to pass away, how did so many of them come to be misspelled and used in such poor grammatical fashion?"
Furthermore, what about the dozens of actual contradictions in the Bible as a whole? What about the thousands of variant readings in the biblical manuscripts? Although anti-Mormons deny it, the fact is that the Bible does contain a number of mistakes and discrepancies, and some of the variant readings are quite serious and doctrinally significant (Achtemeier 1980:62-70; Barr 1984:139-147; Wilson 26-27; M. Smith 1973; Griffith 114-118; Griggs 78; see also chapter ten herein).
Ultimately, how one judges the changes in the Book of Mormon will largely depend on their view of inspiration and scripture. Contrary to what anti-Mormons seem to believe, the biblical writers took it for granted that a prophet could improve upon a previously received revelation. They also understood that the human factor in the revelatory process could produce errors in holy writ, and they felt at perfect liberty to correct such errors when they deemed it necessary (Achtemeier 1980:60-65, 82-93; Barth 1974a:27-31, 276-282; 1974b:472-477; R. Anderson 1983:51-53; Barber H/1-H/2; Vestal and Wallace 33-43; Reicke 105; Ostler 106-107; R. Brown lxxvi-lxxxviii; Van Seters 209-362).
It is not my purpose to examine every single error in Forehand's work--that would require a book in itself. Suffice it to say in closing that his defense definitely fails to refute Scharffs' detailed and impressive refutation of The Godmakers.
Despite its numerous errors, anti-Mormons will probably continue to use The Godmakers. In so doing, they will only do further damage to their already questionable, controversial movement. In the meantime, the Church will continue to preach the gospel and to fulfill its mission as the Savior's restored church on the earth.
Decker and Hunt declare that "leading Mormons have admitted that Mormonism is actually a revival of the key doctrines of the mystery religions that Milton R. Hunter called 'the pagan rivals of Christianity'" (121). And just who are the "leading Mormons" who have made this astounding (and invalid) admission? Decker and Hunt cite ONLY ONE person, a history professor named Reed Durham! Furthermore, Reed Durham has never said "Mormonism is actually a revival of the key doctrines of the mystery religions."
Decker and Hunt make much of the fact that the exact date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood was not recorded and is unknown (202). I trust they don't reject the account of the Savior's birth over the fact that the New Testament does not provide an exact date for the event. Similarly, scholars are still hotly divided on an exact date for the exodus, and the Old Testament does not provide a specific date for it.
According to Decker and Hunt, the eleven witnesses who solemnly swore to seeing the golden plates "merely" saw them "by faith," and that it "is clear that they were not being witness to an actual physical seeing and handling" of the plates (81). This is patently erroneous. The witnesses made it quite clear that they were in fact describing a real, physical handling and observing of the plates. For more information on this issue, I would refer the reader to Richard Lloyd Anderson's book INVESTIGATING THE BOOK OF MORMON WITNESSES (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981).
"No Mormon," say Decker and Hunt, "can become a god without
blind submission" to the general authorities of the
"Christians," claim Decker and Hunt, "consider the Bible to be the final authority in everything" (44). By "Christians" Decker and Hunt really mean to say "fundamentalist Protestant Christians." If the Bible is truly the final authority for everything, why can't the scores of different Protestant denominations agree on what it says? Why are there so many differences between Catholics and Protestants? Furthermore, the Catholic Church, for example, does not share Decker and Hunt's fundamentalist view of scripture. Nor did the ancient Christians. If Christ's apostles had viewed the Bible as the final authority in everything, they would have ordered Gentiles to undergo circumcision, for that was what "scripture" explicitly and unequivocally commanded.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:†
Michael T. Griffith
holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a
Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military
University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two
Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air
Force.† He also holds an Advanced
Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from