Saturday, March 11, 2017

What are the Kinderhook plates?

First, why is this important? Here’s why: The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, claimed to have supernaturally translated golden plates that contained ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. This translation became the Book of Mormon. If Smith was a true prophet of God, would he be able to translate other, unrelated ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics? More importantly, when presented with a fake, would a true prophet of God to be honest enough to admit he has no idea what the hieroglyphics mean? The work of a true prophet should be able to stand up to honest examination.

Discovery of the plates
One issue deserving of examination involves six bell shaped brass plates unearthed near Kinderhook, Illinois. On April 23, 1843, Robert Wiley had been digging at a mound when the plates, which appeared to be engraved with ancient hieroglyphics, were discovered. This archaeological find was certified by nine men, including Wiley. Because Joseph Smith was living in nearby Nauvoo, Illinois and had a reputation at that time as one who was able to translate ancient inscriptions, the plates were brought to him for analysis. Smith apparently claimed to have translated some of these plates. Reported in the official LDS History of the Church, May 1, 1843, were the following diary entries of Joseph Smith:
·         ““[May 1, 1843:] I insert fac similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. R. Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound.”
·         “I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.”[1]

The Saint Louis Gazette also reported that Smith was:
“…busy in translating them.  The new work which Jo. Is about to issue as a translation of these plates will be nothing more nor less than a sequel to the Book of Mormon.”[2]

Furthermore, the Mormon’s own publication, Times and Seasons, confirmed the belief that the Prophet was in the process of translating the plates:
“Why does the circumstance of the plates recently found in a mound in Pike County, Illinois by Mr. Wiley … go to prove the Book of Mormon true? – Ans. Because it is true!”[3]

The real story
It is difficult to determine how far this would have gone because, on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith was murdered by an angry mob while incarcerated at the Carthage, Illinois jail. About a month after he died, three men admitted to creating the plates as a hoax and planting them at the mound near Kinderhook to be “discovered”. These statements were admitted on the Latter Day Saints’ (LDS) own official website:
·         “In an 1855 letter, Mormon writer W. P. Harris stated, ‘Bridge Whitton [a blacksmith in Kinderhook, Illinois] said to me that he cut and prepared the plates and he (B. Whitton) and R. Wiley engraved them themselves, and that there was nitric acid put upon them the night before they were found to rust the iron ring and band. And that they were carried to the mound, rubbed in the dirt and carefully dropped into the pit where they were found.’”[4]

·         “The other item was a letter written in 1879 by Wilbur Fugate (another of those present at the excavation of the plates) to an anti-Mormon in Salt Lake City. Fugate declared that the alleged discovery of the Kinderhook plates was ‘a HUMBUG, gotten up by Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitton and myself. … None of the nine persons who signed the certificate [a document included in the Times and Seasons article] knew the secret, except Wiley and I.’”[5]

Scientific testing
In 1980, one of the plates was brought for testing to Professor D. Lynn Johnson of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, who performed scanning electron microscope and an X-ray fluorescence analysis. Because the amount of copper and zinc used (73% and 24% respectively) in the plate was found to be consistent with 19th century manufacture, in addition to other results obtained during the testing, it was determined the plate is not of ancient origin. Stanley B. Kimball, LDS history professor, stated:
“The conclusion, therefore, is that the Chicago plate is indeed one of the original Kinderhook plates, which now fairly well evidences them to be faked antiquities.”[6]

Expert examination of the plates
James Henry Breasted (1865-1935), University of Chicago ancient Egyptian expert, who wrote the five volume set Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, reported his analysis of the Kinderhook plates in a letter. Dr. Breasted wrote in 1906 as the Mormon Church was still claiming that Smith had begun to translate the plates:
“The ‘Kinderhook Plates’ are, of course, childish forgeries, as the scientific world has known for years.”
            “Smith tried to deceive people into thinking that he had translated some of the plates.”
And, this is the crucial point that Breasted makes:
“Where we can check up on [Joseph] Smith as a translator of plates, he is found guilty of deception. How can we trust him with reference to his claims about the Book of Mormon?”
            “as Charles A. Shook well observed … ‘Only a bogus prophet translates bogus plates.’”[7]

The LDS response
The standard response from the Mormon Church now is that the translation story is exaggerated and Joseph Smith was never fooled by the plates. The official LDS website makes the following statements:
·         “Joseph Smith did not make the hoped-for translation. In fact, no evidence exists that he manifested any further interest in the plates after early examination of them”
·         “there is no evidence that the Prophet Joseph Smith ever took up the matter with the Lord”
·         “So it is that in the 100-year battle of straw men and straw arguments, Joseph Smith needs no defense—he simply did not fall for the scheme.”[8]

But, documentary evidence shows that Smith believed these were genuinely found in an archaeological dig and there is no written record he ever thought they were forgeries. The LDS response to the diary statements is that the quotes were not written by Smith himself, but rather found in the journal of William Clayton. The details surrounding the diary entry are ambiguous enough that it may be accurate to state Clayton was the one who made the entry. Nevertheless, Clayton was admittedly a confidant of Joseph Smith and a well respected Mormon. And, here’s the curious part:  For about 130 years, these statements were officially attributed to Smith by the LDS church. This is like a witness whose story changes in court on the stand. Which story should we believe; the first one or the second? The church was willing to attribute the diary quote to Smith as long as the plates were assumed to be genuine. Then, when the plates were proven to be fraudulent, the story changed.

So, what’s the big deal?
Several possibilities exist for the events that occurred in 1843:  One, Joseph Smith was sincere regarding what he thought the plates stated and he simply made an honest mistake. In other words, his translation to that point was sincere, but he just got it wrong. Two, Smith truly thought he heard from God concerning the translation and was mistaken in that fact. This would be more disturbing if Smith thought he was hearing from God. Three, and most damning, Smith had no idea what the engravings meant and he made up the partial translation story. None of these three options bode well for Smith’s reliability as a prophet or as a translator of ancient inscriptions. The point is that Joseph Smith was unreliable regarding the Kinderhook plates and was likely outright deceptive. Since he was shown to be untrustworthy in this instance, how can he be trusted to have translated the alleged plates that led to the Book of Mormon?

Credit where it is due
Stanley Kimball is to be applauded for submitting the plate for rigorous scientific testing. We must alter our beliefs to conform with the truth, not vice versa. Our hope and prayer is that those in the LDS church are willing to do the same with other claims of Joseph Smith and be honest enough to follow the results wherever they lead.

[1] Smith, Joseph, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: 1967), vol. 5, p. 372.
[2] Warsaw Signal, May 22, 1844, cited in The God Makers, by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1984), p. 99.
[3] Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 405.
[4] W. P. Harris to W. C. Flagg, 25 April 1855 in "A Hoax: Reminiscences of an Old Kinderhook Mystery," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 5 (July 1912):272.
[5] Wilbur Fugate, Mound Station, Illinois, 30 June 1879 letter to James T. Cobb, Salt Lake City, as quoted in Wilhelm W. Wyl (Wymental), Mormon Portraits (Salt Lake City, 1888), pp. 207–8.
[6] Kimball, Stanley, B., “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax,” Ensign, Aug 1981, 66.
[7] Church News, Jan. 16, 1982. Pp 4-6; Eastern Standard Times, June 1983, p. 10; cited in The God Makers, p. 100.

[8]Kimball, p. 66.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Is there more than one god?

Some religious belief systems indicate there may be many gods in addition to the one mentioned in the Bible. Three major world religions are monotheistic: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Are there many gods or only one? What authority can we rely upon for an answer?

Many gods
Hinduism, while not a monolithic world religion, allows for many gods:  Brahma the creator god, Vishnu the sustainer, Shiva the destroyer, Rama, Krishna, and many others. A proper general categorization for Hinduism is not easy to nail down and there are numerous sects:
“There is no single Hindu idea of God. Hindu concepts of deity can include any of the following: monism (all existence is one substance); pantheism (all existence is divine); panentheism (God is in creation as a soul is in a body); animism (God of gods live in nonhuman objects such as trees, rocks, animals, etc.); polytheism (there are many gods): henotheism (there is one god we worship among the many that exist; an monotheism (there is only one God).”[1]

Mormonism teaches that there are many gods as evidenced by a statement from LDS apostle Orson Pratt:
“If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.”[2]
Joseph Fielding Smith, who served as LDS church president from 1901-1918, stated:
“Joseph Smith taught a plurality of gods, and that man by obeying the commandments of God and keeping the whole law will eventually reach the power and exaltation by which he also will become a god”.[3]

Others assert that we are gods. For example, Kenneth Copeland has stated:
            “You don’t have a god in you, you are one,”[4]
And, according to Benny Hinn:
            “Are you ready for some real revelation are god”.[5]

Many more examples could be given, but these are sufficient to illustrate the point that a number of major world religions include belief in many gods. What is the truth?

What source is reliable?
To accurately determine an answer to the question of how many gods may exist, we must have a reliable information source. The Vedas are the generally accepted Hindu scriptures. Mormons use the Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. Others, such as Hinn and Copeland use the Bible, but with some unorthodox interpretations at times. Muslims, who are monotheistic, of course use the Quran, which draws some information from the Bible. In addition, there are countless other religious writings with everything from the Satanic Bible to L. Ron Hubbard’s books. But, there is only one book about God that is verifiably trustworthy. Evidence for the reliability of the Bible is overwhelming, though we do not have space to devote to that issue in this article. See articles on this website or, for even more thorough research, see books by Josh McDowell, which are outstanding.[6]

What does the Bible say?
The Bible states very clearly in numerous verses there is only one God. A few selected examples include:
·         “Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me” (Isaiah 43:10).
·         “There is no god besides me” (Isaiah 44:6).
·         “Besides me there is no god” (Isaiah 45:5).
·         “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me” (Isaiah 46:9).
·         “He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).
·         “…there is no god besides me” (Deuteronomy 32:39).
·         “…there is no God besides You” (2 Samuel 7:22).
·         "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
·         “…the glory that is from the one and only God” (John 5:44).
·         “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (John 17:3).
·         “…there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4).
·         “…there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
·         There is “one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:6).
·         “…there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5).

The Hebrew word normally translated into English as “one” is eh­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ad (Strong’s H259), and is rendered in the KJV as such 687 times. The Greek word translated as “one” is heis (Strong’s 1520), and is rendered “one” 229 times in the KJV, including those listed above. Throughout the old and new testaments, the Bible is emphatically monotheistic.

Are we “little gods”?
Is it true that Jesus said we are gods? In John 10, immediately after Jesus made the statement, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jewish religious leaders prepared to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus then answered:
“Has it not been written in your law, I said ‘You are gods'? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, ‘I am the Son of God'?” (John 10:34-36)

Jesus was quoting Psalm 82:6, which states, “I said, ‘You are gods and all of you are sons of the Most High.’” Who is the Lord speaking about in this verse? The next verse, number seven, continues by saying, “Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.” Context is critical in Biblical interpretation and, in this passage of scripture, Norman Geisler has noted: 
“This psalm addresses judges who are judging unjustly. The title of ‘gods’ is not addressed to everyone, but only to these judges about whom Jesus said are those to ‘whom the word of God came’ (v. 35). Jesus was showing that if the OT Scriptures could give some divine status to divinely appointed judges, why should they find it incredible that He should call Himself the Son of God? Thus, Jesus was giving a defense for His own deity, not for the deification of man.”[7]

But, wait a minute, some Christian teachers say. If God created someone in His image, doesn’t it make sense that the created beings would be “little gods”? Joyce Meyer makes the point that human parents have human babies and so God’s children would naturally be little gods, right? To her credit, Ms. Meyer does make it clear that we are not the “God” with a big G. But, could we be little gods?

In His image
In addition to John 10:34, another verse normally used by those who profess we are little gods is Genesis 1:26-27:
            “…God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness’ and
            “God created man in His own image”.

Geisler states:
“All Genesis 1:26-27 is teaching is that humanity was created in God’s image or likeness in the sense that a human being is a finite reflection of God in rational nature (Col. 3:10), in moral nature (Eph. 4:24), and in dominion over creation (Gen. 1:27-28). In the same way that the moon reflects the brilliant light of the sun, so finite humanity (as created in God’s image) is a limited reflection of God in these aspects. This verse has nothing to do with human beings becoming God or being in God’s ‘class.’  If it were true that human beings are “little gods,” then one would expect them to display qualities similar to those known to be true of God.”[8]

We need to remember a critical technique of Biblical hermeneutics is interpreting difficult scriptures in light of clear ones. One verse, which is somewhat unclear, mentions that we may be little gods, while numerous other verses clearly do not place us in the same category as God, with a big “G”. Below are some examples.

·         God is eternal, humans have a beginning:
“Everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28)
“Eternal God” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
“the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17)
·         God is omniscient, humans are not:
“His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5)
“God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:20)
·         God sees everything, humans do not:
“Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?" declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’" (Jeremiah 23:24)
·         God is the Creator, we are the created:
“Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10)
“It is I who made the earth, and created man” (Isaiah 45:12)
“You have created all the sons of men” (Psalm 89:47)
·         God never tires, humans do:
The Lord “does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28)
“He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4)
·         God is righteous, we are not:
God is righteous with respect to all His deeds” (Daniel 9:14)
“There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10)

The Bible very clearly does not allow for any other gods beside the one Creator. This also includes human beings; we are not God and never will be.

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1] Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, revised 2003), p. 391.
[2] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, (London:  Latter-day Saint’s Book Depot, 1854-56), 2:345, cited in Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons, by Ron Rhodes & Marian Bodine, (Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 245.
[3] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City, UT:  Bookcraft, 1975), 1:98.
[4] Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Love (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1987), audiotape #02-0028, side 1.
[5] Benny Hinn, “Our Position In Christ”, tape # AO31190-1
[6] Excellent resources by Josh McDowell include:  The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict as well as He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus
[7] Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Wheaton, IL:  Victor Books, 1992), p. 417.
[8] Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997), 798.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Does God approve of abortion?

Just to be clear, two points must be made at the start: 
1.    Violence or hatred of any kind is not endorsed. 
2.    God can forgive and restore any girl or woman who has had an abortion.
The information presented here is not political or emotional; rather, it is factual.

What does the Bible say?
The Bible explicitly states, in a number of verses, that God forms a person before birth, in the mother’s womb:

  “For you formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in our book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 119:13-16).
  “Did not He who made me in the womb make him and the same one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:15)
   “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb” (Isaiah 44:2).
   “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb”
(Isaiah 44:24).
   “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”   (Jeremiah 1:5).
*    John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before birth:
“he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb” (Luke 1:15).
And, even before birth, John had intelligence and awareness:
“When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41).
*    The Apostle Paul was called by God before birth:
“God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb” (Galatians 1:15).
*   Samson was known and called by God while in the womb:
the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (Judges 13:7).

What does the medical evidence show?
From the moment of conception, the baby has his or her own unique DNA. Around 18 days after conception, the human fetus begins to develop a heart. “In human embryos the heart begins to beat spontaneously at about 22-23 days, with blood flow beginning the fourth week”.[1] It beats with blood that is not the mother’s, but is uniquely that of the baby, and may be of a different blood type. As microbiologist Richard L. Deem states,
This is only 7-10 days after a woman would expect to begin her menses. Since most women have cycles that can vary by this amount, they do not discover they are pregnant until after this point. Therefore, all abortions stop a beating heart, even ‘early’ abortions.”[2]

Around week six, brainwaves are detectable. Brain function, as measured on the Electroencephalogram, "appears to be reliably present in the fetus at about eight weeks gestation," or six weeks after conception.[3]  At 16 weeks, fingerprints and toe prints develop, which are unique to each human. As early as 21 weeks, barely more than halfway to full term, babies have survived outside of the womb and have continued healthy into adulthood, such as James Gill, born in Canada in 1987. And, “Australian statistics released in 2006 show that more than three-quarters of babies born at 25 weeks will survive and more than 80 per cent will not have a major disability”.[4] The point here is not to ask “how low can you go”, but to demonstrate that many babies who could have easily been aborted, but were allowed to live, have developed into – surprise – adult humans. So, at what developmental point can someone definitively state a fetus is not a human being? Do you want to be the one to make that decision about someone else’s life?   

Aborted babies can live.
Timesonline reported the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a “government agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.”[5]

There is forgiveness and healing.

God can and will forgive even the worst of sinners, as the Apostle Paul states, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

King David committed adultery then arranged for the murder of the husband.[6] The baby who was produced as a result died, but God did forgive David and the next child born was Solomon, who became a forefather of Jesus Christ. So, God does forgive even the most egregious sins. David made a very interesting comment after the first baby died:
            “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David believed the baby was still alive, but with God.

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1] Hill, Mark, Dr., “Cardiovascular System Development – Embryonic Heart Rate”, University of New South Wales Embryology website, 2008, accessed 18 Nov 2008, <>
[2] Deem, Richard L., Science and Abortion:  The Scientific Basis for a Prolife Position, from the website,, last modified 23 Jul 2007, accessed 17 Nov 2008.
[3] J. Goldenring, "Development of the Fetal Brain," New England Jour. of Med., Aug. 26, 1982, p. 564
[4] Molloy, Fran, ABC Health & Well Being, “Catching the Early Babies”, published 24 Jul 2008, accessed 21 Nov 2008,  <>
[5] Rogers, Lois, “Fifty Babies a Year are Alive after Abortion”, Timesonline, 27 Nov 2005, accessed 22 Nov 2008.
[6] 2 Samuel 11