2 Nephi 4 and the Pain or Exhilaration of Learning What You Thought You Wanted to Know, Part 2

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In Part 1, I argued that the specific messages of 2 Nephi 4 in the Book of Mormon go almost completely ignored in the writings and teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter, “the Church”).  This chapter, which is accurately called the psalm of Nephi, contains, among other things, Nephi’s lament over his repeated susceptibility to sin and temptation, and the depression and loss of self-esteem he suffers as a result.  The reader is surprised to read his words, since Nephi’s stature as a prophet of God is almost unparalleled in both the Bible and Book of Mormon.  And, no part of the Book of Mormon, outside of this chapter, informs the reader of any sinfulness on his part, much less the nature of such sinfulness.  Since this chapter is unique in all of scripture, and the messages in it are so crucial to our understanding of how major, persistent weaknesses and exceptional spirituality can co-exist in the greatest of individuals, one would think that its substance would be the focus of much discussion among the lay membership, church leaders and scholars of the LDS Church.  It should be one of the most famous passages of scripture, and by itself, should be the subject of lessons and talks.  Below, I’ll attempt to not only delve into the vital messages of this chapter that I feel have escaped public discussion, but also explain why I think the LDS Church purposely shies away from those messages.

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2 Nephi 4 and the Pain or Exhilaration of Learning What You Thought You Wanted to Know, Part 1

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One of my daughters, who loves math and majored in statistics in college, recently challenged me to solve a math word problem to which she had already figured out the answer.  Since I generally enjoy word problems, and believed careful thinking on my part  would reveal the solution, I had no reason not to accept her challenge.  I also assumed that the problem was tricky and the answer counterintuitive, because otherwise my daughter would have no reason to use this problem to test me.  So, with what I thought was the appropriate amount of confidence and wariness, I said “Sure, lay it on me.”

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Does the Book of Mormon Corroborate LDS Church Claims of Divine Revelation, and Do Church Leaders Receive More of It?

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I feel the need to begin with this short clarification.  Although the second half of this essay argues that leaders of the LDS Church too often claim to have received revelation from God when they actually haven’t, I don’t believe these leaders are unrighteous men.  Indeed, I consider them generally righteous, well-intentioned, and highly intelligent men, who, like most members of their church, accomplish much more good than evil during their lives.  Their principle mistake, I believe, is that they accept unquestioningly traditional LDS views regarding their own authority, the superiority of their spiritual gifts, and what constitutes revelation and what does not. Continue reading

What “Plain and Precious Things” did the “Great and Abominable Church” Keep Back from its Biblical Teachings?

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In two unique chapters of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13 and 14, the prophet Nephi, writing during the 6th century B.C., relates what an angel showed him in vision about the future history of Christianity in Europe and the Americas.  One of the most salient features of his vision is a description of what happens after the Old Testament Jewish scriptures and the New Testament Christian gospel have been recorded and written in their uncorrupted form1 by Israelite and Jewish writers of the Old and New Testaments.  Over the centuries, as these records and writings coalesce into what is known today as the Bible2,  they are then adopted and accepted by Christians as canonical.  Thereafter, the Bible comes into the possession and control of what the angel and Nephi refer to as the “great and abominable church.”  The result is that the biblical message, formerly pure, becomes corrupted in the way it’s taught to Christianity’s adherents.  Specifically,  the church’s teaching is observed to be missing “many plain and precious things” which have been “taken away” or “kept back” by said evil church.  See 1 Nephi 13:26, 28-29, 32, 34, 40. Continue reading

How We Know Shem Wasn’t Melchizedek, Part II, and What it Means for Christianity

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In a previous essay, I laid out the evidence demonstrating why Shem and the ancient high priest Melchizedek couldn’t have been the same person, contrary to popular Mormon belief.  See Why Melchizedek wasn’t Shem, and Why it Does and Doesn’t Matter, elsewhere on this website.  By reading further information on this subject, which was brought to my attention by a reader of this website, I have found what I consider to be another forbiddingly strong argument that further solidifies the case against Shem and Melchizedek sharing the same identity.  At the end of this essay, I’ll explain why I think this new piece of evidence has important ramifications for our study and understanding of not only the Bible, but all other books that Mormons accept as scriptural.

The “new” (to me, at least) piece of evidence is that Shem had been dead for 570 years when Abraham was born, so he couldn’t have been present when Melchizedek later encountered Abraham as the latter returned from the slaughter of the kings. Continue reading

How the Book of Mormon Could Have Saved LDS Leaders from Error

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter “the Church”) teaches that sexual relationships between those of the same gender are sinful, as are any sexual relationships between partners who aren’t legally and lawfully married.  The concept that sexual relations between persons not married to each other is wrong is strongly rooted in biblical and Book of Mormon scripture, having been taught by Jesus himself, among several others, and is not illogical. Continue reading

Why Melchizedek wasn’t Shem, and Why it Does and Doesn’t Matter

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Many members of the LDS church believe Shem, the son of Noah and the father of all the Semitic races, and Melchizedek, the famous high priest to whom Abraham paid tithes, to be the same person.  Indeed, a short essay  on the LDS Church’s own website by Alma E. Gygi, a Salt Lake City businessman, entitled “Is it Possible that Shem and Melchizedek are the Same Person?” provides arguments in support of this conclusion, see here.   This essay will attempt to demonstrate why Melchizedek was not Shem, but will also use this issue as a case study in how careless we can be in adopting religious beliefs.  The Melchizedek-Shem issue is relatively trivial, but too often, the same failure to require solid foundations for our beliefs leads to other mistaken conclusions on far more consequential doctrinal matters.

The first major piece of evidence that Shem wasn’t Melchizedek is one that Mormons too often ignore–neither the biblical writers nor the more accurate Book of Mormon writers, though they were writing on the very subject of the greatness of Melchizedek, mentioned anything about him being Shem, or being the son of Noah.  If a proponent of the Shem=Melchizedek theory is willing to ignore this point, she should first show that Bible and Book of Mormon writers commonly referred to one person using two different names without informing the reader that both names referred to the same person.  But such a showing can’t be made; indeed, the opposite is true.

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Ignoring the Book of Mormon in General Conference Talks and LDS Instruction

In his October 2016 LDS General Conference address “If Ye Had Known Me,” Church apostle David E. Bednar began his address by citing to an example in the scriptures wherein Joseph Smith had supposedly corrected erroneous language in the King James Version (hereafter “KJV”) of the Bible.  The scripture Bednar accepted as mistranslated was Matthew 7:21-23, which we find near the end of the Sermon on the Mount:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Bednar commented:  “Our understanding of this episode is enlarged as we reflect upon an inspired revision to the text. Significantly, the Lord’s phrase reported in the King James Version of the Bible, ‘I never knew you,’ was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to ‘Ye never knew me.'” Bednar then went on to partially base his talk on the verse that Joseph Smith had reworded in his “inspired” revision–Matthew 7:23.

The problem with Brother Bednar’s assumption that Joseph Smith’s revision was inspired, and that the King James Version of this scripture was in error and not inspired, is that the Book of Mormon version of this same scripture agrees with the King James Version, and disagrees with Joseph Smith’s revision.  The same Sermon on the Mount that Jesus delivered to the Jews was also delivered almost word-for-word to the Nephites.  It is found in 3 Nephi 12-14.  The counterpart of the King James Version verse that Joseph Smith saw fit to modify is 3 Nephi 14:23.  Its wording is identical to Matthew 7:23 in the KJV; the phrase in question reads “I never knew you,” not “Ye never knew me.” Continue reading

Baptism for the Dead: True Christian Doctrine and Practice, or LDS Construction?

Note: The following essay was contributed by frequent contributor Scott S. Mitchell.


In the one of the most enigmatic scriptures in the entire Bible, the apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians about the universality of the resurrection, said these words: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (See 1 Corinthians 15:29.) This passage has perplexed Christian scholars, and been the subject of much debate, since the second century A.D., and rightfully so. Jesus himself never taught baptizing for the dead to the Jews in Palestine or the Nephites in the New World. No other prophet, apostle or disciple made any mention of it, either. And even Paul uses the word “they” instead of the word “we” in describing who practices it, without clarifying who “they” refers to.  In the next verse, however, he does use the word “we” to describe a separate practice in which he personally participated–“standing in jeopardy every hour”, or being physically endangered by persecutors at all times because of his and his fellows’ Christian beliefs.  See 1 Cor. 15:30.

In 1841, however, Joseph Smith, founder of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter “LDS Church” or “Mormonism”), began teaching that the practice of vicarious baptisms for the dead was a vital and integral practice among God’s people, dating back to the beginning of time.  The only proof text Joseph cited which actually mentions baptism for the dead was the aforementioned 1 Corinthians 15:29.  Consequently, however, the LDS Church began performing baptisms of live persons vicariously for persons who had died without being baptised into Mormonism.  To this day, millions of such baptisms are performed each year, exclusively in LDS temples, in order to provide the possibility of salvation to those who died without it.

Interpretation by Bible Scholars

The scholarly response to this passage is uniformly uncertain about it. From the Fully Revised Fourth Edition of The New Oxford Annotated Bible: “It is not clear what was involved in the Corinthian practice of baptism on behalf of the dead. Paul appeals to the practice to suggest to the Corinthians that they have an implicit faith in the resurrection.”1

From Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

The exact meaning of this practice is uncertain. Some scholars believe it refers to the re-baptism of Christians for the benefit of people who had died unbaptized but already believing. But other scholars insist it refers to a baptismal formula in the Corinthian church that promised that believers would rise from the dead at the end of time to reign with Christ.2

From Archaeological Study Bible:

Every theory has some problems, but some are more plausible than others:

One explanation holds that Paul was alluding to some form of “proxy baptism” (an individual being baptized to secure the salvation of ancestors, relatives or friends who had died without Christ). There is no indication in his text, however, that Corinthians were being baptized for their ancestors or for other dead pagans—and no evidence that this was ever practiced in the early church.

Some suggest that the term refers to baptism for believers who had died unbaptized; others that it may have been some ritual rated in a superstitious belief that baptism itself almost magical, life-giving power. The Corinthian believers may have been influenced by a local cult of the dead at Corinth. On the other hand, if such a pagan background were behind this practice, we would expect Paul to have voiced disapproval.

Still others propose that the phrase actually means “baptized in the place of the dead” in the sense of taking the place of Christian martyrs who had lost their lives for the faith. This kind of baptism would have been a rite whereby a living believer symbolically took the place of this or her fallen brother or sister. This interpretation has some support in the context, since Paul immediately spoke in the following verses (vv. 30-32) of his own endurance of persecution.3


Book of Mormon Teachings

As stated above, Jesus Christ himself is not reported to have said a word about baptism for the dead when he founded his church in Israel or in the western hemisphere.  However, the Book of Mormon prophet Mormon, as quoted in Moroni 8:21-24, left no doubt that a practice like baptism for the dead was not only unnecessary, but was a corruption of the pure gospel preached in the Book of Mormon. This scripture unequivocally teaches that people who don’t have the gospel preached to them in this life don’t need baptism, either as living mortals or as spirits in the spirit world.  Baptism is only for people who have had the gospel preached to them and have had the opportunity to knowingly break God’s law.  Mormon said:

21 . . . I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them [Mormon’s words] and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.
22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—
23 But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
24 Behold, my son, this thing ought not to be; for repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law.

Dead people who died without the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel comprise the overwhelming majority of those who have lived on this earth.  When they die, they no longer have the ability in the spirit world to break the commandments of God.  Having lived in mortality without Christ’s gospel law, they therefore need no baptism in this life, nor in the world of spirits, where they cannot break any law.

Teachings of Joseph Smith

Despite Mormon’s teachings in the Book of Mormon, in 1841, LDS Church founder Joseph Smith began teaching his followers the church needed to build a temple in its then-headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, wherein they could perform baptisms for the dead.  Purporting to be quoting the Lord himself, Joseph produced this mandate:

For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead–

. . .

But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.

But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not ve acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead [!], saith the Lord you God.

For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;

. . .

And after this time, your baptisms for the dead by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord.

(See Doctrine and Covenants (hereafter “D&C”) 124:29, 31-33, 35.  Emphasis and commentary added.)

The assertions and ramifications of the above verses are stunning.  According to Joseph Smith, the Lord is claiming something never before taught by anyone in the Old Testament, New Testament or Book of Mormon, even during the time when the kingdom of God was on earth with the Nephites and the resurrected Lord reigned over it–that baptisms for the dead performed in temples was a practice instituted from the foundation of the world.  Historically, this assertion is simply false.  Everything done in the Israelite and Jewish temples is described in the Bible, and baptisms for the dead are never mentioned.  The foremost Jewish scholars have never heard of this temple practice.  The Nephite temples were modeled after the Israelites’ temple of Solomon, and the rites of the Mosaic law prevailed there until Jesus brought it to an end.  (See 2 Nephi 5:16; Alma 25: 15-16; 3 Nephi 15: 4-9.)

The other startling notion from D&C 124 is that the Lord would not only reject the church, but also its dead, if the Mormons in Nauvoo don’t build the temple by the unstated deadline imposed.  Thus, not only would the church cease to be the Lord’s church, ostensibly leaving Him without a church on earth in the latter days, but all the earth’s innocent deceased former inhabitants, who played no part in the Nauvoo saints’ failure to work fast enough, would lose their chance at salvation.  This author has no qualms about declaring this notion absurd.  God doesn’t work that way.  He doesn’t punish the innocent for the supposed derelictions of others.  Mormons purport to agree with the author on this point, as manifested by the LDS Church’s second Article of Faith:  “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s [or anyone else’s, we might add] transgression.”  This author’s conclusion is that D&C 124 is simply not a revelation from God, and Joseph Smith was fallible enough to claim otherwise because he wanted the temple built in Nauvoo that had failed to be built in Jackson County, Missouri.

After mandating a temple be built to facilitate baptisms for the dead and other ordinances to be performed therein, Joseph Smith to expound on his doctrinal views concerning the necessity for baptisms for the dead.  His writings from 1842 on this subject are found in a letter he wrote to the church which was later canonized in D&C 128.  The passages related to baptisms for the dead are found in D&C 128:12, 16-18.4  It is noteworthy that, unlike most other sections of the D&C,  Joseph did not purport the writings in this section to be a revelation from God.5  Instead, D&C 128 is a mere letter to the church that Joseph wrote, in which he argues his scriptural views.  It’s also evident from verse 16 that Paul’s one-verse offhand remark from 1 Corinthians 15:29, quoted in the first paragraph of this essay, forms the doctrinal foundation for Joseph’s linking of baptism for the dead to the larger grand gospel plan of salvation.

How is it possible that Joseph Smith, the man who used the seer stones to produce the Book of Mormon text, could misinterpret biblical scripture, and teach his interpretations as the very word of God?  Because, very simply, he didn’t do his homework, and there was no one left in the church by 1842 who dared tell him that his scriptural knowledge was insufficient to support what he was now teaching.  Isaiah had described him accurately by referring to “him who is not learned.”  (See Isa. 29:12.)  Joseph misunderstood a great deal of what he read in the Bible, and forgot much of what he’d read in the Book of Mormon.  He seems to have forgotten all of Moroni 8.   Not only did he ignore Moroni’s teachings on whom baptism is for, but he had already instituted as a new commandment the baptism of eight-year-olds, who are little children.  This violated the clear teaching of Moroni 8 as well, which scrupulously avoids setting any specific age for baptism, instead teaching that parents should be baptized, not their little children. See Moroni 8:10, 11.

Joseph also forgot in his later years in Nauvoo, when the idea of baptizing for the dead began to take shape, what he himself had previously taught in 1836. He forgot that he had already claimed that his brother Alvin, who had never in his mortal life been baptized, was already in the celestial kingdom of God (which Mormonism teaches is the highest level of heavenly glory), without any person ever having been baptized for him.  As Joseph had explained, this was because God knew Alvin would have received the gospel had he been permitted to tarry on earth long enough to get baptized.  (See D&C 137: 1-8.)  No baptism for the dead had been performed for Alvin in 1836, because Joseph Smith hadn’t even thought of the idea, let alone instituted the practice, nor had he claimed to have had a revelation on said point.  Even though the Kirtland temple was built during this time, no baptism for the dead were performed therein.  So Alvin, and all other good people (see D&C 138: 8-9) were heirs of the celestial kingdom, according to Joseph Smith, without the need of either live baptism or vicarious baptism for the dead.  But by 1842, Joseph had forgotten what he’d said six years earlier.  This forgetting of his own previous teachings happened a lot during Joseph’s life, which is why Mormonism today contains so many contradictory beliefs. It’s also one of the perplexing problems this website exists to address and illuminate.

Arguments of LDS Apologists

Even if the LDS belief in baptism for the dead weren’t contradicted by Book of Mormon teachings, arguments by LDS apologists defending the practice would still face serious difficulties.  Several of them claim that baptism for the dead was a secret practice of the early church which was too sacred to be revealed, but can’t logically explain why it would be any more secret or sacred than baptism of live individuals.  If both are essential for salvation of the earth’s inhabitants, both teachings would of course be of equal sacredness, and discussing one would necessarily involve discussing the other.

Apologists also face this question:  If Jesus freely discussed and mandated baptism of live individuals, as we know he did (Matt. 28: 19, 3 Nephi 27: 20), why would he never be recorded as having taught baptism for dead individuals, since it was equally important, and would save far more people than live baptisms would?  Why would Jesus omit such an important teaching, unless it wasn’t  part of his gospel in the first place?

Third, how can it be argued that this teaching and practice was kept secret, while at the same time trying to show that it was NOT kept secret in the writings of early church scholars, and by Paul himself?  When God wants something kept secret, why does he allow it to be commonly  taught, as apologists claim?

One apologist friend of the author’s has argued that baptism for the dead was obviously taught to the Brother of Jared, then made part of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.  But how could someone be confident of this, when we have no idea what was in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, and don’t know what specific things the Lord told the brother of Jared, other than that which Moroni recorded?  Any time one argues something took place while admitting no record of what took place has been revealed, he’s not just on thin ice—he’s fallen through it.

Similarly, what is the point of having a sealed portion of the BoM, if the sealed, secret words get revealed anyway, as some allege occurred with baptism for the dead?

Sixth, since the Book of Mormon teaches that only people who have proven themselves righteous will get to have the contents of the sealed portion revealed to them (3 Nephi 26: 8-11), why would Mormonism publicly teach baptism for the dead to the whole world, regardless of the degree of righteousness of the audience?

Seventh, if baptism for the dead was one of the things shown to the brother of Jared, and thereafter sealed up to be kept secret until a certain time when the righteous were deserving of it, why didn’t Joseph Smith say so?  Joseph Smith himself never taught this doctrine to be part of what was taught to the brother of Jared.

Eighth, if baptism for the dead is one of the plain and precious parts of the gospel which was almost totally removed from the New Testament, why didn’t the Book of Mormon restore it?  Nephi specifically taught that we could find out what plain and precious parts of the gospel had been removed from the Bible by reading those teachings in the Nephites’ records, which would restore them.  1 Nephi 13: 40.

Ninth, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to the Gentiles, and then to the remnant of the house of Israel, is described as both groups receiving “the fulness of the gospel” in 3 Nephi 20: 28, 30.  This cannot be referring to the Gentiles receiving the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, because verse 28 speaks of the Gentiles rejecting that fulness, which we already know won’t happened with the sealed portion.  So, how could the BoM be described by Jesus as “the fulness of the gospel” if it’s missing such an extremely essential part of the gospel as apologists claim baptism for the dead to be?

Tenth, why would our current LDS practice require all baptisms for the dead to only be performed in the temple by “Melchizedek Priesthood” authority, when we know anciently neither temples nor Melchizedek priesthood were involved?

Some Mormon scholars have attempted to bolster the historical legitimacy for baptisms for the dead by reference to early patristic and apocryphal writings showing the practice existed among some small groups of Christians.  See, e.g.,  here.  In so doing, said scholars begin with the supposition that Joseph Smith’s teachings could not have been in error, and then set out to corroborate him with scattered writings from after the death of the apostles.  But it is the Book of Mormon’s purpose, not that of the patristic fathers’ or apocryphal writings’ purpose, to supply us with the plain and precious teachings missing from the Bible.  If the Apocrypha or writings of early Catholic fathers were the source to which we should look, the Book of Mormon would have said so, but it said the opposite.  But even we were to attach more weight  to apocryphal writings, from my own reading of them, I would still interpret them differently than Mormon scholars have done.  Those scholars make reference to apocryphal sources such as The Shepherd of Hermas, Epistula Apostolorum or the Gospel of Nicodemus to support Mormonism’s current practice of baptism for the dead.  But some early Christian scholars who discussed Paul’s one-verse reference to baptism for the dead seem to agree that it is closely related to other statements he made in other epistles.  I happen to agree with them on this point, and feel that the key to understanding 1 Corinthians 15:29 lies in comparing it to three other Pauline scriptures.

This Author’s Theory on What Paul Might Have Meant

These other scriptures seem to suggest the idea of baptisms being  performed not only to signal an acceptance of Christ’s gospel, but in a specific, symbolic way so as to memorialize the Christian belief, stated by Paul, that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” See 1 Cor. 15:22.  Consider another similar statement by Paul found in Romans 6, which utilizes the same words and concepts, italicized and boldfaced below, as those set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:29, only in a different and more understandable combination:

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

This scripture speaks of Christian believers being baptized for the purpose of memorializing Christ’s death, thereby symbolizing our own physical and spiritual deaths. It teaches that not only should we memorialize and symbolize Christ’s death, but we must also allow our old man, i.e., our old, sinful self, to die.  If we do,  just as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead, both temporally and spiritually.   This scripture therefore seems to have the three same main elements as 1 Corinthians 15:29–baptizing for some purpose related to death or the dead and the resurrection.

The second epistle of Paul wherein this same concept of baptism, death and the resurrection being interrelated is repeated is Colossians 2:12, 13, wherein Paul writes that we are–

Buried with [Christ] in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

In light of these two scriptures, I proffer the following possible interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29, keeping in mind that the verse is an English translation of a short, cryptically worded piece of Pauline esoterica written in Greek (with concepts shared with the previously quoted scriptures in italics and boldface):  “Otherwise, what would they do who baptize in such a manner as to symbolize the physical death of the body, and the permanent spiritual death that results from it, if there were no resurrection to save the dead from such a fate?    Why would they then perform baptisms which symbolize people dying?”

Even if one accepts that what Paul was describing in 1 Cor. 15: 29 referred to a then-current practice of performing vicarious baptisms for the dead by proxy (a proposition which is by no means universally accepted among scholars), other facts weigh against the conclusion that he was endorsing vicarious baptisms performed on behalf of deceased persons.  Virtually every biblical scholar, both ancient and modern, agrees that baptism for the dead was never practiced within the mainstream Christian church, and was never taught or advocated by any apostle or disciple mentioned in the New Testament.   It’s entirely possible that Paul was referring in 1 Cor. 15:29 to people who, in their baptismal ceremonies, made special reference to the doctrines taught in 1 Cor. 15:22, Romans 6:3-6 and Col. 2:12-13, quoted above.

Most scholars cite Tertullian’s writings to show that the practice of vicarious baptisms for  dead persons was practiced at latest by the late 2nd Century A.D.  However, this argument, while true, doesn’t help demonstrate that the practice was well-accepted among Christians; it does the opposite.  Tertullian condemned the idea of baptism for the dead as heretical, writing in 207 or 208 AD.  In “Against Marcion” 10, he wrote that the proper interpretation of 1 Cor. 15: 29 was that it concerned the idea of being baptized for the body which was destined to die and rise again.  He made clear that Marcion, a cult leader who practiced baptism for the dead, but didn’t even believe in the resurrection from the dead, was far removed from actual Christian doctrine and practice.  All Christian scholars accept that Marcion was apostate, and his denial of the resurrection constituted good evidence of that, despite the fact that he may have enjoyed a sizable following.  So, the fact that the Marcionites engaged in baptisms for the dead certainly isn’t evidence of it being practiced in the early church.

About a century after Tertullian, scholar John Chrysostom, writing in Homily XL of his Homilies on the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (available free of charge online), explained that what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 15: 29 was an accepted practice among Christians for the convert to say these words immediately before descending into the water:  “I believe in the resurrection of the dead,” whereupon the baptism would be performed to symbolize death and resurrection.  This explanation of why Paul might have worded that one little verse the way he did seems entirely plausible to me, much more so than the Book-of-Mormon-contradicting and uncorroborated explanation that Joseph Smith came up with when he decided to expound on those words eleven years after the LDS church was founded.

A final word:  Our habit in Mormonism to accept without questioning Joseph Smith’s teachings on biblical subjects has often led us to have less biblical understanding than mainstream Christians of other churches.  Notice how much doctrinal structure we Mormons have built on a few, awkwardly worded and cryptic words from Peter, found in 1 Peter 3: 18-20:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in he days Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Christian scholars interpret this scripture to demonstrate that the group Jesus taught in the spirit prison (which is itself another term  not found elsewhere in the Bible or Book of Mormon) is a very small, narrowly defined group; it appears to be the same souls who are described in Genesis 6: 1-5, who were sons of God who should have known better than to copulate with the daughters of men.6  But if it were an important part of the gospel to understand this scripture, assuming Peter knew what he was talking about, I believe Jesus would have expounded on it perhaps in the Bible, but certainly in the Book of Mormon.  But he didn’t.  When Joseph Smith did start expounding on it, there was again no one left in the early LDS Church who dared challenge his understanding of it; they’d already left.  Predictably, the doctrine which resulted from Joseph Smith’s interpretation was at odds with Alma’s teachings in Alma 40 of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph appears not to have remembered.  It’s up to us now to do the homework and research such doctrines, intellectually and spiritually, before we accept and teach ideas built on such insubstantial scriptural foundations.


  1. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th edition, Michael D. Coogan, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 2021.
  2. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Ronald F. Youngblood, Gen. Ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), p. 160
  3. Archaeological Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), p. 1646
  4. For the author’s thought on Joseph’s misinterpretations of scriptures found in these verses, see Erroneous LDS teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and LDS Church History Regarding Elijah and Redeeming the Dead elsewhere on this website.
  5. It’s also interesting to note that in the LDS Church’s published 1842 personal history of Joseph Smith (see Joseph Smith—History 1:36-39 in The Pearl of Great Price) Moroni is reported as having quoted Malachi 4: 5-6 differently to Joseph than the way Joseph himself quotes Malachi in D&C 128: 17. The Church history version is also different from the way Jesus himself quoted the same verses from Malachi in 3rd Nephi 25:5, 6. The Church’s 1842 version also differs from Joseph’ own original 1835 version of Moroni’s visit, as told to Oliver Cowdery, in which he didn’t claim Moroni had quoted Malachi at all. (See Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, pp. 78-80, February 1835.) It thus appears that for some reason, the LDS Church’s 1842 history of Joseph Smith supplements Moroni’s words and adds things the angel didn’t actually say when he visited Joseph in 1823, unless Jesus was quoted incorrectly in the Book of Mormon when he repeated Malachi’s words, and unless Joseph’s accounts in the Messenger and Advocate and in D&C 128 are both in error.
  6. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Ibid., p. 2130

The Most Fundamental Christian Doctrine

(The following article was written by Hal Mitchell, 1957-2019, a contributor and original co-founder of the LAMP website.)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the contrite spirit.” (Psalms 34:18)

In Hebrew, “the broken heart” is translated to nishbar lev. Per the website Hebrew for  Christians, the author, John Parsons describes the Hebrew meaning behind the Psalms passage by saying the word lev also means house or inner life. The inner life is the life of our thoughts. Our fears, hopes prejudices, insecurities, our concept of morality and reality, our source of what is most important to us, our real intent, and our weaknesses are all contained in our inner selves or our hearts.  

Parsons goes on eloquently: “This seems to be the divine pattern. Truly, Truly, I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall to earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John12:24) The hard outer shell of seed must be broken so that the life of the spirit can come through . . . plainly put, God (and only God) can ‘deconstruct’ the self so that life’s priorities, focus, and passions are redirected to hin, and him alone, the true Source of Life.”

A broken heart, therefore, in this context, does not mean profound disappointment as common usage suggests, but that your heart is broken open. Open to the influence of Christ and his input, or to live “openhearted.”

In the second half of Psalms 34:18, where it says and saves the contrite spirit, the Hebrew word “dakka” means contrite or crushed. In Parson’s comment, he says that the soul that needs contrition is the chaotic, carnal ego trying to run our lives without Godly insight. How essential is this to see for those seeking closeness to God? Many times we misjudge people, even our loved ones, because we don’t take the time to consider our biases, our infantile exposure to the world around us, or to realize we only know our own life’s experience and make judgments exclusively based on that limited worldview?

In the same verse quoted above, the word “near” in Hebrew, is “karov,” which means close enough to touch. The word “korban” uses the same root which is an offering that draws us near to God, as well as karov, a near kinsman, which implies intimacy. In other words, God desires a close relationship with those willing to have a broken heart and contrite spirit.

These teachings of the Psalmist were mirrored in the teachings of Isaiah.   In Isaiah 57:15 it says the God, who inhabits eternity, who is the essence of Holy, dwelling in the high and holy place, dwells in this realm uniquely with him that is of a contrite spirit. In Isaiah 66:1-2, the Lord declares that heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool. He asks where there is a place, built by man, where he can dwell. He goes on to explain that all the things a man might use to construct a structure worthy of God were all made by God anyway, so what structure or house could a man possibly offer God as a worthy dwelling place? He then says he will look to dwell with the man whose spirit is contrite.

This teaching of contrition is found scattered throughout the Book of Mormon and Bible, and I suggest, therefore, that the concept of open-heartedness is the fundamental Christian doctrine.

The Book of Mormon and the Bible refer to “hard-heartedness” in multiple places, which is the opposite of openheartedness. Found in the sixth chapter of the gospel of Mark is, I believe, the most illustrative example of the definition of the phrase. Jesus’ apostles had just witnessed him walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, and his calming influence over the wind.  Mark states they were “sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.” In verse 52, Mark explains why they were amazed when they shouldn’t have been:

“For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”

Before seeing Jesus walk on water and calm the wind, they had just witnessed his miraculous feeding of 5000 men with five loaves and two fishes with many bushels of food left over.

In Alma 33:20, where Alma refers to the engraved bronze serpent on the pole, to which the children of Israel could look to save their lives:

But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is that they did not believe that it would heal them.

These are beautiful scriptural examples of what it means to have a hard heart. Mark mentioned the word “considered.” Jesus’ disciples did not “consider” that just a few hours earlier he had fed a considerable multitude with food sufficient for two or three people only. If they had thought or considered a little more deeply, they would have expected Jesus to perform more miracles and not be amazed at him being the miracle-performing Messiah, the Son of God.

To break open our hearts, as Jesus mentioned regarding the seed, we need merely to consider other possibilities than those we have previously assumed were correct, and then ask God to guide our open hearts. Jesus’ apostles in being amazed at his control over the elements were not evil, but still partially closed to the full understanding of who Jesus was, and that he possessed God’s power. Their conversion was still developing.

In Matthew 10: 34-39 Jesus illustrates this point by saying that we are expected to reject mother and father (traditional beliefs) in our quest to find Him. Just because we believe old ways and supposed truths, if we never question them by exposing them to scrutiny, they can never be considered valid. Our witness of legitimate truth can only come when we have dared to challenge it thoroughly, looking at both sides objectively. He is the way, the truth, and the life. So, fact has to entail more than an individual merely accepting established teachings, even though his community allows him wholeheartedly into their fold. Only the open-hearted are willing take the vital step of objectively analyzing their beliefs and thereby making the essential action necessary to be a real disciple of Christ.

Jesus taught this again in the parable of the rich man, with some added insights, in Mark 10:17-27.

17 ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23 ¶ And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

When the young rich man had left, Jesus said it was hard for rich people to go to heaven. His disciples were shocked. He then clarified, essentially saying, it is difficult for those that trust in riches to go to heaven. In fact, if you don’t live your life having faith that what God teaches will make you more happy than riches, but think you are going to heaven, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than that you will be right. Or in other words, it is impossible!  One should believe in Him and His teachings, not in anything else, and the belief must be rooted in a genuine search as Matthew 10 teaches.

Why were his disciples astonished at Jesus’ rebuke of what seemed like a righteous man, keeping the commandments? Jesus used the young, rich man to demonstrate that he asked more of his would-be followers than mere compliance with the law of Moses.  One can keep the law of Moses and still not believe in Jesus. In Ether 11:12 of the Book of Mormon it states:  “Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given. But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled.” The law of Moses says to honor parents, not commit adultery, not lie, etc., which teachings the young rich man had complied with. Judaism does not accept Jesus as the Christ but keeps the commandments of Moses. Living the law of Moses does not require opening your heart to Jesus and sacrificing your ego or spirit to the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the core doctrine of Christ. The law of Moses, therefore, doesn’t bring salvation and was superseded by Christ. We cannot open our hearts to Christ until we consider the more “excellent way,” and open our hearts to it. The rich young man wasn’t ready for eternal life because he was not ready to open his heart enough despite his habit of living the Mosaic commandments. His riches were more important.

Sacrificing riches is not necessary, but one must place them at a lower priority than one’s relationship to God, which only happens by opening one’s heart to Jesus’ higher teachings. Keeping the law of Moses does not do that, and this is what shocked the budding disciples. The story ends with the disciples not understanding the difference between the law of Moses and Jesus’ new doctrine when they ask, “Who then can be saved?” since they heard Jesus exclude those who merely kept the law of Moses. Jesus clarified by saying that life with God is impossible by only following men and their ways, but by following God, his Son and his new doctrine, all things are possible, even passing a camel through the eye of a needle.

An interesting note is Jesus’ mention of “taking up the cross and following him” in verse 21. The Christian website gotquestions.org adds insight into the meaning of the phrase, stating:

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross-bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

So Jesus again refers to the death of self (like the opening of the seed referred to in John) and to receive him into your heart as the essential ingredient of discipleship.

In 3 Nephi 15, when Jesus informed the Nephites that the Law of Moses was fulfilled (he said it nine times in the first few verses), they marveled. If Mark were around, he might have used his peculiar mode of expression to say that the Nephites were still a tiny bit “hard-hearted.” He would have then explained that they had yet failed to consider that Jesus has just descended out of heaven, fulfilling many ancient prophecies, and had been announced as the very Son of God.  He had shown himself to be a resurrected being and had taught them his gospel.  He’d thus left them no reason to marvel at losing the law of Moses, having just described to them the more excellent way. Why would they marvel when he had gone to such pains, as we read in chapters 11 and 12 of 3 Nephi, to teach them his doctrine? Six times he referred to His doctrine in chapter 11, then gave greater details in chapter 12 telling how his doctrine was different than the old law of Moses, but the Nephites still marveled.  They were slow to grasp the whole picture, as had been the disciples in the old world, and Jesus could see that they still needed to have their hearts softened. He worked with them, showing them amazing miracles and visitations of himself and angels, and giving them probably the most amazing spiritual experiences in world history. After those experiences, the Nephites easily opened their hearts without amazement or surprise to his elegant doctrine he had been teaching through ancient and recent prophets and had now repeated in their presence.  From 3 Nephi 12 we read:

19 And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.

20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Here Jesus states that the law of Moses is not a doctrine leading to salvation, saying the new commandments he gave at that time were essential to enter the kingdom of heaven. Note he mentions nothing in these verses resembling the commandments on Sinai at that time but declared that not keeping his new commandments would prevent entrance into his kingdom.

With an awareness of this truth, one may wonder why Mormons still promote Mosaic-like doctrines with lists, goals, and guidelines that have nothing to do with the principles of Jesus? Mormons love to live by extremely well-defined laws. How long to fast under the “law”of the fast, how much of our gross or net income to pay under the “law” of tithing, which acts are permitted and which are not under the “law” of chastity, what activities are allowed or forbidden under the “law” of the Sabbath. I had a stake president tell me once of the law of return and report when he was trying to teach me the importance of sending in home-teaching reports each month. How can a report tell if someone has repented, or believes in Christ, or has a broken heart and a contrite spirit? Sadly, the tenets of the doctrine of Christ remain mostly unknown to church leaders and to members, despite its presence in the Book of Mormon and Bible and Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where it is mentioned very briefly in verses 55, 67 and 68.

If the reader of this article doesn’t believe LDS church leaders are almost uniformly ignorant of the doctrine of Christ, I challenge you to approach any Mormon leader at any level and ask him the to explain what constitutes the doctrine of Christ. You may hear a few “ums” and “uhs,” and then he’ll begin saying things like, read your scriptures, come to church, worship in the temple, pray, pay your tithing, stay morally clean, keep the ten commandments, etc. You may think his answer is a good one because those are all good things, but ironic as it may sound, they are not the doctrine of Christ.  This is genuinely cause for great concern.  Remember, the Lord said in Third Nephi 11 and 12 that those who choose not to follow his new commandments he taught the Nephites on that occasion shall in no case inherit the kingdom of God.

A converted heart is the hallmark of the doctrine of Christ. One may argue by saying, “So in Jesus’ doctrine it is okay to commit adultery, kill, lie, dishonor parents, etc.?” The answer is, of course not, Jesus’ way is more excellent. He asks to have our hearts, which require we not think lascivious thoughts, or speak rudely to others, that we be honest in our dealings with others, and generally respect our fellow beings by treating them as we would like to be treated. As discussed above, one can follow the law of Moses and reject Christ.  For example, the Mosaic law allows one to tell lewd jokes and refer to women as sex objects, but not to commit adultery. Jesus requires us to frequently and systematically examine the desires of our hearts, so we not even allow our hearts or minds to lust after another woman, let alone commit adultery with her. One who internalizes the spirit of Christ’s teachings has a broken, open heart and is a real disciple, and shows no interest in knowing how far he can technically go before he’s broken a commandment. A disciple sees the vision of Christ, is wholly vested, is converted, needs no stimulus or motivation to perform his duty. No artificial incentive is necessary. He/she believes in his/her heart and can be trusted to do his/her best. Which is better, the soul who acts only after being prodded, or the converted soul? Which is the legitimate disciple?

Repentance is not a law. Having a broken heart and a contrite spirit is not a law. Jesus did not present the Beatitudes as laws. These are the attitudes, the approaches to life, Jesus asks of us. His doctrine requires an open heart to himself, a living purpose for us that can never fail us, one that builds faith, character, and a genuine sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Mosaic principles do not accomplish this. Remembering the history of the Jews provides instructive evidence of how successfully the checklists of the Mosaic law did or didn’t make them close to God.

In a letter dated November 1, 2016, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy announced the Area Plan for the United States and Canada. Please analyze this document as an example of how different Mormon principles of living are from the teachings of Christ in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Ask yourself from where these strange doctrines come, when He declares his gospel with the simple phrase: “This is my doctrine,” three times in the passage of 3 Nephi 11: 32-40. 

The seven presidents of the quorum of Seventy presented this statement, signed by all of them. 

The plan focuses on the divinely appointed priorities of living the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead. (See Church Handbook : Administering the Church: Chapter 2, Section2.2). We encourage you to study the plan as individuals and families. As we participate in this inspired vision, we will become, and help others become faithful followers of Christ and enjoy the blessing of the holy temple.

The area plan is as follows:

Live the gospel of Jesus Christ. This means:

  • Strengthen ourselves and our families by receiving the ordinances of salvation and exaltation and keeping the associated covenants.
  • Strengthen our faith in Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ and His Atonement by regularly studying the Book of Mormon and by honoring the Sabbath day.

Gather Israel through missionary work, which means:

  • Teach repentance and baptize converts.
  • Rescue less-active members.

Care for the poor and needy, which means:

  • Build spiritual and temporal self-reliance.
  • Live the law of the fast and serve others.

Enable the salvation of the dead by identifying ancestors and performing vicarious temple ordinances for them, which means:

  • Find family names.
  • Take family names to the temple for ordinances and teach others to do the same.

Indicators of progress for each goal:  Select from the following indicators of conversion and Church growth from the Quarterly Report to measure progress . . .

It is astounding, in many ways, that the gospel of Jesus Christ could be somehow so distorted that it has no resemblance to his original words in the Book of Mormon, which Mormons claim is the most correct of books. Seven leaders proclaim this an inspired plan. How is it inspired? It is clear that these men who wrote this are unfamiliar with the doctrine of Christ. The plan claims to help live the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it contains little of his gospel as he himself proclaimed it. The plan says to read the Book of Mormon, but unlike the above plan, the Book of Mormon does not contain the phrase or concept of the plan’s “ordinances of exaltation.” If the seven leaders who wrote this plan have read the Book of Mormon, they chose to omit the core doctrine of Christ contained within it. There are no ordinances associated with the notion of exaltation in the Book of Mormon, and the Sabbath day is a Mosaic commandment that was done away with in Christ’s gospel as illustrated in the Book of Mormon and Bible. What is meant by spiritual and temporal self-reliance, and how does a member do this for an inactive member? It is odd that the plan encourages spiritual self-reliance, but LDS members are instructed to follow the prophet, a fellow man.

The Plan encourages work for the dead. How in the world can a dead person need a living person they have never met? Does Christ mention this “work” anywhere in the Bible or Book of Mormon?  Also, how small is God if he makes someone else responsible for the salvation of another?  Are the righteous dead kept from the Lord because you and I don’t do ordinances for them? How could a God who refers to himself as a just god (2 Nephi 1:22, Mosiah 2:28, Alma 29:2) be so 100% unfair to his children? How could anyone worship a being, or want to be like a being, who is so small in his divine thinking? The Book of Mormon talks nothing of this, nor does the Bible. Alma 40 refutes the idea, never mentioning a spirit prison, yet discusses what happens to people after they have died after having either rejected or having followed Christ.  If Mormons accept Section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants as authoritative, they should notice that it says salvation is available to mankind as a result of their works with or without ordinances. Where can anyone find a shred of scriptural evidence that God holds innocent people in prison because of someone else’s inaction?

The most magnificent sign that this is not an inspired plan of the Lord is the last sentence wherein it says that as “indicators of progress for each goal, select from the following indicators of conversion and Church growth from the Quarterly Report to measure progress:” 

How can a number in a report reflect one’s faith in Christ, one’s belief in his truths, or the broken-openness of one’s heart, or the contrition of one’s spirit?

Most of the items mentioned in the plan for Mormons in North America, set forth above, can be accomplished without faith in, or knowledge of, Jesus’ self-proclaimed doctrine or gospel, or also without his presence in individuals’ hearts as mentioned before. It seems like more of a corporate policy checklist than one providing spiritual guidance. When Jesus encountered this same attitude toward religion–as a set of outward rules and procedures–we read in Mark 7: 6-9 what happened next:

6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

(Emphasis added.)

The prophets of the Book of Mormon didn’t make the mistake of the Old World Pharisees.  They used the phrase “a broken heart and contrite spirit” six times in the Book of Mormon. In every case, it was used to describe the necessary attitude a person must have in approaching God:

2 Nephi 2:7: Lehi’s teaching that only the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit will replace the ritual sacrifices of the law of Moses.

3 Nephi 9:20: Jesus’ voice speaking from heaven before his appearance to  Nephites. “And ye shall come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and him will I baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost.”

3 Nephi 12:19: Jesus states:  “These are the commandments I give unto you at this time, that you have a broken heart and contrite spirit.”

Mormon 2:14: A reference to the soldiers in Mormon’s army and their spiritually insufficient attempt at repentance, saying they did not come unto Jesus with a broken heart and contrite spirit. 

Ether 4:15: Jesus exhorts Israel to come to God with a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Moroni 6:2: Moroni, speaking of the church of Christ, says that none were received unto baptism unless they had a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

And so, after seeing, feeling and understanding the message Jesus wants to deliver to our hearts, it is easy to see why Jesus chose to visit the Nephites after a massive destruction.  Similarly, a true believer in the Bible and Book of Mormon message can envision Christ’s second coming as a day when temples, churches, shrines, synagogues, doctrines, philosophies, traditions, endless church programs, food storage training, home teaching reporting, Sabbath day observance, tithing, genealogy, priesthood, Friends of Scouting, complex hierarchies of leadership, etc., come crashing down into a vast, tangled, complicated pile of rubble under the crushing weight of these simple words from the Lord:  “Come follow me!”