Refuting the LDS Claim of a Corrupted Bible
One of the foundational claims of Mormonism is that “many plain and precious parts” were removed from the Bible by the early church. This tenet is part of their scriptures, found in 1 Nephi 13 in the Book of Mormon. This naturally has caused Mormons to have a less than stellar view of the Bible.
How important is it for Christians to answer this charge when talking with Mormons? It seems obvious that it would be very important. But our experiences have caused us to reconsider the wisdom of making this a main topic of discussion. The problem when we have done that is two-fold:
It quickly makes the discussion quite intellectual, creating more the setting of a theological debate than a heart-felt witness; and
it deals with a topic that does not trouble most Mormons and one that many aren’t interested in exploring further.
We have found it much more effective instead of talking about the Bible, to actually bring the awesome power of the Bible to bear on them, especially by addressing issues that they themselves are struggling with. When, for example, I talk about forgiveness and use Bible verses to declare God’s wonderful forgiveness in Christ, many Mormons are eager to continue the discussion. I’m not saying that they readily accept what I share with them, but they are engaged. Not only am I talking to their hearts and not their heads, but I’m also speaking about something that many of them are struggling to attain. Most importantly I am bringing the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16) to bear on them as I witness Christ and his love to them.
Having said all that, there are still times when it becomes obvious that I have to address Mormonism’s claim that the Bible was corrupted. This usually occurs when they repeatedly cite that claim to discount the biblical truths I am sharing with them. Sometimes I talk about all the manuscript evidence which proves how carefully the Bible was passed down through the centuries. More often than not, however, I have found the following illustration even more useful because it allows me to quickly make my point so that I can return to the heart-issues I want to focus on. I share the illustration with you in the hope that you might find it useful also.
Suppose there was a political rally attended by 30,000 people. During the rally something happens which every person attending captures with their cell phone cameras. A month later the politician wants that incident forgotten so he tries to have it erased on all 30,000 phones. How successful would he be? Could he even locate each of the 30,000 phones? If so, would all the people agree to have it deleted especially if they thought it was important? Even if he could accomplish all that, what about the many times it was shared during that month? It probably had gone viral. Could he erase all those copies? A moment’s reflection would show how impossible a task this would be.
In many ways, this resembles the times of the early church. There was no central church with a central distribution center controlling all the Bibles. On the contrary, all the congregations of the Mediterranean world were independent. There were so independent that, in the first and second century AD, even correspondence between them was often limited. The bottom line is that it would have been just as difficult for the “great and abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:28) to remove parts of the Bible as it would have been for that hypothetical politician to delete all pictures of that event. It doesn’t make any sense.
As you make this comparison, it will be important to know the one fact undergirding this illustration, namely the fact that we have ancient manuscripts of the Bible starting already in the 2nd century and becoming quite abundant in the next couple of centuries. This is important because it shows that it is historically inaccurate for Mormons to claim (as some do) that these parts of the Bible were removed during the Middle Ages when the church at Rome rose in prominence. That can’t be possible because we have many, many copies of the Bible predating those times.
The bottom line is that the only time that truths could have been removed from the Bible would have been shortly after the death of the apostles. That would have occurred in an environment not only as pictured above but also one where they were many people still living who had heard the apostles’ teaching. Both of those facts make the LDS claim totally nonsensical.
Just to emphasize what I said above, I haven’t found it to be very productive to dwell on this issue. I offer this illustration as a way to somewhat quickly address it so you can move on to the important topics of their sin and God’s salvation. Those are the topics that they really need to struggle with. And these are the messages that pack a divine punch. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)