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. It naturally has caused Mormons to have a low view of the Bible.
How important is it for Christians to answer this charge when they talk with Mormons? It seems obvious that it would be very important. Our experiences, however, have caused us to reconsider the wisdom of making it a main topic of discussion. The problem when we have done so is two-fold. 1) It quickly makes the discussion quite intellectual, creating a theological debate rather than a heartfelt witness, and 2) it deals with a topic that does not trouble most Mormons. Many aren’t interested in exploring further.
We have found it much more effective to bring the Bible’s awesome power to bear on them, especially by addressing issues they struggle 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 they readily accept what I share, but they are engaged. Not only do I talk to their hearts and not their heads, but I also speak about something many are struggling to attain. Most importantly, I bring the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16) to bear as I witness Christ and his love to them.
Having said all this, there are times when it becomes obvious that we must address Mormonism’s claim that the Bible was corrupted. It usually occurs when they repeatedly cite this claim to discount biblical truths. We could talk about all the manuscript evidence which proves how carefully the Bible was passed down through the centuries. More often than not, however, we have found the following illustration even more useful because it allows us to quickly make our point so we can return to the heart issues we want to focus on.
Suppose there was a political rally attended by 30,000 people. During the rally, something happens that every person attending captures with their cell phone cameras. A month later, the politician wants the 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 everyone agree to delete it, especially if they thought it was important? Even if he could accomplish all this, what about the many times it was shared during the month? It probably had gone viral. Could he erase all those copies? A moment’s reflection would show how impossible a task it 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 were independent. They were so independent that, in the first and second century AD, even correspondence between them was 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 the hypothetical politician to delete all pictures of his event. It doesn’t make any sense.
This holds true even if, as the LDS Church states, these truths were removed from the Bible shortly after the death of the apostles. It was an environment not only like the one pictured above but also where many living people had heard the apostles’ teaching. This makes the claim that many plain and precious parts of the Bible were removed nonsensical.
We haven’t found it very productive to dwell on the issue. We offer this illustration as a way to somewhat quickly address it, so you can move on to the important topics of sin and God’s salvation. These are the topics they need to struggle with. These are the messages which 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.