If I were to postulate the following theory that 'all odd numbers are primes', one might intuitively say "but nine is an odd number and is not a prime so how can that be true?" What the mind has done is look at the word ‘all’ and realised that it has a counter example or contradiction. By finding such a contradiction it understands that the theory must necessarily be incorrect.
Often a theory can be refuted with a single counter example, in fact in order for a theory to even be accepted it should be falsifiable otherwise it is just conjecture.
One of the problems with religious dogma, or any dogma for that matter, is that rather than accepting that this axiom is now proven false, it attempts to shore it up with apologies. So ok yes 9 is not a prime, but 11, 13 and 17 are and in fact all prime numbers are odd (apart from 2).
While that statement is true, it does not alter the fact that the original theory is in fact false. It attempts to use evidence in favour of the theory i.e. 11,13 and 17, to make the reader think that maybe the weight of evidence is in its favour.
By stating that all prime numbers are odd with the exception of two, they are also attempting, in logical terms, to muddy the waters by seemingly using the same phrase and accepting there is a counter example, but still stating its truth. The ‘believer’ is now reassured that their belief in the original statement is indeed correct regardless of the fact that it defies logic. This leads to what is known as cognitive dissonance, i.e. the ability to believe contradictory information.
Which is the equivalent of believing it can rain and not rain at the same time.
So let me show you now an example of a contradiction in the Book of Mormon. But before I do so we must establish a theory that just one counter example will be sufficient to disprove it.
So lets look at the translation process for the book of Mormon.
Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. - Ezra Taft Benson
Before we can challenge the claim that the Book of Mormon is 'TRUE', it is important to have a rigorous understanding of the translation method involved.
To do this we need to be able to satisfactorily answer the following questions:
If the Book of Mormon as claimed, was translated by the power of God, does this imply that Joseph Smith was merely the medium in a divine translation process?
Was it his job to merely repeat the words that were given to him?
Did Joseph Smith consider the translation to be error free?
Is there any evidence of an error free translation process?
Let’s see if we can discover answers to these questions.
In the Articles of Faith of the LDS church, which were penned by none other than Joseph Smith himself, it is clear that he is of the opinion that the translation process was free from error.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. No. 8 of The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Notice that there is no translation disclaimer attached to the Book of Mormon. This infers that Joseph believed the translation process to be, in effect, free from error.
In the testimony of the three witnesses they state:
"And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true."
From this again we can again infer a perfect translation process, perfect in the sense that anything done by the power of God using one of his gifts would be correct.
In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, specifically in regards to Oliver Cowdary wishing to also have this gift of Translation, God himself stated in regards to the translation process:
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." Doctrine & Covenants 9:9
In other words, God is stating that you cannot write something incorrectly that comes via his power, because if you try to, you will forget what you were going to write. Thus God is explaining how his method for preventing the improper use of one of his gifts, stops anyone writing anything incorrectly that comes directly from him. In other words it’s an error prevention process.
This is particularly revealing when we look at how Joseph did the translation. While there are many, many accounts, I think three first hand witnesses to the translation process should suffice.
The first is a clear account of the process from David Whitmer. David Whitmer was one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the majority of the translation work took place in the Whitmer home.
"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not By any power of man." David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri: n.p., 1887, p. 12
Next we have another of the three witnesses, Martin Harris, explaining the translation method as follows:
"By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used." ( Edward Stevenson, "One of the Three Witnesses," reprinted from Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881 in Millennial Star, 44 (Feb. 6, 1882): 86-87)
Finally we have Joseph Knight, Sr., an early member of the Church and a close friend of Joseph Smith, who wrote the following in a document which is on file in the LDS Church archives:
"Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and darkened his eyes then he would take a sentance and it Would appear in brite roman letters then he would tell the writer and he would write it then that would go away the next sentence would come and so on. But if it was not spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the hol [whole] translated." 10 Cited in Dean Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies, vol. 17:1 (Autumn 1976), p. 35.
Now for those of you that were unaware that Joseph put his head in a hat and used a seer stone for the translation, that discussion is for another time. It is clear however, from the above witnesses, that the method of translation involved Joseph putting his head in a hat and having the words appear to him.
They all recall the exactness of this process and the way he consistently checked the text, before he continued with the translation, thus preventing any error being introduced into the text.
So there in a nutshell we have it. We have Joseph stating that the Book of Mormon is the word of God with no disclaimer for error. We have the three witnesses stating that the process of translation was divine.
We have God himself stating how this divine process is protected against error and finally we have first hand witnesses of this divine error prevention method in action.
Anyone who now argues for there being any errors in the Book Of Mormon introduced by Joseph Smith, or the translation process, is standing on very shaky ground indeed. This conclusion is further backed up by none other than the revered Mormon scholar James E. Talmage who wrote:
...we make no reservation respecting the Book of Mormon on the ground of incorrect translation. To do so would be to ignore attested facts as to the bringing forth of that book. Joseph Smith the prophet, seer, and revelator, through whom the ancient record has been translated into our modern tongue, expressly avers that the translation was effected through the gift and power of God... (The Vitality of Mormonism, Apostle James E. Talmage, c1919, p.127)
If we accept that the documents and testimonies, all of which are freely available, as well as being contained in the church archives, are correct. Then there is no doubt, that according to these witnesses, as well as Joseph Smith and God himself, there can be no errors in the Book of Mormon caused by the translation process.
Thus if we study the writings of the Book Of Mormon, and find errors within it, then we cannot possibly accept the testimonies of these witnesses and must conclude that the translation process was neither divine or perfect.
If the translation process was not divine or perfect, the book may well contain errors and therefore cannot possibly be 'true'.
The only place of refuge left for the apologist, if there are errors in the Book of Mormon, is that these errors, rather than being translation errors, were actually errors on the plates themselves, made by the original authors of the book this is a very weak defence but the only one available given the accepted divinity of the translation process itself.
We will call this the 'authors error last defence' and take it into consideration, as we now look for errors in the Book of Mormon.
So having established that the Book of Mormon, if it is a divine work, will be necessarily free from translation error. Let us now examine its translated text.
We must do this by looking at the very first 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon.
Why you ask?
Well for those who may be unaware, the current edition of the Book of Mormon has many changes from the original divine translation.
Now if you question the truthfulness of this statement, then I suggest you go take a look for yourself at the original 1830 edition, which can be found in various places on the Internet.
Here is one link and there are many others.
Now while it can be argued that some of the changes made to this first edition were due to mistakes by the printer, they could only be minor grammatical ones. Especially after Joseph Smith declared after the book had been printed:
" I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion " (History of the Church, Vol. 4, page 461)
While seemingly an extravagant claim, It further supports our idea that Joseph Smith undoubtedly believed that the translation process had produced an error free book.
So let’s now look at a few of the verses inside the Book of Mormon itself.
While the 1830 edition itself was not broken down into verses. I have included the verse, as a reference to where the text can be found in the current edition of the Book of Mormon.
1830 Version: I Nephi 12:18
and the large and spacious building which thy father saw, is vain imaginations, and the pride of the children of men. And a great and terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and Jesus Christ, which is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.<
This is a snippet from the Angels interpretation of Lehi’s dream.
The specific words of interest in this verse are "and Jesus Christ, which is the Lamb of God".
The question is how, considering this was an error free translation process, did these words appear in this part of the text, when later on in the book we have:
1830 Version: II Nephi 10:3
Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ, (for in the last night the Angel spake unto me that this should be his name,) should come among the Jews, among they which are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him: For thus it behooveth our God; and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
It is clear here, that Jacob is stating that the name 'Christ' was not revealed until now, or else why would he have felt the need to explain how he came up with the name Christ.
As we have already seen from the earlier text, the angel has already spoken this name, when revealing the interpretation of Lehi’s dream.
How can this obvious error be explained?
Well to the Modern Latter-day Saint there is no problem, because in the current Edition of the Book of Mormon, this is what is written in the problematic verse in First Nephi:
BOM Current Version: I Nephi 12:18
And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
You see in today's Book of Mormon the words ‘Jesus Christ’ are replaced with the word ‘Messiah’ and 'hey presto' the problem now disappears.
Well at least it does for those who are ignorant of the fact that this error was ever there in the first place.
For those who will try to rationalise away how this might of occurred, I will again remind you of the translation method.
"One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear"David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri: n.p., 1887, p. 12
So what about the ‘authors error last defence’ i.e. that this was in fact an error on the original plates. Well if the word christ was not known at that point how on earth could it have mistakenly been included? It is a contradiction and thus can not be entertained.
Is that it? No it now gets even worse...
Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the editor of the times and seasons as a rebuttal to an idea going around that the word 'mormo' or 'mormon' can be found in any dictionary of classical Greek. It means "scarecrow, bugbear, ghost, demon."
In it he stated :
SIR: --Through the medium of your paper I wish to correct an error among men that profess to be learned, liberal and wise; and I do it the more cheerfully because I hope sober-thinking and sound-reasoning people will sooner listen to the voice of truth than be led astray by the vain pretensions of the self-wise. The error I speak of is the definition of the word "Mormon." It has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of the book speak for itself. Times and Seasons, Vol.4, No.13, May 15, 1843, p.194
You see now we have the problem with the words 'Christ' and Messiah for there are in fact synonyms i.e. they mean the same thing in fact they are just the same word translated from two different languages. They both mean 'annointed' Messiah comes from the Hebrew word 'mashiach,' meaning literally "[the] anointed [one]" and Christ from the Greek word ‘Christos’ meaning ‘anointed [one]’
Not only that but Christ is not even a name it is a title i.e. ("Jesus Christ was not the son of Joseph Christ and Mary Christ")
So now lets look at the two passages again firstly the changed passage from I Nephi 12:18
and the large and spacious building which thy father saw, is vain imaginations, and the pride of the children of men. And a great and terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and Jesus Christ, which is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
BOM Current Version
I Nephi 12:18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
At least the context is now correct 'the Messiah' however as there were no greek words on the plates and it was a divine translation and the name, 'Christ', was not yet known, how did this happen?
Also what happened to 'Jesus', how did that get there?
That was a name so how on earth was it originally translated there? Even if by some divine mistake the word meaning annointed had mistakenly been translated as 'Christ' instead of the same word from a different language 'Messiah', how on earth did Jesus originally get in there using this divine translation process?
Looking at the second passage:
BOM 1830 Version: II Nephi 10:3
I Nephi 12:18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ, (for in the last night the Angel spake unto me that this should be his name,) should come among the Jews, among they which are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him: For thus it behooveth our God; and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
An angel said that 'Christ' was a name? Why is the word Christ used here what possible word could there have been on the plates that would translate as Christ?
The fact that it has been changed in the current edition of the Book of Mormon shows that the church accepts it to be an error. However there is no fallback position to allow for that error, apart from it being an error itself in the translation process.
If it is an error in the translation process, then we must again ask how that could possibly occur using a divine error free translation method?
The answer is simple, it couldn’t and we are left with the only conlusion available to us, that it that there was no such error free translation process.
We are now in a logical mire, because according to revelation given to Joseph Smith by God himself, there is no way in which this process could fail. Yet we have shown it did fail.
If you are still unconvinced, reasoning that this is just a single instance, let me remind you of our initial contradiction and the need for only one to disprove a theory.
It is important to understand the fact that while a thousand evidences may never prove a proposition to be true, one contradiction is all it takes to prove it false.