A common criticism of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is it is “violating” scripture by adding to the Bible. Over several blog articles I will attempt to explain what the prophets were saying, giving context and showing how this concern is unfounded. For this post I will discuss the criticism found by misunderstanding Galatians 1:6-9 and how Latter-day Saint belief that Moroni, a resurrected being (and commonly called an angel), delivering the gold plates to the prophet Joseph Smith, is exactly what the Apostle Paul was warning about when he wrote:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9, King James Version, emphasis added).
Being a believer in the Lord I can not fault anyone for honest and earnest concern as they hear message of the Lord’s restored gospel when they read a scripture like this. It is to honest seekers of truth that I am writing this post today.
When I was serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had just read these verses with my missionary companion and within a few days we were out proselyting. We met an elderly man, who at first appeared to be very nice, well versed in The Holy Bible, and interested in our message. As we were talking, all of a sudden I felt like Amulek in Alma 10:17. Somehow I knew that he was “laying traps and snares to catch” my companion and I. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen. This man asked where The Book of Mormon came from. My companion and I spoke about Moroni, who was a prophet in ancient America and, after he had died, he came back as a resurrected angel and delivered to Joseph Smith the record that prophets kept. Joseph Smith then, using the gift and power of God, translated these records into English. The man seemed to think about this for a moment and then said something to the effect of “Thank you for the explanation. So that I understand correctly, an angel from heaven delivered this new gospel that you are here to preach to me?” My companion started to say that yes, this is exactly right. I interrupted him and said “No, its not a new gospel. It’s another witness or testimony of the same gospel that is contained in the Bible.” The man was shocked by my message. He was also upset that I was able to detect his trap. I then quoted to him Galatians 1:6-9 and explained the background and message that the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote this letter. I further testified of the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon and The Holy Bible and how, together, they teach us the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the man left, saddened that he couldn’t damn us to hell for preaching a different gospel, my companion starred at me in disbelief that I knew what he was doing. He asked how I knew what scripture the man was talking about. I reminded him that we had read it just a few days ago. It made me think of the promise the Savior made in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit would “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you”. We had read this verse and so the Holy Spirit was able to help me remember it and avoid this trap.
The Epistles of Paul (and Peter and John) are letters that we written to various Church congregations. He would encourage them, council them, and help them to understand truth, as well as to avoid false doctrine. The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians is believed to be one of Paul’s earliest letters. It is not known exactly where the Galatian church as, during this time frame, “the term Galatians was used both ethnically and politically” (Holman KVJ Study Bible, Copyright 2012 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, page 1956). The reason Paul was writing this letter to the Galatian church (can be summarized by Galatians 2:5 “…that the truth of the gospel might continue with you”. Paul marveled at how fast the Galatians apostatized from the gospel message that he and others had shared them. “After Paul left Galatia, the Galatians thought they had heard and responded to another gospel that was better, but it was actually no true gospel.” (ibid., page 1959, footnote for Galatians 1:6-7). Paul wanted the Saints to understand that the pure gospel message was “so important that even the apostles or an angel should be put under a curse eternally if they tampered with it.” (ibid., page 1959, footnote for Galatians 1:8-9). Latter-day Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote “Apostasy was rampant among the Galatian Saints. Chiefly they were trying to harmonize their newly found faith with the law of Moses, so as to preserve the laws and ordinances of both the old and the new covenants.” (McConkie, Bruce R., Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Volumes I – III, Copyright 1973 by Bookcraft, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, page 1174, notes for Galatians 1:6-12). He further explained “That there is and can be only one gospel — one Church, one plan of salvation, one true religion — is as self-evident as any truth known to man. There can no more be two true gospels or two true churches than there can be true true and differing scientific facts. Truth is truth.” (ibid., page 1174, note for Galatians 1:6,7). “Gospel (/ˈɡɒspəl/) is the Old English translation of Greek εὐαγγέλιον, evangelion, meaning “good news”. It originally meant the Christian message itself, but in the 2nd century it came to be used for the books in which the message was set out.” (Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 5). Gospel. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:57, September 30, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gospel&oldid=858202729). During the life of Paul, when he wrote “gospel” he would have meant the overall Christian message – “The good news … that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind that will redeem all mankind from the grave and reward each individual…” (LDS Bible Dictionary, from Scripture Study The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 13:10, September 30, 2018, from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/gospels?lang=eng).
Readers today may confuse “Gospel” with the first four books of the New Testament, namely Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, and believe that this message from Paul was that there shouldn’t be a 5th “gospel”. This is clearly not what Paul meant. In fact, it was likely written around the time of the Council of Jerusalem (as recorded in Acts 15:1-34), which was held in approximately 49 AD (Bible Chronology, from Scripture Study Helps, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 13:10, September 30, 2018, from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bible-chron?lang=eng). Holman KJV Study Bible believes the lack of mention of The Council of Jerusalem in Galatians 2 is evidence that Galatians was written prior to this Council (Holman KVJ Study Bible, Copyright 2012 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, page 1957). Bible Scholars continually debate on when the 4 Gospels were originally written, however nearly all Scholars have them as being written after The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. For comprehensive reading on dating the Gospels visit CARM – The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry’s “When were the gospels written and by whom?” by Matt Slick and BYU’s Religious Educator, volume 8, Number 2 (7-1-2007) – The Distinctive Testimonies of the Four Gospels by Gaye Strathearn and Frank F. Judd Jr, pgs 61, 64-65, 69-70, and 73-74. If the estimated timeline presented by these (and most other Bibical scholars) are correct then Paul could not have been referring to a written “gospel” if none of the canonized gospels had been written yet.
Further, if person is taking a strict view that “the gospel” Paul warned about was only the four then unwritten gospels that make up the first four books of the New Testament then that could present a problem when they read Revelation 14:6-7. As part of the vision given to the Apostle John on the island of Patmos, John saw a number of angels, one of which was “flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth… saying with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgement is come…” (Revelation 14:6-7, King James Version). Here John sees an angel who is carrying the gospel, which, under this view, is only the first four books of the Bible, and he is preaching something that is not contained within these four books, nor something the apostles were preaching when the Epistle to the Galatians was originally written. In other words, this was new revelation being sent from the Lord to His ordained apostle. Fortunately, it is my belief that this is not the case. The word “gospel”, as previously pointed out, encompasses so much more than just the first four books of the New Testament.
As a member and believer of the Lord’s restored Church, I believe that there is but one Gospel. This gospel was preached by prophets of God, old and new, and these messages were written down and are accepted as Scripture by believers. These scriptures include The Holy Bible, both the Old and New Testament, and The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is my testimony and my belief that the complete gospel is found only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thank the Lord each day for the wonderful gift given to us, namely the atoning sacrifice of His only begotten son, that we can be forgiven of our sins and return to live with Him again
Thank you for reading this post. If you would like more articles like this, please let me know in the comments below. Also, please let me know if there is anything you feel I could better clarify, things you believe I have interpreted incorrectly, or if you think I am just way off basis.