We've been meeting with Mormons just about every week for a month. Each time they come, we usually have a list of questions to be answered which we have chosen from reading the Book of Mormon, or more general questions. A few questions have been left unanswered, or a guess was made. For example:
If I choose to sin tomorrow, does that increase the suffering Jesus endured? If so, wouldn't God already know everything which is going to happen, and I don't have free will any longer, my fate has already been determined? And, if it does not increase suffering, then what is the penalty, or guilt for sinning tomorrow?
Where did the brass plates come from which Nephi had? Was it common to write family histories and the Torah on brass plates in 590 BCE? (The answer to this question was, well, if Nephi had them, and he was a normal guy, then of course it was common.)
The other questions we've had, like how Mormons view the afterlife, and why they perform certain rituals, like baptism for the dead, have been answered, but I'd like to put down more questions, so I'll be adding my own questions here. Feel free to add your questions in the comments, and I'll post their answers.
From 2 Nephi:
2:5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
Is the reference to 'men' here to mean mankind, or just men?
2:11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
Does all life need need a balance of good and bad?
2:21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
Do we have to pay for the sins of our parents?
3:7 Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.
How can Joseph Smith be from the fruit of Joseph's loins if all of Joseph's decedents died, according to Mormon 6?
5:12 And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.
The earliest record of people using a compass is 1100 CE in China, then 1200 CE for Arabians and Western Europeans, and in 1300 CE for Scandinavians. How could Nephi have a compass in 590 BCE? And why had no one copied the compass earlier?
5:14 And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.
Why isn't there any evidence of swords in pre-Columbian America?
5:15 And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.
How could a handful of immigrants from the Ancient Near East have the skills necessary to work with such metals, especially in 590 BCE?
5:16 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.
Verse 15 and 16 contradict each other. Were there many precious things to be found, or not? The Temple of Solomon took 150,000 men seven years to build, according to 2 Chronicles, chapter 2 verse 2, how could Nephi's dozen men build a similar temple with so few people?
5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
This verse seems racist, being interpreted by a modern person. These people, who were from Israel were called white, and God caused a curse to be placed on them, making their skin black, and making them "loathsome" to his people. If I read this now, it sounds like black people, or the decedents of Indians as this would refer to, are ancestors of the Lamanites, a cursed people by God.
5:23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.
This verse forbids intermarriage between the whites and Indians, otherwise, the curse will be passed on to the children, their skin will be darker. Why do you think God would do such a thing?
6:12 And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfill his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.
What is the great and abominable church?
6:15 And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel.
Is this literal, or allegorical? If there is no fiery hell which people go to when dead, how can unbelievers be destroyed by storms, fire, famine and such?
6:18 And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Again, is this literal? Why would God make people eat themselves, and drink their own blood just so they would believe in him?
8:9 Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
Was God asleep for some time? Why would God need to convince people to action by reminding them that he was the one that cut Rahab, the sea monster into pieces, and he was the one who wounded a dragon? Why couldn't he just say, it's me, God, creator of everything?
9:16 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire; prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.
Is this allegory? How can there be a fire which has no end? How is one considered 'filthy?'
9:19 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
This seems to contradict the current view of the afterlife by the Mormons, who don't preach fire and brimstone, just stagnation and regret.
10:2 For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.
Is God killing unbelieving children?
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 those who 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.
Why are the Jews depicted as wicked Christ killers? Does this view hold today with Mormons?
10:6 Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.
This seems to be foretelling the Diaspora, but why couldn't God kill all of the Jews if they were wicked?
10:16 Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
This seems like strong language to assert that you are either for Mormonism, or against God. Has this been reconciled within the church, or do Mormons still hold this belief?
Why does Joseph Smith include 18 chapters of Isaiah in 2 Nephi? I thought the Nephites already had the words of Isaiah?
25:2 For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.
Are their any examples of works of darkness and doings of abominations by the Jews? Or is it just assumed these are the most wicked of all peoples?
26:4 Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble.
Is this allegory, or are proud, wicked people going to literally be burned as stubble?
26:5 And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and whirlwinds shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder.
26:6 And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Is this literal, or another warning not to kill the prophets, or saints?
26:15 After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.
26:19 And it shall come to pass, that those who have dwindled in unbelief shall be smitten by the hand of the Gentiles.
Is this a warning against doubting God, is it such a sin to question that just to dwindle in unbelief is cause to be smitten?
26:21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.
Does this refer to any non-LDS church?
26:33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
This verse speaks of equality, no one is restricted from partaking of God's goodness. Has this been used to support equality within the LDS church?