AN OPEN LETTER
REVEREND R. F. PALMER, B.A., D.D.
The General Synod Committee on Evangelism –
— by –
The General Board of Religious Education
PRICE 10 CENTS EACH:
Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2016
A LETTER TO A FRIEND BOTHERED BY MORMON TRACTS
You have asked me to give an opinion on the pamphlets handed to you by some Mormon friends, “Why I believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God”, “The Plan of Salvation” and “Joseph Smith tells his own Story”. I am not unfamiliar with the Mormon teachings for I have examined the Book of Mormon and the book called Doctrines and Covenants. These are the Chief Mormon formularies. I have also read a number of works by Mormon scholars in which a philosophic basis is sought for Mormonism. Let me say at once that I am far from despising the Mormon philosophy. I do not believe it to be the true philosophy of life but it is an interesting attempt to solve a very old problem, the relation of spirit and matter. Mary Baker Eddy, with her Christian Science, tries to solve the problem by rejecting the reality of all that is not spirit. Mormonism seems to take the opposite view, that matter is the final reality, for Mormonism teaches that God Himself has a body, or material form, and spirits seem to be possessed of at least an attenuated sort of body. The old Christian Church has always refused to be driven to either of these logical extremes, and has continued to answer, not “either this” or “that” but “both”. We have always taught the reality of both matter and spirit.
Practical Effects, Good and Bad
It is interesting to see the effect of this very material view of life upon Mormons. It has made them a very practical people. They have brought their religion into every department of daily life. In a little Mormon town in Utah, where Mormons are in the vast majority, you will find that the Mormon Church provides not only for religious practices, but also provides amusements and entertainment for her people, helps them to market their produce and to obtain commodities as cheaply as possible, and by bringing every man and boy into the hierarchy of the Church, so that all have some ceremonial or active part to play, the Church provides much of what the Masons and Oddfellows etc. provide for those whom the Mormons call Gentiles. The poor and afflicted are also cared for by the Church, so that the work of service clubs is also included.
Only among Roman Catholics in places like Quebec Province, where they are in the majority, can anything like this be duplicated. Where it is the one great religious body, the Mormon Church is a totalitarian organization, caring for every side of life. The individual is absorbed in the community. This is not altogether a bad thing, but it lends itself to abuse, and the forcing out of personal liberty. Mormonism teaches that it is the one and only true religion or philosophy of life. Like the Roman Church, it gives lip service to teaching toleration and liberty of conscience, but its own totalitarian basis makes this a difficult matter for Mormons to practice, except where they are themselves a minority and in need of toleration.
It would be a great mistake to treat Mormons as though they were an immoral or lascivious set of people on account of the teaching on the subject of plural marriage, which they gave for so many years, and which seems almost necessary to the logical carrying out of their religion. Plural marriage was looked upon more as a burden than as a blessing while it lasted. It was finally abolished because of pressure by the United States Government. It is a curious fact that plural marriage is condemned in very strong terms in the book of Mormon itself. (See Second Chapter of the book of Jacob.) This passage was ignored by the later Mormons when they received a further revelation commanding them to practice polygamy. The practice was commanded to fit in with their teaching, that only through marriage could women be saved, and that the glory of men in after life would be in proportion to the degree in which they had increased and multiplied and replenished the earth. Each faithful Mormon with his descendants would be a sort of second Adam in another worldly, indeed a sort of god. Mormons are not an immoral people. Any one who has visited Utah, where they are in the majority, will bear witness to the high standard of family life, good training of the children, and absence of much that makes other parts of the country a sorrow to any Christian person.
Joseph Smith and Church Practice
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, makes much clear in his account of his experiences in starting this new religion. He was a country boy in upstate New York at a time of religious ferment. He was repelled by the extravagances of revivalism, and especially by the aftermath of quarrels between the various sects over who should have the converts. His mentions Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists as the sects he knew. Of these he was more drawn to the Methodists than to the others. He was finally guided to have nothing to do with any of them. It was not Joseph Smith’s fault that he knew nothing of an ancient and Apostolic Church which had kept up through the centuries many of the very truths and practices which appealed to him, and which he introduced in some form or other into his new |Church. I refer to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the primitive ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and teachers, the ministerial priesthood, the importance of sacramental rites, of discipline and order, interest in the faithful departed, the importance of authority and validity, the necessity of good works to prove our faith. It is doubtful whether Joseph Smith had ever had any contact with the Episcopal Church, that is, the Anglican Communion in the United States.
Joseph Smith reacted against the emotionalism of revivalism with its over emphasis on faith as opposed to good works. He found comfort in that epistle of good works, St. James. He reacted against the extreme teaching that the Church is invisible, that the organism of the Church, and all outward forms are unimportant. He reacted against the idea that anyone who felt called to be a minister was as good as a minister already. All this had its effect on his new Church, and is seen in its stress on good works, obedience to ordinances, discipline, sacramental observances, priestly rites in a temple, priesthood, Apostles, elaborate organization, close fellowship and strict limits on who may minister this or that ordinance.
The “Revelation” and the Book of Mormon
Now let us look at the Book of Mormon. Could it possibly be a real message from God? The first thing which strikes the reader is the style. The Authorized Version, or King James Bible, was translated about the year 1600 by a group of Anglican Bishops from the original Hebrew and Greek of the holy writings. It is translated into the English of that time, which is not the English we now speak, or which was spoken in upstate New York in the time of Joseph Smith. We no longer use “thee” and “thou” “-est” and “-eth”, in fact when we try to do so, we commonly get tangled up. You can get the Christian Bible translated into modern English (Moulton, Moffat or Weymouth’s translations) and compare it with the Authorized version to see how our language has changed in the past 350 years. Now, why should Joseph Smith have translated the golden plates he professed to find in the hill of Cumorah into that old fashioned sort of English. The sensible thing to have done would have been to put it into the plainest form of the language of his own day. The only purpose of using that old fashioned “Bible” or “Tudor” English was to give simple people the impression that the Book of Mormon was the same sort of thing as the Bible. As the writer of the Book of Mormon goes on, his style improves. In the first few chapters he is so anxious to sound Biblical, that he uses the expression “and it came to pass” in nearly every verse (14 times in the second chapter of the first |book of Nephi). Other favorite phrases thrown in to give a Biblical flavour are “And now” “Behold” “Forasmuch as”. The Book of Mormon is composed of fourteen Books. These are said to be by various writers. In the Christian Bible; even in its English form, it is not difficult for a careful reader to notice the difference of style in the different writers. You would not mistake a passage from Amos, for a passage from Isaiah, or passage from Mark, for one from John. It is easy to recognize different hands at work under the inspiration of God. In the Book of Mormon there is a sameness, and the feeling is produced that except for the numerous passages copied straight out of the King James version of the Bible, all is the work of one hand, or of a pair of collaborators.
The Golden Plates
Joseph Smith claimed that he translated from characters engraved on golden plates. The Book of |Mormon contains over five hundred pages of close print. The weight of metal for even the thinnest golden plates capable of holding together and being cut into with a graving tool would be very great. Yet these plates are carried about from the hill to the farm house, and then finally into Pennsylvania by Joseph Smith. It is a possible feat, but does not sound very probable. The witnesses who testified to having seen and “hefted” the plates did not for the most part remain faithful to the Mormon Church. They seem to have been simple hearted persons, in no way capable of judging whether whatever was handed to them under a cloth was a literary work engraved on gold, or something made up to resemble Joseph Smith’s idea of what plates of gold for writing purposes should resemble. Their Testimonials are drawn up in what sounds like mock legal form, the sort of thing which people, not of the legal profession, suppose legal documents to sound like. It would have been more impressive if their testimonials had been in simple English. They do once slip into their native doric in the use of the good old rural word “hefted”. I do feel confident that these men did “heft” something. Whether it was made of gold, or had writings by an Angelic hand upon it, I am not so sure.
Martin Harris, one of these witnesses seems to have had a little doubt of just what the characters on the plates were. He obtained a copy of a few of them, and went to New York, where he showed them to a Professor Anthon. He says that Professor Anthon identified the characters as Egyptian, and vouched for Joseph Smith’s translation of them. He went on to say that other characters shown to him were Chaldaic, Assyrian, and Arabic. Harris also went to an unidentified Dr. Mitchell, who agreed with Professor Anthon’s opinion. Now the question arises. In how many languages were the writings on the gold plates? And why did the descendants of Hebrews use Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic? More than once in te Book of Mormon there is the implication that these supposed descendants of the Hebrews kept up their own language, or at least their leaders did. If the language of the bulk of the people changed on their journey to America, and during their sojourn there, surely it would not change into the far off tongue of ancient Babylon etc. but into a new form of Hebrew, or into a language which they found in use in America. Reproductions of sketches of the plates and their characters which appear in some Mormon Books, give one the impression that the characters are copied roughly from the tables of Alphabets found in the front of many old-fashioned dictionaries. What is more, the Golden plates were supposed to be only an abridgement of the longer original works. Why abridge into several languages, Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic?
There is something very unreasonable about the whole affair. Why in the name of common sense did the writers of the books in the Book of Mormon use such strange and various languages? Why did Moroni bother to bury these plates, or go to all the trouble of engraving them, when no one was to make any real use of them? He could just as well have dictated the whole thing in King James English to Joseph Smith when he appeared to him in the various visions. It would have been different, if he had left the plates with Joseph so that he could show them, and prove his good faith by letting those who know Egyptian, in its various forms, without the aid of celestial glasses, the Urim and Thummim, examine the same. Even when translating Joseph did not lift the cloth which covered the plates. He seems to have gazed into the glasses, Urim and Thummim which were joined by a bow to make them into spectacles. As a boy he had used a “peek-stone” to recover or ty to recover lost or hidden valuables. I fail to see what useful purposes the gold plates serve, since they are not left with anyone for purposes of verification. God has not made the work of the translators of the Christian Bible easy by giving them crystals set in bows to peep through, so that the Hebrew appears as some other language. Translation is not a mechanical matter like that, as any Bible scholar knows. It is not just a matter of translating a Hebrew word by a corresponding English word. Words seldom have an exact equivalence in any two languages. Only by careful study, thought, and prayer, can the right expressions be found, and even then the scholar always prefers the original languages in which a book has been written. The story of the gold plates serves no good purpose except to impress simple people and satisfy their love of the mysterious, the seeking of a sign which was a thing our Lord refused to give. Mary Baker Eddy was more straightforward about her new bible. She made no bones about having written it herself.
My own opinion is that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith with the help of the school-teacher Oliver Cowdery. I think they may have had some help from some such romantic novel about the lost tribes coming to America, as formed the subject of Solomon Spaulding’s novel, but I am quite prepared to think that Smith and Cowdery were able to do the work without any definite aid from anyone else. Of course a very considerable part of the Book of Mormon is lifted straight out of the King James version of the Christian Bible. It is curious that people can be so naïve as to think that the mysterious glasses “urim and thummim” would translate long passages from Isaiah and other parts of scripture into almost the identical wording of the Anglican Bishops of the time of King James the First. Except for an occasional word of comment, or the natural slight mistakes of a person who knows the passage off by heart, there are no variations. It would not be hard to show that even a few errors of judgment made by those old Anglican Bishops are copied. If you want to see some of the work of the Anglican Bishops in the Book of Mormon see First Nephi Chapters, 21, 22 and Third Nephi 12, 13, 14, Maroni 7v.45. In fact the whole Book of Mormon is full of quotations from the King James version of the English Bible. Since we have all this already in the Christian Bible, it is hard to see what good purpose the Book of Mormon serves. The rest of it is for the most part a rather complicated story of the wandering of the so-called lost tribes of Israel. It may interest some, but is hardly a matter on which our salvation or spiritual health in any way depends. If our Lord after his resurrection did visit |America, and make himself known to a race there which afterwards passed completely away leaving no trace except these golden plates, which have also disappeared, it is interesting, but not a matter that is of vital importance. What matters for us is that our Lord was born, lived, died and rose again, and that the sacred tradition of these mighty deeds has been kept alive for nearly two thousands [sic] years, and has come down to us, not graven on plates of gold, but written on the fleshy tables [sic] of the hearts of men and women who have passed it on in living succession. Our Scriptures have come down to us within the living Church, and have proved their truth over and over again in every generation by transforming the lives of men. We need no golden plates buried for fourteen hundred years under the earth and rocks of a hill in New York State, and which turn out to have little of value which is not already found in Holy Scripture.
Why a New Religion Anyway?
This brings us to the question of what need Joseph Smith had for starting up a new religion to add to the confusion of tongues which he himself deplored, when he heard it among the Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists. What are the peculiar features which distinguish Mormonism? According to the “Plan of Salvation” by Elder Morgan, the first is the belief in the pre-existence of souls. That is a subject which has interested many people. There are signs of such a belief in the writings of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria just before the time of our Lord. Some Christian thinkers have also held the view that we may have existed in another life before this one. I do not think the Church has ever condemned such a belief if held as an opinion, and not as a matter of faith. Joseph Smith would have been free to hold such an opinion without founding a new Church. It is to be noted that our Lord’s pre-existence is on a very different footing to ours. Jesus is truly God as well as truly man. As God He existed from all eternity. As man, He was born in the stable of Bethlehem. Since we have no certain recollection of any former state of existence it does not seem to matter much whether we believe we existed elsewhere before coming here or not.
Rites and Ceremonies
The next principles of Mormonism mentioned by Elder Morgan are faith, repentance, baptism and laying on of hands. All of these are found and used in the Anglican Communion or Episcopal Church, and have been found and used without interruption since the days of the Apostles of Jesus. The Anglican Communion prefers Baptism by immersion when possible. Just as Mormonism allows baptism for the dead (ancestors) by proxy, so the Episcopal Church allows the baptism of children of christian parents, when fellow christians act as sponsors or proxies for them in promising faith and repentance. Mormonism forbids child baptism on the ground that infant children have no sin and are incapable of faith and repentance. I have known and loved some little Mormon children, and I know that they are no better or worse than other little children. They have the same natural weakness and tendency to sin, so that they fall into sin, and that at so early an age as to give the impression that they are born with a sinful nature, which they inherit from their forebears, and so are just as suitable subjects for baptism as are departed ancestors, about whose repentance and faith we are entirely ignorant. Laying on of hands is not a rite revived by the Anglican Communion in the 19th century, but a rite that has been practised in slightly varying outward form, since the days of the Apostles. There was no need to start a new Church in order to restore this apostolical ordinance.
A New Priesthood
Joseph Smith felt the need of the primitive ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers mentioned in Eph. 4. The Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church, has always had this ministry in unbroken succession from our Lord and the first Apostles (see Canadian Prayer Book pages 634-646, American Book pages 542-550). Joseph Smith felt the need of a true priesthood for his Church. There was already a scriptural and reformed Church with the true apostolic priesthood, that is this same Anglican, Episcopal, Church (see Canadian Prayer Book pages 626-636 and American Prayer Book, pages 538-543, and countless places all through the Book.) Surely then there was no good reason for adding another to the many religious bodies on this continent.
Do I think Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were frauds? No. I think they may very well have been honest and sincere, although mistaken men. Adolescents, and Joseph Smith was an adolescent when he had his visions, are subject to emotional disturbances. Fact and fancy can become confused. Day dreaming and night dreaming and working oneself up into an emotional state, can lead to perfectly honest mistakes. Quite pious and religious minded persons can become confused between fact and fiction. I do not think Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery need have been ashamed of composing the Book of Mormon, so far as literary skill, or devotional content are concerned. What has given the Book of Mormon its strength, and won it the respect of many good hearted people, is the large admixture of the translations of those good old Anglican Bishops, who gave us the Authorized Version of the Bible called the King James Version. If Joseph Smith really did find the plates, and really did look at them through the crystals urim and thummim, and did then see English words and write them down, and they turned out to be so frequently the English words chosen by those Anglican Bishops in James the First’s reign, then Mormons must admit that those old Bishops also were more wonderfully inspired by God than Joseph Smith, since they did it from the original Hebrew and Greek without any glasses to spy through. Perhaps the Anglican Church is the true Church after all.
Bible Prophesies Claimed by Mormons
Certain passages of the Old Testament are claimed by Mormons as foretelling the finding of the Book of Mormon, or events related in that Book. This method of finding proof texts to support a theory years after that theory has been put forth, are not very convincing. The proper use of the Old Testament to support Christian teaching and practice is to show, not the prediction of some detail, but to show that our Lord, and the Kingdom He founded, do fulfil the ideals and hopes of the Old Testament writers. The first Christians came to know Jesus, to be more and more attracted to Him, and to reverence more and more His perfect holiness. In the Old Testament they had read of many ideal pictures of the true King of Israel, the true Prophet, the true Priest, the true Kingdom, but they had to admit that no king, prophet or priest, they had ever known, came up to that ideal. But as they came to know Jesus and His Church, they began to say “Here at last do we see all those ideals fulfilled.” Then they began to notice all sorts of little points in which the circumstances of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were suggested or foreshadowed by events and sayings in the Old Testament. A Prophet is not first of all one who foretells. He is one who forthtells. His main work is to tell forth the truth about God, and the will of God concerning man. Because he knows God in prayer and meditation, and because he understands the nature of man, he is often inspired by God to foresee what the result of certain actions on man’s part will be. He warns or promises in the Name of God. If men repent, then the judgment of God does not come down. If men are unfaithful, God cannot fulfill His promise. The Holy Scriptures are not intended to be newspapers of the future, fortune telling books of the nations, but holy writings to help man to know God as one friend knows another. Next it is well to remember that Hebrew is a timeless language. It has no tenses in our sense. The same Hebrew word may mean “I was saying”, “I am saying”, “I shall say” so that it is very unwise to build up theories on the tense of the word as given in English. You must look at the context to discover whether there is something there which will help you to discover whether the passage refers to the past, the present, or the future.
Now let us look at the texts claimed by Mormons as supporting their peculiar beliefs. The first is Genesis 49, verses 22-29. This is the blessing which the aged Jacob uttered over his son Joseph. He speaks of him as a fruitful vine whose branches run over the wall. Mormons say that this is a clear prophecy of the account given in the Book of Mormon of a band of Israelites, who are represented there as coming to America, and becoming a great nation, which nation was finally wiped out by war. Mormons say the ocean is the wall, and these people are the vine that went over it. This a poor text for Mormons to quote, for these descendants of Joseph did not continue to flourish in America, according to the Book of Mormon. They were entirely exterminated. British Israelites teach that this text refers to the British and American people whom, they say, are the true descendants of Joseph. So this text is open to many interpretations. The Jews refer it to their being scattered all over the earth. Christians have usually understood it to be a foreshadowing of the spread of the Christian Church, which is the true Israel of God. Christ the vine. Christians are the branches.
The next text is Isaiah 29 verse 4 which they claim foretells the finding of the gold plates in the earth. There the Mormons take a single verse right out of its context as though it stood alone. Read the whole of chapter 29 and you will see that the prophet speaks of God declaring judgment on His people. Verse 3 “I will camp against thee . . . I will lay siege against thee . . . 4. Thou shalt be brought down and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low, out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” Verse 5 shows what the dust is. It is not the soil of the hill of Cumorah in New York, but “the multitude of thy strangers shall be like the small dust.” God’s people for their sins will be brought down to the dust, and will have scarcely any voice left to cry to God for help, only a whisper like the mutterings of the witch of Endor. The dust that will cover them will be their enemies, the strangers among whom they are scattered.
The next text is Psalm 85 verse 11. “Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” The Hebrew word used here for “earth” is not the one meaning “soil” or “ground” that you dig in, there is another word for that, but the word meaning the earth as opposite to heaven, that is the land surface of this globe. Psalm 85 has been used by Christians as a Psalm suggestive of the birth of Christ our Saviour. It is one of the special psalms for Christmas. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the truth. Because He is Man, born of Mary, He springs from the earth. Because He is God, begotten of the Father, He is the Lord, our Righteousness who looks down from Heaven.
Jesus is the Truth, not the golden plates. What is more, the golden plates did not spring up out of the ground. Joseph Smith had to pry up the rocks with a lever, so he tells us. Another very poor text to quote.
Next come the words of Ezekiel 37 verse 16 and 17. Where the prophet speaks of the two sticks which are to be bound together and become one. Mormons claim that the Bible is one stick and the Book of Mormon the other. God’s people had become divided into two kingdoms, the North and the South. Ezekiel makes clear with his sticks, to the exiles in Babylon, that God intends to reunite this people as the sticks are united in Ezekiel’s hand. Christians have seen the revival of the true Israel in the Christian Church, in which Church, Jew and Gentile can become one under Jesus the Son of David. There is not a word to suggest that the two sticks are books, the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Mormons claim our Lord’s words about his “other sheep” as referring to the Israelites, who are said in the Book of Mormon to have come to America. Christians have always held these words to refer to the Gentiles whom God would call into his Church. They did hear Jesus’ voice, for Jesus said to this disciples “He that heareth you, heareth me” and then He sent those disciples forth to preach the Gospel to all nations, who in hearing the disciples did indeed hear Jesus’ voice. How else have we ourselves heard?
Far more suitable texts could be suggested to support Mormon claims if a person did not know that it is very wrong to use the Bible as a pile of proof texts detached from their context. Each text must be studied along with what goes before and what comes after it, and its place in the framework of the whole Bible. So studied no text support Mormonism.
Isaiah 29 is quoted in support of the way Mormonism dispenses with the aid of scholarship and learning. But note verses 9 and 10 which show that the Book is not sealed by God, but is sealed by the sins of His people, whose eyes are blinded like a person in a drunken sleep. Mormons quote this text as though it supported the idea that God had sealed up and hidden His truth in golden plates buried in a hill which only the unlearned Joseph Smith could read. But it is clear that it is man’s own sin that has sealed God’s book. God is always trying to shed the light of truth on everyone. He does not hide His truth under the stones of a hillside, and so keep men in ignorance for centuries.
From the New Testament the Mormons quote Revelation 14 verses 6, 7 with the reference to the Angel bearing the everlasting Gospel, but there is no reason to suppose that this is the Book of Mormon, rather than the old Christian Gospel which has been preached all along since the days of Christ. That is the everlasting Gospel. The Book of Mormon Gospel was lost for hundreds of years, according to what the Mormons themselves say. It is therefore shown not to have been “everlasting”.
There are some verses of Scripture which Mormons are careful not to quote, for instance Galatians 1 verses 6-12 in which St. Paul says “If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” And also Revelation 22 verse 18 “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book.” These are almost the last words of the Christian Bible, which has remained unaltered and unadded to for 1900 years. Mormons claim that this old Bible is the Word of God, and yet they have dared to add to the words of that Holy Book, not only the Book of Mormon, but the Book of Commandments and Covenants, and in addition Joseph Smith’s other book, the Pearl of Great Price.
The Insufficiency of Mormonism
No, my friend, you are right to think that the Bible is sufficient. None of these Mormon works have anything worth while to add to it. The tracts you have sent me are strangely silent on the doctrines of Mormonism, which are indeed novel and peculiar to that new religion. I refer to the doctrines of celestial marriage, the doctrine that Adam is the only God with whom we have to do, the doctrine that every true Mormon man may progress to the next world, and at last attain unto godhood himself ruling over a world of his own. Mormonism teaches “gods many and lords many”, but it does not teach it to converts in the early stages. It reserves these teachings until the convert is caught in the church organization.
Christianity is so different. It has no secret doctrines, no scripture of secret or private interpretation, no temples with secret rites which all may not see or hear about. The Christian Scriptures were not found on plates buried in the earth. God inspired holy men to teach their children. Their children or pupils were inspired to write down the teaching. The Lord inspired wise men to gather the writings into books. He inspired the Hebrew Church and the Christian Church to select some of these books to form a “canon” or “yard stick” by which the true teaching of God might always be known and any new teaching tested. He inspires those who read and preach those Scriptures. So the Bible is inspired over and over again and has stood the test of time and critical scholarship.
What should a person who has no Church connection do? What should a devout Mormon who has become unsure of Mormonism do? He should seek out the nearest Anglican (Episcopal) minister and ask for instruction. In the Anglican (Episcopal) Church he will find that he is in the ancient Church of God which has come down in unbroken line of teaching, sacrament, and organization from the first Apostles and Jesus Christ Himself. He will find that he is in the true Israel of God of which our Lord was the faithful remnant, and who grafted the Gentiles unto Himself, who is the true vine; grafted them in by baptism so that the True Vine has run over the wall, and is filling the world. He will find the laying on of hands for the unction of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, a laying on of hands, not revived lately, or even a hundred years ago, but kept up since the Apostles’ time. He will find glorious mysteries brought out into the light of day in the Holy Communion. He will find the true ministering priesthood in unbroken line right back to the holy Apostles and our Lord himself, who is the priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. He will find all this and much more.
Nor will a former Mormon be asked to abuse the Church of the Latter Day Saints in which his parents may perhaps belong. The Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, does not abuse other religions. It admires the zeal of young Mormon elders who go out two by two at their own charges to spread what they believe to be the true Gospel. It sees in the Book of Mormon a most interesting document, but not the Word of God. It is probably the first large-scale piece of American fiction. It is a most interesting and able product of a man of the people, who without any advanced education, developed into a very able speaker and writer, who dealt with all the matters which were interesting the common folk of America a hundred years ago, slavery, Masonry, infant baptism, predestination, original sin, the ethics of marriage in a new land, communal holding of property, pre-existence of souls, the state of the dead, and above all, human progress. It is a terrible pity that Joseph Smith felt obliged to incorporate it into one more religious body, which has itself split into further division.
Roland F. Palmer
NOTE:—As well as the large Mormon Church of Utah, there is the smaller reorganized Church, which claims to be the original one, and which accepts the Book of Mormon but not the further revelations.