Put the Book of Mormon next to a modern translation, even one as conservative as the New American Standard, and Smith's magnus opus loses something of its gloss. See for yourself.
Here is a familiar text from Matthew's gospel as it appears in the Book of Mormon (yes, God himself was plagiarised by Smith):
'Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread (sic), will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?'
Here it is in the NASB:
'Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks find, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.
Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone?
Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!'
What would the Good News Book of Mormon look like?
'Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock.
Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread?
Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish?
As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!'
Even Joseph Smith's own 'translation,' the 'Inspired Version,' reads like the KJV. Which brings me to Tyndale's magnificent win over Mormon prophets (and over Jerome for that matter).
Jerome and the Vulgate
Jerome (5th century) was the man who, if you remember, wrote the Vulgate translation of the Bible, Vulgate from the Latin for common, or popular (for 'common' read, priests understood it). Jerome had a problem when he came to translating 1 Corinthians 1,13, the famous passages about love that we hear read at weddings.
The Greek word is agape which means not carnal, or romantic love, but God's quality of love, the quality of love between Christians, love for neighbour (not strictly appropriate for weddings but lets not strain at a gnat and spoil a nice day).
The problem facing Jerome was the Latin word for love, amor, which is exactly carnal, romantic love. This was too gross for Jerome so he changed it for the Latin caritas, which got turned into charity. This had the unintended but much appreciated consequence of giving the church a ready supply of money. The church derived its income from charity and, since 'the greatest of these is charity,' the future looked bright, the future looked purple
Tyndale worked from the Greek to make an English translation so he didn't face the problem facing Jerome. Tyndale's version of the same passage reads, 'Though I speake with the tonges of men and angels and yet have no love I were ever as sounding brasse: or a tynklynge Cymball...Nowe abideth fayth, hope and lover, even these three: but the chefe of these is love'
To make the Book of Mormon appear authentic to the untrained eye the Mormon Church sticks doggedly to the KJV. The KJV brings across that word charity from Jerome. This demonstrates, in turn that, notwithstanding having prophets and apostles, the Mormon Church mistranslates love – agape – every time it appears in the New Testament. Even Joseph Smith's 'Inspired Version' (JST) of the Bible gives us 'charity' where Paul clearly gives us 'love.'
In an article in the April 2015 Ensign magazine of the Mormon Church Boy K Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve quotes a text in support of a point he makes:
'Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.' (1 Timothy 4:12)
The word 'charity' translates the Greek agape, love.
This is not an apologetic for modern versions of the Bible, although I am personally a great fan of better scholarship based on more and better sources. It is a call for closer scrutiny of claims made by cults to be the only mouthpiece for God on earth. When God says agape he means love. When Jerome struggles for the Latin equivalent, that is one thing, when men claim to alone speak for God and still say 'charity' that is a completely different affair.
Oh, did I mention how rich the Mormon Church is?
This originally appeared in the April Reachout E-newsletter. You can subscribe here and never miss an issue