One day, two well-dressed and pleasantly spoken members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) come to your door and offer you the chance to study the Bible with them. This used to consist of 6 ‘Discussions’, although the format is now less formal and is based on the manual, ‘Preach My Gospel,’ to which only they will have access. This manual has 13 Chapters. Chapter 5 (p.103) is entitled ‘What is the Role of the Book of Mormon.’ On page 106 of this manual, we find the section, ‘The Book of Mormon and the Bible Support Each Other.’ The passage explains how the Bible needs to be supported by the BoM. This Book of Mormon (BoM) is very important to the Mormon (LDS) church as they realise that, without it, they could not exist. In the Introduction to the BoM, it states that this book is “the keystone of our religion.” The founder of the Mormons, Joseph Smith stated, “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none” (History of the Church,2:52). They profess to be Christians and, among some of their claims, will be their belief that the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.
When challenged about this, they will offer several ‘proofs’ from the Bible, which they claim authenticates this point of view. One of these ‘proofs’ is that the Old Testament scriptures themselves prophesy of the Book of Mormon. They make use of two Scriptures: Ezekiel 3715-20 & Isaiah 291-4. If this is true, then this evidence goes some way to establishing the truth of the Book of Mormon; and shedding a whole new light on the authority and inspiration of the Holy Bible.
Let’s look at the first of these scriptures taken from the Authorised Version, also used by the Mormon Church – Ezekiel 3715-20.
V 15 “The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, V 16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions: v 17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. V 18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? V 19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put then with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. V 20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.”
The late Mormon ‘apostle’ LeGrand Richards, in his work A Marvellous Work and A Wonder, said this, “Note that the Lord said he would do this and make them one in his hand. Now, granting that the Bible is the stick of Judah, where is the stick of Joseph? Can anyone answer?” (p 65); he goes on to say that, “Until someone can explain where the stick of Joseph is, the Book of Mormon stands unrefuted in its claims to be the ‘stick of Joseph”’ (p 67). My intention is to take up LeGrand Richards’ challenge and explain these ‘sticks,’ scripturally.
In another Mormon publication, ‘Read the Book of Mormon. It Can Change Your Life’, it states, “Significantly, the joining of these two books of Scripture as a dual witness for Jesus Christ was foreseen more than twenty-five centuries ago by Ezekiel” (p 5); Another late Mormon ‘apostle’, Dr James E Talmage, in his Articles of Faith, stated, “Ezekiel saw in vision the coming together of the stick of Judah, and the stick of Joseph, signifying the Bible and the Book of Mormon…The Nephites were then of the tribes of Joseph, and their record or ‘stick’ is as truly represented by the Book of Mormon as is the stick of Judah by the Bible” (pp 249-250).
You can find the canonized, misinterpretation of Ezekiel 37 in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 27, verse 5:
“Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the recordof the stick of Ephraim”
This LDS scripture is cross-referenced to Ezekiel 37:16. If the cursor is placed over the word for ‘stick’ at http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/27/5e and double-clicked, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/ezek/37/16a offers the following information: “16a HEB wood. Wooden writing tablets were in common use in Babylon in Ezekiel’s day.” It also references Num. 17: 1-10 (cf. verse 2) for apparent support.
What the Mormon Church teaches regarding these ‘sticks’ is that:
∞ The sticks spoken of are really scrolls, books or records
∞ The stick ofJudahrefers to the Bible
∞ The stick of Joseph refers to the Book of Mormon
∞ The joining of the sticks refers to the joining together of the Biblical and Mormon scriptures (the Bible depending upon, and needing, the Book of Mormon for support)
∞ The Book of Mormon is a ‘further history’ of Jesus’ other sheep who migrated toAmerica
∞ The Bible tells only part of the story, thus remaining defective, inaccurate, fairly unreliable and incomplete.
Which raises another interesting point, namely, if the Authorized Version of the Bible is so inaccurate and corrupt (according to the Mormon Church, we should, “believe the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” – Article of Faith 1:8), then why don’t they substitute it for Joseph Smith’s “Holy Scriptures – Inspired Version” (the complete Joseph Smith ‘translation’, or JST, as it is also known)? This version was completed, since God had expected and commanded it in D & C 94:10; 104:58 & 124:89. God had told him not only to translate it, but to complete it in D & C 73:4. Joseph Smith admits that he had done this in July 2, 1833, according to the ‘Documentary History of the Church. 1:368. ‘This was later verified in LDS historian Andrew Jensen’s ‘Church Chronology,’ as well as the preface of the Inspired Version. The LDS has a duty to get this right because of its functions and responsibilities mentioned in D & C 107:91, 92.
This appears to be a fairly conclusive argument for the Book of Mormon but, upon closer examination, we discover flaws in their reasoning.
For example; the word ‘stick’ appears seven times in verses 15-19, and as ‘sticks’ in verse 20. It is a masculine noun, and its translated by the word #[e ((`ets). It can be located in Strong’s Concordance (6086), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (1670a) and Vines Complete Expository Dictionary (p 267 under the word “tree”, not scroll, book or record!) There are various meanings of this word, such as; tree (Ezek. 3630); timber/lumber (Ezek. 2612); stalk (Josh 26); gallows (Gen. 4019) and planks (Ezek. 4125). As can be seen, there is no room for anything other than the idea of wood or wooden (wood-like), with the one exception of Joshua. One has only to use the Mormon interpretation of ‘book’ in the context of 1 Kings 1712 and 2 Kings 61-7 to see how ridiculous their interpretation is. The word ‘’ets’ translated ‘stick(s)’ – also translating tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows, pieces of wood, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax in 1 Kings and 2 Kings – is exactly the same word used in this passage of Ezekiel. Are we to take it that, in 1 Kings, the widow at Zarephath isn’t really gathering sticks but books or scrolls? And likewise, in 2 Kings, where we find Elisha cutting down wood – or is that a book, or even a scroll? Some Mormons have attempted to say that, since ‘stick’ (‘rod’ in KJV) can symbolize a ‘tribe’ (Num. 171-3), why can’t it do likewise for a scroll or record? The Hebrew word used here is hJ,m; (matteh), which means a ‘rod, staff, branch, shaft, stave or tribe’. As Vine’s puts it, “It is possible the ‘matteh’ (“staff”), is a symbol of authority, first applied to the tribal leader and thereafter by extension to the whole “tribe”” (p269). It is a completely different word, and to attempt to adopt this approach is really clutching at non-existent straws!
Is it possible that a stick suggests, or is a symbol for, a scroll or book?
1. In the Bible, a stick (#[e))) is never used to symbolize a book, scroll or record. It is used to translate: reed, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows a tree or trees, pieces of wood, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax,
2. Surely Ezekiel knew the difference between gallows, cedar-woods, firewood, etc and a book?
3. The word rp,se (say’-fer) means a ‘writing, book, written message, scroll, legal document, bill, official letter, register’ – not a stick or a tree. It is a different word altogether (see Strong’s – 5612; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament – 1540a). In A Marvellous Work and A Wonder (the Mormon author of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Mormon Church), LeGrand Richards tries to tie ‘stick’ and ‘scroll’ or ‘book’ together when he explains, “In ancient times it was the custom to write on parchment and roll it on a stick” (p66). In this case, ‘say’-fer’ would have been used – if Ezekiel had wanted to specifically refer to a scroll – not ‘‘ets’; see Ezekiel 29 where “a roll of a book” is mentioned – ‘book’ being translated by ‘say’-fer’, and the word “roll” translated by hL’gIm. (megillah) which occurs with ‘say’-fer’ meaning a ‘scroll of a book’, which translates LeGrand Richards’ “parchment and roll on a stick” perfectly.
These verses, in a figurative context, refer to Israel – the Northern Kingdom (Israel, sometimes Ephraim), and Judah – the Southern Kingdom (Judah and Benjamin) as two “sticks” (i.e., nations), which had been split from the initial Kingdom of Israel in 931 BC, and that will be joined together by God upon the death of King Solomon,. Both had, since this split, fallen prey to either periods of captivity or exile (see Ezekiel 34 through 48). God was speaking in a prophecy, through Ezekiel, in which He was reassuring the split nations that they would, in due course, be brought together as one nation ( not two books), under one king.
There are several points to note here in relation to Mormonism, which takes this passage totally out of context for its own ends:
- The people specifically ask for the verses to be interpreted (v 18), which they are (v 19-22); similar methods of interpretation are used in The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, esp. v 10) and Jesus and the Tares (Matthew 13, esp. v 36); if God’s Word was good enough to supply an accurate interpretation for these parables, why not this prophecy? Or maybe, God only gets it right with parables; and prophecies cause difficulties for the limited, created God of the Mormon Church?
- If these sticks really refer to the Book of Mormon, then why does it call itself “the stick of Joseph” rather than the Book of Mormon? Why should one book be the Bible? What hasJudah got to do with the Bible?Judah may be the tribe from which the Lord is descended, butJudah had no hand in writing Scripture; and again why the Bible, why not the Old Testament?
- Even if we were to accept the Mormon church in their interpretation of Ezekiel’s sticks as ‘books’, and even if we were to doubly accept that one stick was the Bible (which on its own is a big assumption since nowhere is this suggested), why should the other stick be the book of Mormon? It could be any other book we care to think of—one of the Apocryphal books for example, or something from Shakespeare or Dickens; the book of Mormon is no morelikely than these.
- When the ‘so-called’ original inscriptions were discovered by Joseph Smith (the founder of the Mormon Church), they weren’t on scrolls, books, parchments – or even sticks! They were ‘discovered’ on golden plates! Doesn’t this nullify the Mormon interpretation of this prophecy?
- It was Ezekiel alone who wrote on both sticks which, according to Mormon logic, must mean that he was responsible for the writing of both books – otherwise, Mormon interpretation and this text contradict each other! Surely, for Mormonism to be correct, this passage should have stated that Ezekiel must write on the ‘stick ofJudah’ (the Bible) and Nephi, son of Lehi (there are 3 other Nephi’s) must write on the ‘stick of Manasseh’ (the Book of Mormon). This was not the case, making this Mormon proof text redundant with regard to Mormon prophecy.
- According to the Book of Mormon (representing Joseph), it was supposed to have been written by the Nephites, who were apparently descendants of Joseph, through Joseph’s other son – Manasseh. The book of Mormon specifically states, in Alma103: “And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.” [bold and underline added for emphasis].
It is a history of the descendants of Manasseh, not Ephraim. Is Lehi (according to the Book of Mormon, this particular character was a Hebrew prophet who led his followers to the Promised Land in the western hemisphere” around 600 B.C.; there are 3 other ‘Lehi’s’) the son of Ephraim or Manasseh? In order to have this prophecy fulfilled, the Nephites would have had to come down through the line of Joseph’s son, Ephraim, not Manasseh. According to The Bible (Ezekiel 3716, 19), Ephraim should have been the ancestor of Lehi (if he had ever really existed); according to the Book of Mormon (Alma 102-3) Manasseh was Lehi’s actual ancestor. Doesn’t the Book of Mormon itself prove that Ezekiel 37 couldn’t possibly refer to the Book of Mormon!?
- God makes it clear that both sticks would be right there in Ezekiel’s hands, at that very moment in time. Since the LDS ‘stick of Joseph’ wasn’t completed until after Jesus’ death, how could it possibly refer to the Book of Mormon, which was completed almost 2,000 years later? Who got it right, God or Joseph Smith?
- For the Mormon Church to be correct these verses would have to refer to Judahalone; but these verses speak of all the tribes ofIsrael (see Genesis through Kings).Judah is given no special treatment or extra attention, which is strange if it refers to the very Word of God – the Bible itself. That’s because it speaks of a nation and not the Bible.
- Ezekiel is relaying to the people the prophecy that God had given to him. He even quotes God directly by using the expression, “Thus saith the Lord”, adding authority and authenticity to the prophecy. Why should v 22 be any different, or involve a separate issue, from the previous seven verses as the Mormon Church would have one believe? Where’s the grammatical or contextual evidence to support this view?
- If all of the above were not sufficient proof that the book of Mormon was not foretold in the Old Testament, then let us turn to the Mormon author Everett Landon, who wrote The Book of Mormon Foundation. Mr Landon, at one time, fully accepted the idea that the ‘Ezekiel sticks’ prophesied of the connection between the bible and the book of Mormon. Upon further investigation and research, he concluded:
“Those readers of this treatise who are aware of the belief that the two sticks discussed in Ezekiel 37 point to the Bible and Book of Mormon both find in our comments a departure from that viewpoint… Having once believed the sticks did symbolize the said Scriptures, we differ in a spirit of considerable charity toward those who still so believe…. The words Ezekiel was to write were dictated to him by the Lord. We emphasize, he was to write upon two sticks, (or staves as stated in the Septuagint Bible). Not upon scrolls, plates, rolls, papyri, or in books or records. The traditional view of the sticks as books or records has been a stumbling block to many. Ezekiel understood fully what a ‘roll of a book’ was, (Ezek. 2 9) and did not need to mince words in saying ‘stick’ if he actually meant ‘book’, or ‘record’…. Let Book of Mormon believers be not dismayed. In the Bible and the Holy Spirit we have ample proof of the Book of Mormon.” [The Book of Mormon Foundation, January, February, March 1971, pp. 7-8]
Here we see this Mormon author make it clear that Mormons shouldn’t refer to scroll as sticks, as they have been doing, in an effort to convince us that the Book of Mormon is scriptural, as this [Mormon] approach has become a “stumbling block” to the Mormon Church itself, and its missionaries, who teach this false interpretation! He makes it clear that, just because the LDS church can’t really prove this point, we can still fall back on the “Bible” (regarded by the LDS church as defective anyway) and the “Holy Spirit” (referring to a different spirit, and not the one found in the biblical Scriptures).
Commenting on Isaiah 291-4 and the Book of Mormon.
V 1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. V 2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. V 3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. V 4 And 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, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
Again, LeGrand Richards says of verse 4 in A Marvellous Work and A Wonder, p68, “Truly it has a familiar spirit, for it contains the words of the prophets of the God of Israel.”
He is content to use this passage to support the OT prophecy of the Book of Mormon. It is interesting, and very significant, that Richards appears to find comfort in the fact that these spirits are ‘familiar’. In A Marvellous Work and A Wonder, LeGrand refers to 2 Nephi 2615-17, asking us to compare it with this passage – one supporting the other, presumably (p68). We find the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, in Moroni 1027, applying this prophecy in support of the Mormon notion that it speaks of a record of an ancient people speaking “out of the dust”, demonstrating that the Book of Mormon has its own ‘familiar spirit’. The term ‘familiar’ refers to a relational aspect of association, relating to servitude. The KJV translates the Hebrew word bwOa (‘owb) as “familiar spirits”. The NIV and NAS translate this as “mediums”. This expression carries the idea of ‘medium, ghost, troubled spirit (of the dead), spirit of divination, conjuring ghost, one who calls up spirits from the abyss to foretell future events, wizard, necromancer, one who evokes the dead, spirit of a dead one, sorcerer, occultist and witch’ (see Strong’s Concordance – 178; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament – 37a; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary pp. 241-242; The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon – p15a; The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament – p29; Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies – p. 157; Bible Works 7; Expository Dictionary of Bible Words by Stephen D Renn (former Head of Biblical Studies and Academic Dean at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College, lecturing in Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew) – Hendrickson Pub.). I recommend Angels: Elect & Evil, Revised
by C. Fred Dickason (Moody Publishers) for a full picture of demons in the Bible.
The Old Testament uses this word 16 times (Lev. 1931; 206, 27; Deut. 189-14; 1 Sam 283, 7, 8, 9; 2 Kings 216; 2324; 1 Chron. 1013, 14; 2 Chron. 336; Job 3219; Isa. 819 193; 294. In every case, this word refers to something unholy, occultic, evil, satanic or an abomination. God forbade Israel to seek information by this means, which was common practice among the pagans (Lev. 1931; Deut. 1811). According to Deut. 13, “Necromancy was so contrary to God’s commands that its practitioners were under the death penalty” (Vine’s p. 242). Wasn’t this the sin that completed Saul’s wickedness, for which he was finally rejected of God, 1 Chr. 1013? The Bible tell us, with regard to familiar spirits, that they are demons, whose only function is to propagate the will and message of their master, Satan. They use people to spread lies and deceit, in order to frustrate and thwart the Kingdom of God. The Bible tells us that to knowingly and wilfully open oneself to the work of demons is an evil thing, (Deuteronomy 1810-12a). Is this what LeGrand Richards suggests we should do? Is he advocating that we should embrace pagan necromancy against the Will of God?
A familiar spirit, then, is a demon who identifies itself with another person. We also see similar demon-human relationships in the New Testament: Matthew 932, 1243-45, 1522, 1715-18; Mark 51-20, 917-26; Acts 1616-18, 1915-16; 1 Timothy 41.
Isaiah is speaking to laeyrIa] Ari’el (“lion or lioness of God”) a symbolic name for Jerusalem (see Strong’s – 740; The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the OT – p155; Encyclopædia of the Bible; Edited by Prof. Walter A. Elwell, Vol. 1, pp. 168-169; Pub. Baker; Westminster Dictionary of the Bible by the late Prof. John D Davis, PhD, DD, LLD, – revised by Henry Snyder Gehman PhD, STD, Prof. of Semitic languages – p40, Pub. Collins); it never refers to, or speaks of, a distant people or their buried records!
It refers to actual, historical events, which took place. How could it then apply to events which might occur, except in the minds of Mormon interpreters?!
In the case of Isaiah 294, it is made very clear that this word speaks of the ‘troubled spirits of the dead’. Note what God has to say about those who have a “familiar spirit” in Lev. 1931; 206, 27; Deut. 189-12. This makes it very clear that the Mormon Church believes that the Book of Mormon has a “familiar spirit”.
Despite the fact that this text is actually speaking about Israel, it seems that the Mormon Church, in its rush to re-interpret the Bible yet again, has aligned both itself and the Book of Mormon with Witchcraft and, ultimately, Satan.