There is an inclination among critics of Mormonism to tear down without offering anything in its place. Such was the topic of a General Conference talk by Boyd K. Packer in 1974. Lest we be accused of doing the same, we cite the pertinent parts of his talk with a link to the talk in full, followed by our comments:
The Prophet Joseph Smith was an unschooled farm boy. To read some of his early letters in the original shows him to be somewhat unpolished in spelling and grammar and in expression. That the revelations came through him in any form of literary refinement is nothing short of a miracle. That some perfecting should continue strengthens my respect for them.
Now, I add with emphasis that such changes have been basically minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation, clarification. Nothing fundamental has been altered.
Why are they not spoken of over the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so insignificant, and unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about. After all, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books are true. After compiling some of the revelations, the ancient prophet Moroni said,”. if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Morm. 8:17.) “And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these.” (Morm. 8:12.) A man might take a stone and, in order to verify precisely what it is, subject it to a test to identify slate or sandstone. After conducting these tests, he may conclude his research with the statement: “I did not discover that it was a diamond.” His conclusion, though accurate, has nothing to do with whether or not it is a diamond. Nor will it ever be verified by using the wrong formula. There may be a thousand tests he can apply and come to the same conclusion. After, and only after, he subjects the stone to the correct formula can he know for sure. Until then, his conclusion, “I did not discover it to be a diamond,” is relatively useless information. There has, over the years, been an endless procession of those who would examine these revelations by every formula save the right one. Each becomes evidence, as Paul said, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14.) These scriptural diamonds, as we have described them, will stand the test. As surely as a man may determine whether a purported diamond is genuine by subjecting it to well-known tests for diamonds, the scriptures may be subjected to well-known tests for scriptures. There is a very precise formula. To apply it, one must, of necessity, move from criticism to spiritual inquiry. There are those who have made a casual, even an insincere effort to test the scriptures and have come away having received nothing, which is precisely what they have earned and what they deserve. If you think it will yield to a casual inquiry, to idle curiosity, or even to well-intentioned but temporary searching, you are mistaken. It likewise will not yield to the overzealous or to the fanatic. It is when a lifetime is quietly committed with sincerity and humility that one can know for sure. Many elements of truth come only after a lifetime of preparation. A testimony of them, however, can come very quickly. Do not belittle the possibility that many humble folk, young and old, possess such a testimony. Many possess a testimony that transcends the knowledge to be gained in academic and scientific fields. When a humble man bears testimony based on spiritual inquiry and righteous living, be careful before you repudiate his witness because he is otherwise unlearned.
Many an academic giant is at once a spiritual pygmy and, if so, he is usually a moral weakling as well. Such a man may easily become a self-appointed member of a wrecking crew determined to destroy the works of God.
Beware of the testimony of one who is intemperate, or irreverent, or immoral, who tears down and HAS NOTHING TO PUT IN ITS PLACE.
(Boyd K. Packer, “We Believe All That God Has Revealed,” Ensign, May 1974, p. 93)
Although academic in its allegory, Packer’s double talk speaks loudest.
Notice in the first statement that we indented and bolded, Packer plays down the changes that were made to the scriptures.
He implies their meaning was never changed.
Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer would disagree.
In his pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ, David cites numerous redactions that entirely altered the original meaning of the revelation.
The name of the church is just only one example. It was given by revelation, then changed, then changed again. Another is Section 1 of the D&C, compared with how it originally read in the Book of Commandments:
SECTION 1 COMPARISON
|Book of Commandments||Doctrine & Covenants|
|A preface or instruction unto the Book of Commandments (removed)||Lord’s Preface to the doctrines, covenants, and commandments given in this dispensation. (added)|
|2) my preface unto the Book of Commandments||6) my preface unto the book of my commandments (added)|
Reference to the “Book of Commandments” has been removed from the heading and its meaning ALTERED by a SINGLE word in verse 6.
The significance of that change is explained here: http://www.whitmercollege.com/topics/book-of-commandments-yes.
Now we ask, is it “tearing down the works of God” when historians, believers, or others confront the redactions that did change the meaning of the revelations?
Likewise, is it “intemperate” “irreverent” or “immoral” to replace those with the truth?
To imply that Christianity, the Book of Mormon, or the Reformers have nothing to offer IS reckless. Instead of acting omnipotent over others, Latter-day Saints could embrace a world that is standing by with open arms—if they would follow the teachings already in The Sacred and Holy Book of Mormon.