The promise to Abraham came by grace through faith, not by personal righteousness

“Because of Abraham’s righteousness, the Lord made a covenant with him and his descendants.” (Gospel Principles, ch. 15)

Paul disagrees:

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith… That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring” (Romans 4:13, 16)

If the promise was given because of Abraham’s personal righteousness, even grace-assisted faith-driven personal righteousness, then the whole point of Romans 4 is lost. Rather, we enter into the promise by trusting the God who justifies the ungodly. If the promise/covenant was given via law-keeping, then there is no hope. Paul made that abundantly clear in Romans 3:19-20. Law brings knowledge of sin. It cannot provide what it demands. It brings wrath. “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression” (4:15). Bilateral covenants predicated upon our commandment-keeping bring wrath.

Let that sink in: going to the temple to make bilateral covenants predicated upon your grace-assisted faith-driven commandment-keeping obedience brings wrath.

But there is hope. Not in faith-driven works or in grace-assisted meritocracy, but in the promise that “will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Romans 4:24). In the grace that counts the ungodly as godly:

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5; may the JST be accursed)

The point of “righteousness of faith” is that it isn’t our righteousness. It is Christ’s righteousness *counted* as our righteousness—by faith, not by commandment-keeping. Not by personal worthiness. Not by personal righteousness. Not by merit.

The whole point of Romans 4 is that we can receive justification and God’s covenant-favor and rock-solid enduring promises the same way Abraham did: by faith apart from works. Faith that finds its hope not in grace-assisted personal righteousness, but “in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (24-25)


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88 Responses to The promise to Abraham came by grace through faith, not by personal righteousness

  1. Janet says:

    Thank you for the above, I truly appreciate your effort to show by the scriptures your point of view. I must wonder though, that Faith and Repentance are hardly ever followed by Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost as found also in the scriptures.


    5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


  2. gundeck says:


    Baptism is a sign and a seal of the new covenant and rightly should be administered to all who believe and their children.

    The Holy Spirit goes when and where He pleases and I believe it is an error to assume that baptism is necessary for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Scripture provides ample reference to Spirit filled conversion (the only true form of conversion) prior to Baptism (Acts 10:1, 44-48; Rom 4:11).

  3. liv4jc says:

    Janet said, “Book of Mormon — that without grace there is no salvation: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). The source of this grace is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “Mercy cometh because of the atonement” (Alma 42:23)”

    I haven’t read the rest of the posts from Sunday yet, but wanted to get this out. I reject your premise Janet. The Book of Mormon is not recognized as scripture by anyone but your church. Like I said above. There is every evidence that the BoM was created and written by Joseph Smith. Do we really need to go into the thousands upon thousands of pages of work that has been done on this subject alone? The BoM society was supposed to be literate. Furthermore, they had the unique habit of writing on metal plates. A literate culture leaves the landscape strewn with written records. Everything from grain and cattle tallies and legal agreements to religious documents. Why hasn’t anyone found Reformed Egyptian writings? Why hasn’t anyone found evidence of the great battle that took place around the hill Cumorah? Nobody can even say where this supposed culture was based. THE BOOK OF MORMON IS A WORK OF FICTION . Therefore, any supposed scripture contained in it is nothing but an outpouring of JS’s imagination. Prove to me from the Bible (the one collection of documents that we both agree is from God) and I will listen to what you have to say in regards to works.

    Furthermore, Christ was not merely an example for us in fulfilling the Law. Christ fulfilled the Law because as fallen human beings we cannot. Christ fulfilled the Prophets in His birth, death, and resurrection, just as He said he would. Keep trying to merit salvation and you will be judged for every violation of the Law.

  4. rvales says:

    I don’t know that OJ ever chimed back in on the ‘enduring to the end’ question but I was reading thru Gospel Princples via the link that Aaron provided on today’s post and found this…

    “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

    “And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];

    “And if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (D&C 131:1–3).

    This ‘celestial glory’ sounds like they are referring merely to the afterlife (besides outer darkness of course) And to get into the highest celestial glory one must enter into eternal marriage. So thus far I’ve deduced that you can’t get into the CK without Celestial Marriage. For a marriage to be eternal it must
    “An eternal marriage must be performed by one who holds the sealing power. The Lord promised, “If a man marry a wife by … the new and everlasting covenant … by him who is anointed, … and if [they] abide in [the Lord’s] covenant, … it … shall be of full force when they are out of the world” (D&C 132:19).

    Not only must an eternal marriage be performed by the proper priesthood authority, but it must also be done in one of the holy temples of our Lord. The temple is the only place this holy ordinance can be performed.”

    Ok so get into the CK I have to have entered into a Celestial Marriage that must be performed by one holding the proper priesthood and must be performed in the Temple. This is more than was previously suggested but so far doesn’t sound like too many requirements. Except to get into the temple I have to get a temple reccomend and must be able to fulfill certain requirements…

  5. rvales says:

    1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost? Do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?

    2. Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator? Do you recognize him as the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?

    3. Do you live the law of chastity?

    4. Are you a full-tithe payer?

    5. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?

    6. Are you honest in your dealings with others?

    7. Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and priesthood meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?”

    So now not only do I have to have faith, repent, be baptized and endure to the end but I also have to not be a liar (big little or otherwise) strive to keep all the commandments, not be behind on my tithe, keep the WoW (no morning coffee or too much meat when it’s not a time of famine), be chaste (even in my head since the tiniest lustful thought makes me an adulterer), have a firm testimony, and not question the president of the church. This doesn’t sound like someone who’s fallen on the Rock, it sounds like someone the Rock has fallen on.

  6. Olsen Jim says:


    D&C 76 and 131 describe the souls of people going to the CK vs. Terrestial. You might take a look. One reason we may not find the three degrees WITHIN the CK delineated more often, in my opinion, is that the church’s mission involves inviting people to receive the greatest blessings possible from God which we believe include those that come from the ordinances of the temple and the highest degree in the CK. It simply doesn’t make a lot of sense to emphasize a lower standard than what is possible. Make sense?

    rvales- read the verses you quoted above: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.” It then goes on to describe who will receive the highest glory within the celestial Kingdom, precisely as I have described.

    Yours is not a winning argument. You are simply wrong. The temple recommend interview pertains to those receiving the ordinances of the temple- those required for receiving the blessings of the highest degree of glory in the CK.

    liv4jc- to which theory regarding the creation of the BOM do you subscribe? How did Joseph create the BOM? Or have you thought through the different theories enough to make any conclusion? From your statements, it is very clear you know about as much about BOM scholarship as rvales knows about our doctrine of the afterlife- next to nothing. Nothing personal here- I just recommend you do a little more homework before making such big statements and conclusions.

  7. rvales says:

    So there are three heavens in the CK? Because the verses read that there are 3 heavens and in order to acheive the highest heaven here’s what you must do.

  8. liv4jc says:

    OJ, anyone who is familiar with the Bible prior to reading the BoM will immediately realize that it is a poorly written work of fiction and KJV plagiarism, including the italicized words! Tell me how we get KJV NT verses and salvation concepts in a document that was supposedly written about 600 years before Jesus was born? And don’t give me the “Joseph recognized the verses and went to his bible and copied them” theory. It doesn’t wash based upon the perfect “rock-in-the-hat translation method.” Why did God hide those truths from everyone except Nephi? Even B.H. Roberts concluded that it was most likely a fabrication of Joseph Smith’s imagination. I don’t need to give you someone else’ theory about the origins of the BoM. It is obvious that JS, probably in collusion with one of his cohorts like Martin Harris, wrote it. Having read it I can tell you that it is one of the most inane works of fiction that I have ever read. The story line is ridiculous and so far fetched it belongs with works of fantasy, not works of religious literature. Based upon those facts, plus the lack of evidence to support the culture contained in it puts the burden of proof upon you.

    I used to believe that all of my LDS friends were just “really strict Christians” until I started reading the BoM and LDS doctrine. Even as a brand-new Christian it was immediately obvious to me

    I subscribe to my own theory regarding the creation of the BoM based upon reading it and common sense. Produce a fraction of the evidence that supports the Bible and we’ll talk. How about producing a Reformed Egyptian concordance? How do I know that the BoM plates were translated correctly? Am I going to take Joseph Smith’s word for it? No. Joseph had to modify the manuscript that was supposedly translated perfectly by the seer stone in the hat. How do I know that the original BoM translation wasn’t correct and Joseph changed it to suit his own personal doctrine? It’s not like there’s no evidence of that ever occurring

  9. grindael says:

    There is a copy of SOME of the ‘Reformed Egyptian’ “Caractors” that Smith penned & gave to Martin Harris to take to New York & present to a Dr. Mitchill. The picture is here:

    For a devastating article against Smith on these ‘caractors’ & where they possibly came from go here:

  10. Janet says:

    So what is it, Latin, Irish, Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, Arabic, ancient Oriental tongues, or Phoenician Alphabet?

    1). The characters in which it is written are unknown; they are neither Hebrew, Greek, nor Saxon, and the only parts of it hitherto intelligible, are a few Latin quotations.

    2). The character is Irish, and the subject is the reasons for withholding the cup from the laity in the Catholic Church, and giving them only the bread, in administering the Eucharist.”

    3). Anthon, taught Latin, strange he did not state they were Latin inscriptions.

    4). He said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters.

    5). All of the languages Anthon supposedly identified in the facsimiles Harris brought him are “ancient Oriental tongues.”

    6). These Latin shorthand notes matched nearly sixty percent of the transcript’s occasionally repeated “Caractors.”

    7). “If the case for the transcript characters’ being Egyptian in origin appears less than absolute, it is, nonetheless, infinitely stronger than any of the other arguments. The only basis for the characters’ being somehow connected with Meso-American scripts is, of course, that since some pre-Columbian peoples were descended from some Book of Mormon peoples, it would not be totally unreasonable to expect some connections between their manners of writing.”

    8). “Anthon transcript” have religious significance as early shorthand symbols.

    Other sources that state an opinion.

    9). They bear more resemblance to the Phoenician Alphabet than any other with which they have been compared, though a number of the letters differ but little from the Saxon.

    10). “I am therefore of opinion, from the water marks; from the punctuation; from the words I can ascertain; and from the resemblance your MS. bears to the Paff MS. bible in latin; that the language is latin;


  11. grindael says:

    “This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends of the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” Some time after, the same farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the “curse of God” would come upon him should he do this. On my pressing him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he told me that he would open the trunk, if I would take the “curse of God” upon myself. I replied that I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of rogues. He then left me.”

    Charles Anthon, New York, Feb. 17, 1834

  12. liv4jc says:

    It’s amazing to me that people who operate by making decisions based upon reasonableness in the rest of their lives will swallow JS’s juvenile attempts at prophethood. They are essentially placing their eternal souls in jeopardy by relying on the far-fetched musings of one man instead of feeling sorry for dupes like Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. Harris’ wife knew Joseph was a fraud and challenged him to re-translate the 116 pages of writings she confiscated. Of course Joseph could not do it because he had nothing to copy or translate from. As if God can be confounded by Martin Harris’ wife! The excuse and threats documented in D&C 3, 5, and 10 are transparent to any rational person. If their children were to offer them the same kind of excuses for a transgression of a household rule they would not believe them, yet they swallow Joseph’s nonsense hook, line, an sinker. When first studying Mormonism about 7 years ago I began reading the D&C. What I found were the same spiritual threats and coercion to get others to believe his story or give him money to build a house. The stories surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon often sound like pages torn from Tom Sawyer and remind me of Huckleberry (or maybe it was Tom) going to the graveyard at night and swinging a dead cat around his head in order to find a lost marble. These are the kinds of things I was attempting to relate to Jim Olsen as to the origins of the BoM. We find the same “magical” themes in the BoM that we find in Joseph’s life surrounding the hiding of the plates and the creation of the book of commandments.

  13. Olsen Jim says:


    There are literally millions of people who have been “familiar” with the Bible before reading the BOM who have concluded after reading the BOM that it is nothing less than the word of God and Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

    I suggest you do a little reading on B.H. Roberts. You, like essentially all critics who come across small cross-sections of his history, conclude things about him that are completely false. He was one of the BOMs greatest defenders up to his death. He played devils advocate for a time in an attempt to tighten the arguments supporting the BOM. He was a fierce believer in the book.

    Your theory that “JS… in collusion with…Martin Harris wrote it” is pathetically weak. But if that is all it takes to satisfy you, be my guest. Funny thing that the more a person studies the book, the more evidence and complexity he sees. And the less a person studies it, the more obvious is its fraud. Can you explain that? Some critics insist that is because the book casts a spell upon those who read it, blinding them into believing. Ultimate hand waving.

    You mention the “rock in the hat method” of translating. What you and other critics don’t realize is that Joseph’s description of the seer stone is extremely consistent with ancient descriptions of the Urim and Thummum- its function as well as its appearance. To date, the definitive work on the U&T is The Urim and Thummim: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel by Cornelius Van Dam. He is a non-LDS scholar. His research corroborates Joseph in a big way. But folks like you and falcon will continue referring to Joseph’s claims about the stone as ridiculous and “obviously false.” You are left out of the real debate.

  14. Olsen Jim says:

    Grindael- Richard Stout, whom you quote, says the Anthon transcript was a “random collection of early modern shorthand characters transcribed from the Detroit Manuscript.” The scholar he communicated with said that the transcript would not make any sense in the shorthand system he claims it represents unless it was a random collection of symbols.

    Did you know that the order of characters on the Anthon transcript form beautiful and obvious chiastic structures (similar to several passages in the BOM)? If you draw out each character in linear fashion in the order that it appears on the transcript, but without the paragraph-like structure of the transcript, the sequence of the characters forms many undeniable chiasms. There is definite poetic structure to the order of characters. The transcript is anything but “random.” Explain that.

    Also- look at the transcript. Doesn’t it look like the upper 4 lines of symbols are uniform in their size, and that the lines of symbols beneath those are much smaller? Interesting to me. The structure looks a lot like an introductory paragraph followed by the beginning of a text- like the beginning of every book in the BOM. It would make sense that Joseph would copy characters from the first plate, which presumably would include an introduction in the beginning since that is what we see in the BOM. You may say this is nonsense, but it is certainly at least as entertainable as the far-out theory you posit.

    It seems you, like Stout, have a task not dissimilar to atheists in trying to explain away the workings of God. You end up needing to exercise more faith to believe your complicated and extremely unlikely theories than it takes to believe that the BOM and the world are the workings of God.

  15. Janet says:

    Olmec site of La Venta, Tabasco. Carl Hugh Jones, the excavated clay seal, one can see parallels of the Anthon transcript, or Detroit Manuscript.

    Jim makes a good point about the sequence of the characters forms many undeniable chiasms.

    “He made comparisons among the Anthon transcript characters as a step toward the discovery of possible words or phrases. For example, one pair of consecutive signs appears in three different places in the seven lines of the Anthon transcript, two groups of three characters each appear twice, and a certain sequence of five characters appears twice. Jones thought that recognizing such repetitions might contribute to deciphering the script, although he never attempted any decipherment, considering himself linguistically unprepared to do so. Jones also felt that there was evidence for a simple single-stroke alphabet consisting of 20 to 32 letters depending on how finely one defined a stroke.”

    Interesting reading, New Light: “Anthon Transcript” Writing Found? Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 8, Issue – 1, Pages: 68-70

  16. grindael says:


    Since John Gee, (Mormon Egyptologist) says this about the Anthon Transcript:

    A major obstacle faces those attempting a translation of the Anthon transcript —the corpus is not large enough to render decipherment feasible.” (See ‘Some Notes on the Anthon Transcript, A Review of ‘Translating the Anthon Transcript’, Farms Review, 2000)

    I find it hard to believe “the order of characters on the Anthon transcript form beautiful and obvious chiastic structures”. Do you have scholarly evidence by a linguist qualified to make that observation?

    Modern shorthand being the ‘origin’ of the ‘caractors’ seems to be the scholarly consensus:

    It should be clear, then, that the Transcript itself was not written in a shorthand system: yet I do hear what Richard Stout says when he suggests links between individual Anthon Transcript letters and letters taken from a whole range of shorthand systems (apparently including many Tironian notae).:

    All the same, Isaac Pitman’s “History of Shorthand” (I own a copy of the 3rd edition) describes Jeremiah Rich’s system as being “encumbered with long lists of arbitrary characters to represent words which could not be written in any moderate space of time by their respective letters” (p.22), an “absurdity” whose “practice seems to have been at its height in the days of Rich” (p.23), with its 300 “arbitraries“. To Pitman’s roving historical eye, Rich’s follower Addy merits only a single paragraph (p.26). But helpfully, Pitman continues with a long list of people who produced related systems: Nathaniel Stringer (1680), William Addy (1695), Dr Doddridge (published in Oxford in 1805!), Farthing (1654), George Delgarno (1656), Everardt (1658), Noah Bridges (1659), William Facy (1672), William Mason (1672), John West (1690), Thomas Gurney (1751) [though Gurney finally dropped the arbitraries!]… and notes that Rich’s system (and/or its many variants and descendants) were still being taught early in the 19th century.

  17. grindael says:

    So it would seem that Stout is broadly on target with comparisons with the over-complex systems initially devised by Rich and Addy. I think it would be fair to say that if the Anthon Transcript’s alphabet can at all be said to have a parentage, it lies in the family of overcomplex shorthand systems deriving from Jeremiah Rich, & specifically in the ornate (and occasionally impractical) arbitrary signs added to them.

    There must have been more than a hundred subtly different (usually plagiarized) shorthand systems based on Jeremiah Rich’s original, with many of them still in surprisingly active use circa 1823: & so I would predict that finding the closest match to the source of (or the inspiration for) the Anthon Transcript would likely be a perfectly possible (if painstaking) job, given a copy of Pitman’s book as a starting point.

    Egyptologist Klaus Baer, of the University of Chicago, said that the characters are nothing but “doodlings” (Jerald & Sandra Tanner, Changing World of Mormonism, Moody Press, 1980, p. 143). Dr. Baer found no resemblance of Smith’s “reformed Egyptian” characters to Egyptian hieroglyphics, hieratics, or demotics . Prove your speculations that they are not random. Anthon & Baer rightly conclude they are a hoax.

    The ‘New Light’ article is nothing but conjecture (at best) with no proof at all that these ‘caractors’ appear in Central American Writings other than in the minds of desperate Mormons. It is based on evidence not available & states: “It remains to be seen whether any of Niven’s materials can now be retrieved for study.”

    All these quotes by Mormons about ‘evidence’ are nothing short of conjecture, while if you do a side by side, as Richard Stout does, you see where the ‘caractors’ really came from, modern shorthand that Smith copied:

  18. Aaron originally quoted Gospel Principles, Chapter 15

    Because of Abraham’s righteousness, the Lord made a covenant with him and his descendants.

    Whoever wrote this had no clue about the story of Abraham and his relationship to God and to us. Let’s recap because the story tells us much about the nature of inheritance, justification, righteousness, election etc…

    This story starts with Genesis 15:6

    Abram believed God and it was credited to him [as righteousness]

    . This is a key verse for the NT writers because Paul refers to it in Romans 4 and Galatians 3, and James refers to it in James 2:23 (BTW, note that James and Paul are NOT preaching different Gospels).

    Why do James and Paul appeal to Abraham? Basically they are saying something like “if you call yourselves the people of God; if you call yourselves the sons of Abraham, then you would inherit Abraham’s defining characteristics”

    Note that being a son of Abraham entitles a person to partake of the Abrahamic covenant of Gen 12 and Gen 15, in which he or she can call YHWH his or her God. In simple terms, this JUSTIFIES a person’s claim on God, and being put in a right relationship with God is what RIGHTEOUSNESS means.

    Did Abraham get to this position by doing religious works? No, because it happened BEFORE his circumcision, not after (Rom 4:10). So, what was it that separated Abraham to God? According to Gen 15:6, God made a promise and Abraham believed He would keep it (and, we can safely imply, acted accordingly).

    So, if we want to be sons of Abraham, we follow in our father’s footsteps and believe God and act accordingly. Importantly, we don’t “earn” righteousness, but God credits it to us because of our faith. Note that God remains the Boss in these transactions, and there is nothing compelling Him to award us with these credits.


  19. grindael says:

    The problem with Mormonism is that is a works based system. It is a system of self-aggrandizement using the ladder of ritual and ordinances masked with a phony priesthood authority that gives the ruling body of the system total control over the adherents to it.

    This is evidenced by such doctrines as blood atonement, which was literally carried out by the fanatical followers of self-proclaimed prophets that would do or say anything they were told, and then at the last, like John D. Lee were given up as sacrifices to protect the system and the evil dictators at the head of it. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned by the Mormons from Smith’s story of Korihor, who also was abandoned at the last to take the fall.

    This total denial in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, so zealously taken up by believing Mormons, and the doctrine of blood oaths and revenge that sprang out of it, still lingers in these modern times, where members are told to blindly follow leaders and never question the phony history, the lies and the false doctrine of their leaders.

    This is evidenced by the reinstatement of John D. Lee in the 1960’s, who had his priesthood & position & plural wives restored to him vicariously and so we see the Mormon prophets giving their approval over a hundred years later to the slaughter of innocents with a wink and a nod, further justifying the works based system of revenge oaths for the spilled blood of such lecherous characters as Joseph Smith.

    But Jesus is waiting patiently as He always is, and His Grace is Sufficient for the whole world, even those misguided by the Maze of Mormonism.

    Just thinking about the falcon…

  20. …ctd…

    But there’s another dimension to this which is all about choice. The irony is that though we might be concerned about our capacity to choose, the Bible concerns itself with God’s choices. This is nicely summarised in Nehemiah 9:7

    You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him…

    Note that God chooses Abraham and initiates the covenant.

    Why chose Abraham and his descendants? The only satisfactory answer is that it is God’s prerogative to do the choosing, which is what ELECTION is all about e.g. Deuteronomy 9:6

    Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

    . So, Israel did not qualify itself for election because of its righteousness, and neither do we.

    What is disturbing in Gospel Principles is the underlying presumption that if we attain a measure of righteousness, then God will be compelled to accept us into a covenant relationship. The Biblical authors (OT and NT) go to great lengths to say that this is simply NOT the case.

    Firstly, as the Evs here will point out, or rightousness will NEVER meet the required standard (only Christ himself can do that).

    Secondly, we cannot compel God to do anything, let alone force Him into the shotgun wedding of a covenant relationship.

    What I see is yet another affirmation by Mormonism to assert our own self and, metaphorically, march up to the throne of God on our own terms. It just ain’t gonna happen.

  21. …oops… “we can safely infer”, not “we can safely imply” (with credit to Lisa Simpson).

  22. Janet says:

    Anthon denies, but unwillingly contradicts himself. Whom are we to believe? Anthon writes two accounts of his meeting with Harris.

    “in his first letter, Anthon refuses to give Harris a written opinion
    in his second letter, Anthon claims that he wrote his opinion “without any hesitation” because he wished to expose what he was certain was a fraud.” Source Church History.

    Why would Harris continue with the translation, giving up money and funds, even mortgage his farm to help print the BOM.
    On the other hand we can see why Anthon had no desire to have his name associated with people who claimed and angel had shown JS where the plates were buried.

    Excerpt from the Church News 01/16/93

    Years later, Anthon contradicted Harris’ account of their conversation in two letters, one written Feb. 17, 1834, to E. D. Howe, and the other April 3, 1841, to T. W. Coit. In the letters, he denied saying the copied characters were genuine. He asserted they were “anything else but Egyptian hieroglyphics.”

    Anthon’s letters are published in their entirety in B. H. Roberts’ A Comprehensive History of the Church 1:102-107. Also, Milton V. Backman Jr., in his book Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, published Anthon’s letters in parallel columns for comparison (pp. 215-223.).

    “There are several obvious contradictions in Anthon’s letters,” wrote Brother Backman, professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU. “In the second letter (1841), Anthon wrote that ‘until the present time’ no one had ever requested from him a ‘statement in writing’ about his encounter with Martin Harris, as if to say that he had never written the 1834 Howe letter.”

    Years later, Anthon contradicted Harris’ account of their conversation in two letters, one written Feb. 17, 1834, to E. D. Howe, and the other April 3, 1841, to T. W. Coit. In the letters, he denied saying the copied characters were genuine.

  23. Olsen Jim says:


    Deciphering the text of a document is not necessary in observing structure within that document. It is a matter of pattern recognition. I can make chiastic structures out of meaningless symbols that I create myself. The symbols I create may not mean anything, but the pattern I create is NOT random. And that is the big point.

    You and Stout are analyzing each symbol and comparing them to similar-appearing symbols from other systems- but you are taking them out of context. Do you know how easy it is to take characters from one language, isolate them and place them next to similar looking characters from another language, and claim you have a match? BOM critics laugh at some of the naïve attempts by people to find parallels between MesoAmerican characters and those of Egypt, Hebrew, or even the Anthon transcript. But that is the very thing Stout is doing. That is why Professor Ganz said “If the characters on your photocopy [i.e., the “Anthon transcript”] are a continuous text, then I very much doubt they are a text in the Tironian system.” Context and order matter.

    The conjecture in Stouts writing is so thick it can be cut with a knife.

    You ask about the chiastic structures I refer to in the Anthon transcript and you ask “Do you have scholarly evidence by a linguist qualified to make that observation?”

    But I ask you- is Richard Stout a scholar or linguist; is he qualified to make the observations he claims? Double standard.

    In fact, The chiastic structures in the Anthon transcript were discovered and described in the book The First Page by C. Wade Brown PhD. He lays out the pattern in a very obvious manner. There is definite order in the characters, and they form parallels very similar to other parallels found in the BOM. Even people like Jim Olsen and grindael can lay out the “caracters” and find the parallels and patterns. Try it.

  24. Olsen Jim says:

    Grindael, continued…

    You say “modern shorthand being the ‘origin’ of the ‘caractors’ seems to be the scholarly consensus.” Can you demonstrate anything close to a “consensus?” The references you cite relate to the history of Jeremiah Rich’s system of shorthand, having nothing to do with the Anthon transcript.

    You go on to quote Baer who said the transcript was nothing but “doodlings.” Which is it? Modern shorthand or doodlings? You seem to be of the camp that says “I will embrace any supposed evidence that refutes the claims of the BOM, even if those claims contradict each other.” One must make up his mind.

    By the way, I have never claimed the transcript resembles any MesoAmerican symbols.

    Your conclusions are nowhere supported. It is all conjecture.

  25. grindael says:

    As far as 1800’s history goes, I’ll believe the 1834 account by Anthon; but regardless of the fact he still held his opinion in BOTH ACCOUNTS that Harris was the victim of a fraud. Why don’t you address the current opinion by Klaus Baer:

    “that the characters are nothing but “doodlings”.

    This is from a MODERN EXPERT ON Egyptian & Ancient Languages.

    R.B. Stout has it right, by his side by side comparison it proves that Smith was a FRAUD, as seen by the evidence for all to see. Ambiguities in Anthons statements (and I am aware of them) can’t take away from that.

    Anthon did give a second account in 1841 that contradicted his 1834 account as to whether or not he gave Harris a written opinion about the document; however, in both accounts he maintained that he told Harris that he (Harris) was the victim of a fraud. Danel W. Bachman (1992). “Anthon Transcript”. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Macmillan Publishing Company.

    Pomeroy Tucker, a contemporary of Harris and Joseph Smith, wrote in 1867 that all the scholars whom Harris visited “were understood to have scouted the whole pretense as too depraved for serious attention, while commiserating the applicant as the victim of fanaticism or insanity.” Tucker, Pomeroy (1867). Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism. New York: D. Appelton & Company.

    He did not deny that that he said the ‘caractors’ were not genuine, he only said he did not give a written statement to Harris.

  26. grindael says:


    Obviously you did not look very closely at the comparisons that I posted. Stout & others say that the ‘caractors’ are derived from shorthand as bourne out by the side by side comparison I posted. They don’t claim that they are any ‘system’, they claim Smith obviously embellished them, but he could not hide what they really were.

    And who is C. Wade Brown, PHD? What is his area of expertise and how does it apply? I could not find any info at all on him on the internet. Is he a Mormon? Maybe YOU can see parallels & patterns, but all I see is doodling, which smith did again with his Egyptian Grammar from the BOA.

    And if you or I can make a document with a chiastic structure, what does that say about smith’s caractors? People still claim that the writings of Nostradamus predict the future. Some are willing to see ANYTHING they want to see. I see the black and white comparisons of the ‘caractors’ to shorthand displayed side by side. The evidence speaks for itself.

    And how inspired was Smith? He was duped by the men who made the Kinderhook plates, and though he tried to be sly about it by asking them to submit the chraracter from them to learned men before he would ‘translate’ them. Lo and behold, after they reported to him that no one could ‘translate’ those characters, smith ‘began a translation’.

    And of course the ‘caractors’ are un-Decipherable. Smith tried to cover all his bases, like he did when he fooled the ‘witnesses’ into believing they actually saw some gold plates by claiming it was an ‘unknown’ language used by the fictitious Nephites. There is no ‘reformed egyptian’ it is a made up language to suit smith’s purposes.

    Maybe if I had a peepstone, I could make some sense out of it, but I don’t ascribe to folk magick & superstition like Smith did.

  27. grindael says:

    One other observation:

    How does the structure of something (chiastic) make what the TEXT legitimate? Does the ORDER of the characters make them legitimate, or the characters themselves? Seems you argument ultimately makes no sense.

  28. Olsen Jim says:


    I have read every link and quote you posted. I do not see where you posted any comments from an expert linguist who says the Anthon transcript is an “embellished” version of Jeremiah Rich’s shorthand.

    Stout makes that conclusion, but bases it all on a boat-load of conjecture. And he compares the symbols individually without considering context. And who is Richard Stout? Is he a linguist? What are his areas of expertise? What expert linguist agrees with him? I am not surprised you see only doodling. Are you trained to evaluate such symbols and text?

    I believe Brown is a LDS trained in ancient scripture and languages who has written books on chiasmus in the BOM. I don’t know of any of his work online.

    You ask “How does the structure of something (chiastic) make the TEXT legitimate?” I beg you to ask any linguist the same question. The answer is really quite obvious. If a set of symbols is random “doodling,” one would presume that the symbols are RANDOM. Isn’t that what Baer has said? Structure is evidence that there is meaning behind the symbols.

    Joseph never pointed this out. If he were faking it and incorporated this structure into his fraud, one would think he just might point this out to get others to believe him.

    And what of the first 4 lines being larger than the following 3? Why is that? It certainly seems ordered.

    Although alluded to often by critics to change subject, there is no evidence Joseph ever attempted a translation of the kinderhook plates. If he did, why wasn’t it ever published. Why did he not buy the plates like he did the scrolls of the BOA? Why was the matter only brought up decades after his death, especially considering the creators of the plates intended to expose Joseph as a fraud?

  29. Ralph says:

    Sorry this is late but I have been very busy lately.

    Martin said –

    So, if we want to be sons of Abraham, we follow in our father’s footsteps and believe God and act accordingly. Importantly, we don’t “earn” righteousness, but God credits it to us because of our faith.

    If it was credited to us by our belief then why add “and act accordingly”? We need to look at James a little harder as it says –

    James 2:20-24 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    So Abraham was already living (acting accordingly to) the way God wanted him to live because of his belief in God. Of course this all happened before Abraham was circumcised because the circumcision was the symbol of the covenant God made with Abraham, and the covenant was made after God chose him. This is what Martin said above and this is what the LDS believe.

  30. liv4jc says:

    OJ, I understand fully who B.H. Roberts was. He was one of the few honest men who insisted on writing a faithful history of your church. Many others tried to persuade him from including some sordid details of Smith’s life because they were not faith promoting. I disagree with your talking point description of Roberts merely acting as devil’s advocate. Roberts was deeply troubled when the President and other GA’s were not able to answer the questions posed by Mr. Couch. Why didn’t God’s mouthpiece on earth answer the questions? Because most LDS GA’s are businessmen and not scholars, they tasked Roberts with answering the questions himself. He was unable to answer many of the questions posed by Mr. Couch as to the plant and animal species that the BoM claims were on this continent (wherever that may be) prior to European arrival that archaeology proves were not present during the BoM era. Moving onto the lack of archaeological evidence, poor story line, simple plots that directly related to the era Joseph lived in, Roberts was forced to conclude that Joseph had access to information and sufficient imagination to enable him to write a fictional story. Pair that with Roberts overwhelming parallels between Ethan Smith’s “View of the Hebrews” and the BoM and once again Roberts is forced to conclude that it is possible that Joseph patterned the BoM from that earlier published book. Please don’t attempt to insult my intelligence or bowl me over with your attempts to justify a book that any honest person can see as a pure work of fiction.
    I can just as easily charge that it is you who are latching on to LDS defenses against Roberts investigation into the BoM origins. I admire Roberts for his honesty. I pray that in the end he was simply living the charade that has become the norm for many Mormons who cannot stand to lose all that they have by being a part of the greatest social club in America.

  31. Ralph wrote

    So Abraham was already living (acting accordingly to) the way God wanted him to live because of his belief in God. Of course this all happened before Abraham was circumcised because the circumcision was the symbol of the covenant God made with Abraham, and the covenant was made after God chose him. This is what Martin said above and this is what the LDS believe.


    I’d pretty much agree with your analysis, and if I had more time we could discuss the dialog between James and Paul further. My only reservation on your observation is the balance of initiative in the making of the covenant. The Biblical texts (as far as I can recall) consistently attribute the initiative for covenant-making with God.

    This would follow the pattern of Suzerain treaties, in which the powerful party (usually a secure King) gets the other party (usually a powerless and oppressed neighbouring principality) out of trouble.

    In other words, we can appeal to God to rescue us and bring us under the protection of a Suzerain treaty, but He is under no obligation to do so. The same goes for the Greek concept of Redemption; the one who redeems is under no obligation to “buy back” the one who is redeemed.

    So, it is plain rude for us to demand God’s covenant/redemption on the basis that we have done something worthy to merit it. We have nothing to offer Him. Our appeal rests solely and absolutely on His grace. Aaron struck the right note in commenting that a self-righteous demand for a bilateral contract brings God’s wrath (my paraphrase).

    What disturbs me about the LDS agenda is that it promotes the idea that we CAN “earn” enough to initiate covenant/redemption. It’s surprising how quickly “can” becomes “must”.

    Whatever Gospel Principles say, this idea is not supported in the Biblical stories, in fact they resolutely refute it. The covenant with Abraham was NOT an outcome of his own righteousness.

  32. Olsen Jim says:


    I find it humorous when church critics say the only honest mormons are those who leave or support to any degree what critics argue.

    Well, B.H. Roberts served faithfully in the church for 50 years. He studied the historicity of the BOM extensively and posed some challenging questions. BOM critics love to focus on the issues he brought up, but incorrectly conclude that Roberts “lost faith” in the BOM. That is far from the truth.

    His work on the BOM was completed in 1922. In the years after that and before his death, he bore clear testimony of the BOM. He pleaded with members to build their lives on the BOM “wherein is no darkness or doubt.”

    In General Conference in 1929, he said: “After bearing testimony to the fundamental things of this work, and my confidence in it, I hope that if anywhere along the line I have caused any of you to doubt my faith in this work, then let this testimony and my indicated life’s work be a correction of it.” (Conference Report 1928, 112.)

    He also said “And now, O Lord Jesus, if thou couldst but come into the consciousness of our souls this day, as thou didst come into the vision of the ancient Nephites in the Land of Bountiful, we would join their great song of praise and worship, saying—’Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God!’ And we, like them, would fall down at the feet of Jesus and worship him this Easter day! Amen.” (Conference Report 1928, 113.)

    Do you still admire him for his honesty?

    The issues you bring up regarding the BOM are old and most have been dealt with. I find that almost none of the critics stay current on these issues because doing so does not serve their purpose. Your main point of B.H. Roberts losing faith in the BOM is a non-issue.

    “Any honest person can see as a pure work of fiction?” So the tens of millions of people who have believed the book are liars? Why is it that those who have studied the book the most are the most convinced it is true?

  33. Ralph says:


    Yes, God did initiate the covenant. I’m sorry if it sounded differently in my last post. What I was saying was that God found Abraham as a faithful servant and then chose him and his lineage to ‘save the world’ through, which brought about the covenant. So why did God chose Abraham? Because he believed enough to already be living in the manner that God wanted him to live because of his faith. That is how James 2:20-24 reads, especially when it states in v21 – Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? The mention of ‘work’ and ‘living as God wanted him to’ goes against Aarons postulate here which was just because Abraham believed. It was because he believed that he proved himself ready/worthy of the covenant by living a faithful life. That is how God judged and chose him – by his faith THROUGH his works/lifestyle.

  34. Ralph responded with

    So why did God chose Abraham? Because he believed enough to already be living in the manner that God wanted him to live because of his faith.

    I’m willing to accept some latitude in the question of whether or not a third party made the first move in his or her reconciliation to God. To answer it fully, we’d have to dig deep into the predestination/freewill issue but, as a freind of mine succinctly put it “The Bible teaches that we have free will AND God is in charge; get over it”.

    However, I’m not even sure it’s the right question. To me, the texts speak to the situation in which the people of God (Children of Abraham) considered that they had certain divine entitlements (under the covenant) BECAUSE they were righteous (keeping the law, keeping circumcision, sustaining the Temple etc). To this, the texts say something like “Think again; your father Abraham was brought into the covenant that you rely on because of his faith, NOT his rightousness – the one thing you lack”. In fact Abraham didn’t even have his own righteousness – he had to have it credited to him, which God did because of his faith.

    At least you acknowledge God’s prerogative in choosing Abraham. This is what election is all about. However, it’s an anathema to the LDS prophets, so you’ll have to tread carefully around the subject

    …which brings me back to the statement in Gospel Principles. It’s fundamentally wrong in that it gets the relationships between covenant, faith and righteousness all messed up. However, I also see in it a crafty sleight of hand; it deliberately avoids the issue of election, by placing the onus on the believer to get enough righteousness to qualify him or her for entry into the covenant. The reason it does this, I think, is because the LDS Prophets had already jettisoned the idea of God’s sovereign election (probably because they can’t abide the idea that someone other than them is calling the shots)

  35. grindael says:

    To the board:

    While Anthon may at first blush seem to contradict himself in his several letters re Harris’s NYC visit, he actually doesn’t. A close reading proves this, especially if one keeps in mind he was a practicing lawyer before becoming a classics professor at Columbia. Since I plan to publish on this controversy, I’ll say no more by way of explanation. However, anyone on your board may email me privately on this or the supposed chiastic structures in the Anthon transcript using the email button at the online site of my article “A Singular Discovery: the Curious Manuscript, Mitchill, and Mormonism.”

    However, any Mormon who brings up Anthon’s so-called contradictions must be a masochist. The “history” written by Joseph Smith sometime around 1832 (and discovered in 1965) contradicts Harris’s account of his meeting with Anthon (if Harris actually wrote it–he had been excommunicated when it appeared in the TIMES AND SEASONS in 1842). In the 1832 history (in Joseph’s own handwriting), Joseph claims he didn’t commence using the “spectacles” for translation until after Harris returned from NYC. Yet the official account is Harris went to NYC with translations in hand.

    And the first time the now-official history appeared in print in 1842, Joseph claimed Nephi appeared to him in September 1823, not Moroni. That wasn’t changed until after Joseph’s death–curious he didn’t write a correction after such an important error appeared. And how could it be a typo? “Nephi” looks (or sounds)nothing like “Moroni.” One might find it possible a typesetter misread “MORmon” for “MORoni,” but not “Nephi.” I haven’t checked the original MS (secretary, James Mulholland), but I suspect it reads “Nephi.” Who are we to believe?

  36. grindael says:

    And look at the 1832 First Vision Story vs. the official version. In 1832 the story was Joseph was 16, went to the grove to pray as a result of studying the Bible, saw only Christ, and the message Christ gave him was a generic salvation message. The beefed up version of 1842 says he was 14, went as a result of a religious revival, saw the Father and the Son, and the message was quite specific about joining none of the churches of the day.

    So Joseph couldn’t get the details right from one telling to the next of the most significant occurrence of the 19th century, while Anthon is castigated for SUPPOSEDLY misremembering a couple of details in what was to him a VERY, VERY, VERY minor occurrence (accept that afterwards people periodically bugged him about it).

    If it weren’t for the fact that there were other contradictory tellings of the First Vision Story before its 1842 publication, we could dub the official version the “First Revision Story.”

    Richard Stout

  37. Enki says:

    Are you open to knew experiences? I recommend R.Crumbs illustrated book of Genesis. It leaves NOTHING out, so its not suited for minors, just a warning.

    If you read that you will clearly see that these O.T. characters are really full of faults, actually often rather conniving, slippery. Sometimes its seems even with gods full approval. So, I agree with the evangelicals, it wasn’t by works or merit that these folks found favor.

  38. Enki says:

    Olsen Jim,
    Are you serious about your Mormon to do list to get to the CK? How many LDS people end up in a mental hospital trying to do this list?

    Melchizedek priesthood? That is a curious thing. Have you ever heard of El Elyon? Its often translated as God Most High. But its also the proper name of a pagan sun god. Melchizedek was a priest to Elyon. What do you think about that?

    I’m reading the Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. I know its a comic book, but it is so enlightening. I never considered that Melchizedek was probably of a different culture than abraham. Being raised LDS I was so used to hearing the Melchizedek priesthood, and not really knowing who that really is.

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