16 Christianity Meets its Match: The Argument for Historical Mormonism

LDS temple in Salt Lake City

The case for historical reliability is important for many Christians, but suppose there were a religion that would, point by point, beat Christianity’s case. If historical reliability is truly important to these Christians, they should convert to this new religion.

We don’t need to invent such a religion because it already exists, Mormonism (I’ll use Mormonism as shorthand to refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

The conventional Christian apologist may claim that non-Christian sources support the New Testament story, but Mormons point to newspaper articles, diaries, letters, and even court records documenting the early fathers of their church, a far broader record than that of the New Testament. Some of these accounts of the events in the early Mormon church were written days or even hours after the events.

The apologist will point to the tens of thousands of New Testament manuscript copies and the antiquity of some of the oldest manuscripts, but the Mormon record wins again. The books of Mormonism were written after the modern printing press, and we have many early, identical copies. There is no centuries-long dark period separating originals from our earliest copies and no worry that scribes “improved” manuscripts as they copied them.

The Jesus story is from a culture long ago and far away, and the gospels document the Christian tradition as it arose within Greek culture, already one step removed from the Aramaic Jewish culture of Jesus. In Mormonism, we can read the accounts documenting the history of the church in our own language.

The apologist will talk about how little time elapsed between the events and the documentation of those events—perhaps forty to sixty years for the gospels. That’s not bad, but Mormonism spent basically no time in the limbo of oral tradition.

The Bible’s four gospels don’t claim to be eyewitness accounts, and we don’t even know who wrote them. By contrast, eleven men saw the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and testimony from those men, along with their names, is at the beginning of every copy.

Christian apologists ask, “Who would die for a lie?” They point to the martyred disciples of Jesus, who, they claim, died rather than deny the gospel story, but Mormonism matches that. The Mormon inner circle put themselves through much hardship, including the death of founder Joseph Smith. If Christian apologists claim this as strong evidence for Christianity, it must be for Mormonism as well.

Let’s return to those Christians weighing the historical evidence. Is historical reliability critical to Christians’ faith? Then they should upgrade to Mormonism since its historical claims are much stronger. And if not, they should drop claims about Christianity’s historical reliability.

Continue to chapter 17.

Image credit: Michael Hart on Unsplash


Apologist: someone who defends a position. A Christian apologist defends Christianity.

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