I began eying the person to my left as I seated myself on the plane. I noticed him reading what appeared to be the Bible. I asked what it was. Closing the book with his finger as a bookmark, the cover revealed Book of Mormon. Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled. I never talked to a Mormon or engaged in trying to understand Mormonism. So I figured I would take the opportunity to learn as much as possible. This kid was fresh off a year-long mission trip, which meant he had all the answers, the entire narrative, the whole shebang, down to an air-tight science. He spoke in a soft, slow, "I-am-speaking-the-words-of-God" kind of voice. It came across condescending more than anything, but I continued to ask questions, learning about the Lamanites, Nephites, The Great Apostasy, the Golden Tablets, and Joseph Smith. By the end of the flight, I think he was convinced he had me in the bag. He gave me his cherished scripture and said, "read this and ask God to tell you if it is true or not." So I did.
What I discovered were partial truths wrapped in suspect historical narrative. I found the orthodox Christian theology most surprising. Typically, Mormonism is considered unorthodox. I still believe this to be the case, but the unorthodox theology comes from what Mormons refer to as "deep doctrine" not the Book of Mormon (at least not directly). Even though the book does not deviate radically from orthodox Christian theology, it fails to read in the same way as the Bible. It's like Joseph Smith threw the Bible in a paper shredder and then tried to glue it back together. Overall, the book comes across as an uninspired plagiarism of the Bible. If we could dust it for fingerprints, we would find Joseph Smith's or even the partial of an angel's, but not God's.
The book begins with the appearance of the angel Moroni in Smith's bedroom on three successive occasions. Moroni tells Smith where to retrieve the tablets from which the Book of Mormon is eventually translated. Smith emphatically describes the light emanating from the celestial being during each appearance. After disappearing for the third time, a rooster crows. "After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crowed." I thought it incredibly odd that Smith's testimony would so loudly echo of Peter's denial of Christ. If Smith desired to establish another testament of Jesus Christ, then beginning that testament with a story alluding to His denial is not the most cunning strategy.
I think Smith really did see an angel from heaven, but I believe the angel was Satan. And Satan works by using partial truths to achieve devastating ends. The Serpent was not absolutely lying to the orchard thieves when he said, "you surely will not die!" There is no record of Adam warning Eve not to believe the half truth, but there are records of Paul warning the Galatians and Corinthians of such things. We would do well to heed them.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly
deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a
different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who
trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to
you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-9)
what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim
of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work
on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful
workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." (II Corinthians 11:12-15)