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Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and the Biblical Gospel

This scan of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, printed by E.B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, shows that there were no chapter or page divisions in the initial printing. We can see here that the earliest version renders I Nephi 11:18 as "Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh." Image: Open Library

This scan of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, printed by E.B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, shows there were no chapter and verse divisions in the initial printing. We can see here that the earliest version renders I Nephi 11:18 as “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.” image: Open Library

Joseph Smith Jr. is positioned by Latter-day Saint churches as simply the gifted translator of what he claimed was the recovered ancient text of the Book of Mormon. But the historical evidence supports the case that Joseph Smith is the author of the Book of Mormon as a work of fiction, including the volume’s own 1830 title page (view proof at the U.S. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division). It appears that after beginning this revision in how the Book of Mormon discusses the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Smith realized he would have to make a very large number of changes to the text, and thus abandoned the project.

The Roman Catholic Church has, for centuries, taught a veneration of Mary that borders, if not crosses the line of, idolatry. For instance, the “Hail Mary” prayer is at the heart of the Rosary. Its traditional wording is as follows: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The words, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” are derived from Scripture. This sentence incorporates the words of the angel who announced God’s plans to Mary (Luke 1:28), and the words of Elizabeth when she greeted Mary (Luke 1:42). Thus, these words themselves never could be faulted by a Protestant who holds to the authority of Scripture. However, the use of the words in the form of a prayer is cause for concern by those who hold to the sole intermediary work of Christ (I Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9, 9:15, I John 2:1, Revelation 1:4-5).

Protestants do not object to calling Mary “holy” in the sense of “set apart.” After all, we refer to believers as “saints” in the sense of being set apart (I Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, 19-20, II Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 10:10). All Christians are “holy” in that sense. Thus, saying Mary is “holy” does not necessarily indicate we are worshiping her.

What about the phrase “Mother of God” in early Christian creeds? The Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) gave Mary the Greek title Theotokos, which literally means “God-bearer,” or “the one who gives birth to God.” Taken less literally, it is usually rendered “Mother of God.” This title was ratified at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), the one ecumenical council that is endorsed by virtually every church in the World Council of Churches. But what does this title really mean?

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