I recently received a new ward calling to teach Sunday School to teenagers in my ward. As you can imagine, teenagers are sometimes a difficult audience. But fortunately the Old Testament makes it much, much easier due to many of the bizarre and interesting stories that we get to discuss.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to read those texts in detail again, think about them, and know them well enough to retell the stories to my students. It has been super fun. One added benefit is that I frequently encounter some little nugget that I think might be useful in LDS apologetics. So I’ve decided to start recording some of those nuggets here on the blog so I don’t lose track of them (keeping track of these sorts of things was the original intent of this blog after all). I’m not going to do much research behind these thoughts, so they are tentative. If something seems interesting I recommend you study it up a bit more.
Before jumping in, I want to CLEARLY state that I am not attacking the Bible. I am merely pointing out issues that I think our critics should take into consideration before they use a double standard against Mormonism. For goodness sake, I teach the Bible to teenagers in Sunday School so of course I believe it is scripture.
I’m just going to start with 1 Samuel 9-17, the lesson I’m teaching tomorrow.
1 Samuel 9:5-10 Saul wants to pay Samuel to find his lost donkeys. This is equivalent to Joseph Smith being paid by Josiah Stowell to look for lost treasure. It isn’t clear whether Saul ever actually pays Samuel, but he begins with the intent to, and such a practice was apparently common.
1 Samuel 9:12-13, 19 Samuel is worshipping and offering sacrifice at a “high place” (bamah). This sounds suspiciously like the “high places” mentioned a multitude of times throughout the Old Testament in conjunction with worshipping gods besides YHWH.
1 Samuel 10:20-21 Samuel chooses Saul to be the king of Israel from among the gathered Israelites through a process of casting lots (this despite the fact that Samuel had already anointed Saul to be the future king). Remember, one man’s priesthood power is another man’s magic/divination.
1 Samuel 12:20 The NET bible translates this passage as “12:22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation.” What? God has a reputation to keep?
1 Samuel 13:13-14 Samuel explains that if Saul had not sinned he would have reigned over Israel forever (probably meaning that his house would). But because Saul sinned, a new ruler would be chosen (David, from a different house). This should be a lesson to some ultra-Calvinists who believe that God controls all things.
1 Samuel 15:1-3 The Lord, through his prophet Samuel, commands Israel to attack the Amalekites and to kill every man, woman, child, and animal. This divinely sanctioned brutality is an issue all to itself, but imagine what our critics would say if Joseph Smith had given even an inkling of instruction like this!
1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel tells Saul, “Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams.” This clearly indicates that the essence of the Law of Moses was obedience, and not the idea that animal sacrifice inherently absolved sin. This is the false stereotype of Judaism propagated by modern-day followers of Martin Luther. The New Perspective on Paul movement in Pauline scholarship has been shaking the very foundations of traditional (false) Christian views of Judaism.
1 Samuel 15:23 Samuel calls divination a sin, even though he himself has used it (casting lots) to identify Saul as the king.
1 Samuel 15:29 Samuel states that the Lord does not “repent” (change his mind), and yet 6 verses later in 1 Samuel 15:35 it plainly states that the Lord “repented” of his choice of Saul as king. A clear contradiction.
1 Samuel 15:33 Samuel hacks a guy (the king of the Amalekites) to pieces.
1 Samuel 16:4-5 Samuel shows up in the town of Bethlehem and the elders of that town wonder if Samuel has come in peace or not. Can you imagine what our critics reaction would be if entire villages or cities were usure about whether they were safe simply because Joseph Smith had arrived?
1 Samuel 16:14 An “evil spirit from the Lord” troubled Saul.
At the end of 1 Samuel 16 Saul meets David and grows to really like him. But, at the end of 1 Samuel 17 Saul is completely oblivious about who David is.
Also, different ancient sources provide different heights for Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Even more interesting is the idea that in 2 Samuel 21:19 it says that someone else besides David killed Goliath. These are clear contradictions in the Bible, contradicting extreme notions of inerrancy.