My family has begun reading the Old Testament during family scripture study and we’re nearly done with Genesis. During this read of Genesis, I’ve considered it in light of the attacks that are hurled against the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. Boy, am I ever grateful that Genesis was NOT part of the Book of Mormon. If Genesis were introduced to the world as restored scripture from the Mormons, the critics would have attacks ten times as powerful as anything they’ve levied against Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon so far.
Think of what the anti-Mormon critics could do with the story of Abraham. They could easily spin the story to shock readers about his attempted human sacrifice of his second son, getting his wife’s handmaid pregnant, later throwing out the handmaid and his first son into the desert with just a bottle of water, lying to others about his relationship with his wife, and so on. Whew!
Then we have his son, Isaac, the patriarch and prophet. If he were a Mormon prophet, what fun the critics would have! Why, if he were a real prophet, they would ask, why was he so uninspired” that he couldn’t see through the trick that his wife Rebekah played on him by sending in Jacob disguised as Esau to steal the blessing that Isaac wanted Esau to have. And Jacob offers even richer material for mockery by critics. It’s bad enough that he started by stealing the birthright and patriarchal blessing of his elder brother, but then comes shameless polygamy and a family rife with sin – children that murder, sell a brother into slavery, commit fornication, and so forth.
Today we read about Joseph. I know he was an inspired man of God, but the same attacks that are used against our modern Joseph Smith could be turned against the ancient Joseph as well. The critics could charge that he was involved in the occult, telling fortunes through dreams, using a cup for divination, etc. And they’d be sure to let everyone know that he was convicted and jailed for a sexual assault against Potiphar’s wife – what kind of depraved beast was this man? But with his crafty ways, conspiring with other inmates, he was able to get out of jail and use his occult skills to gain the confidence of the Pharaoh. Rather than standing up for truth and individual liberty, he used the power of big government to tax the people and create vast stores of grain. Then, when natural disaster struck and there was famine in the land, Joseph exploited the famine to sell grain to the people at exorbitant prices, eventually forcing everybody to sell all that they had, even their land, to Pharaoh, resulting in a massive growth of power and wealth for a pagan dictator. If Joseph’s story were told only in the Book of Mormon, LDS apologist would provide reasoned defenses, but the public would only hear the charges: con man! convict! pervert! occultist! conspirator! dictator’s right-hand man!
Our most vocal critics already believe Genesis, so we don’t have to waste too much effort defending Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Thank goodness their stories were not lost to the world, only to be restored by the prophet Joseph Smith. That would just make things too easy for the critics – yet they would still be wrong.
For those that are bothered that Joseph Smith ran for president, or that President Hinckley isn’t doing enough to fight political evil or that he kindly shakes hands with modern political leaders rather than condemning them, they would do well to remember the story of Joseph. For those who are bothered that President Hinckley doesn’t instantly see through every lie or forged document that has been presented to him, it would be wise to consider the story of Jacob. For those who are bothered about charges against the character of Joseph Smith or other prophets, it would be a good idea to read Genesis and understand just what it means to be a prophet of the Lord. Prophets are human, they make mistakes, they have character flaws, and critics can always find many things to spin to make them look bad, even vicious.