Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 30, 1964
NUMBER 38, PAGE 3,12c-13a

The Bible And Mormonism

Robert H. West

On the nights of December 9th and 10th, a religious debate was conducted in Bellflower, California. The first night was held in the auditorium of the Rose & Ibbetson church of Christ. The second night was held in the chapel of the Third Norwalk Ward of the LDS (Mormon) Church. The disputants were brother David Harkrider, an evangelist with the Rose & Ibbetson congregation, and Mr. M. R. Gottfredson, Ph.D. candidate, former instructor in Religion at Brigham Young University, and presently an instructor at El Camino College in California. Both men were endorsed and solidly supported by their brethren. Several weeks prior to the debate the disputants regularly met to study and discuss the material for presentation in the debate. Consequently, both representatives had adequate time and opportunity for preparation for the discussion.

Last year, bro. Bill Cassio met Fred Dellenbach, an LDS High Priest, in a public debate in Norwalk, California. In private conversation with Mr. Dellenbach it was learned that the debate was conducted without clear-cut sanction of the State President. This was consistent with the previous Mormon attitude toward debates. In 1942 and 1943 bro. Otis Gatewood debated Mr. Kenneth E. Farnsworth, a Mormon apologist, in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah. In both discussions Mr. Farnsworth made it clear that he did not have official permission to engage in those debates. In 1954 bro. James D. Bales debated Mr. Thomas Stuart Ferguson, well-known Mormon author, in Oakland California. Mr. Ferguson also made it quite clear that he was debating on his own, without official permission. Bro. Lloyd Moyer has met several Mormon teachers in public debate, but always without official endorsement from the LDS Church.

In startling contrast to this established Mormon attitude toward debating, the Gottfredson-Harkrider was conducted with the express approval of the Mormon hierarchy! Propositions have been signed by the two men for another debate in June, 1964.

The conduct of the debate was characterized on both evenings by a complete lack of personal thrusts on the part of the disputants and a well-behaved and attentive attitude on the part of the audience. It was estimated that some 600 people attended the first evening and at least 400 present on the second evening.

First Night

The proposition for discussion on the first evening concerned whether or not the Bible is the final and all-sufficient guide in faith and practice. Bro. Harkrider affirmed; Mr. Gottfredson denied.

In bro. Harkrider's opening affirmative speech he presented seven basic points derived from the teaching of the scripture: (1) That the Apostles were promised ALL truth; (2) That the Apostles received ALL truth; (3) That the Apostles declared ALL truth; (4) That the truth received and declared by the Apostles was recorded in the scriptures; (5) That the truth received by the Apostles was once for all delivered in the first century; (6) That the truth delivered to the Apostles was imperishable and thus was to abide forever; and, (7) that the imperishable truth was preserved in the Scriptures. Bro. Harkrider drove each of these points forcefully home by citing plain passages of scripture and illustrating his arguments by well-prepared charts projected on a screen. In connection with the fourth point, he hammered home fourteen reasons revealed in the New Testament why the word of God was put in written form.

In Mr. Gottfredson's opening negative speech, he conceded that God had promised ALL truth; that He had delivered ALL truth; that God intended to make it known to all nations through the scriptures. He stated his disagreement was with the "idea conveyed with these propositions." A few minutes later he stated that he denied that there was any passage of scripture proving that all truth revealed to the apostles was written down and that it was written down in permanent form. It was notable that Mr. Gottfredson did not deal with the arguments bro. Harkrider had presented. In fact, in the course of his entire first speech, he referred to only three passages of scripture introduced by bro. Harkrider. The first two (1 John 1:1-4 & 1 Peter 1:22-25), he tried to show, had nothing to do with the written word. The third (Jude 3); he tried to weaken the word "once," as applied to the delivering of the gospel. He appealed to Langenscheide's Greek-English Dictionary which lists several possible translations of the word HAPAX, rendered "once" in the King James Version. He raised the question as to how we could know which is the correct translation.

Mr. Gottfredson made some rather startling statements in his speech. He asserted: "If God's word rests in a book only, it is of no value to man." "The value of truth residing in books and books alone is insignificant." "And understanding of the gospel cannot come by an examination of the written word alone." These statements, as well as others, proved to be Mr. Gottfredson's undoing, as we shall later show. Negative arguments by Mr. Gottfredson consisted entirely of the position that God's word indeed abides forever, but in the individual who has received eternal life. He continued to insist that the word could not abide forever in book form.

Bro. Harkrider opened his second affirmative speech by pointing out that his opponent had virtually surrendered the proposition by admitting that God had promised ALL truth, delivered ALL truth and that ALL truth was to be made known through the scriptures. Bro. Harkrider took up Gottfredson's argument on the word abiding forever in the heart of the saved person. He pointed out that the word was "incorruptible." But if that referred to the word dwelling in the heart of a man, then what would happen to the word if that man fell away? Would it then be corrupted? He emphasized that the word which was incorruptible was, according to Peter, the word of the Gospel which we now have in the New Testament. (1 Peter 1:25)

Bro. Harkrider again presented his chart on which he had listed fourteen passages which proved the value and importance of the written word and then very effectively contrasted what the Bible said with the denials of Mr. Gottfredson.

The following written question had been submitted to Mr. Gottfredson prior to the debate: "Has there been in every century since the first a repetition of the direct revelation by the Holy Spirit of all truth?" Mr. Gottfredson answered, "No." Bro. Harkrider pointed out that Gottfredson had conceded the truth was revealed in the first century, but that it was not revealed again until the nineteenth century. Where was the incorruptible truth between the fourth and nineteenth centuries? If not abiding by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit as Gottfredson admitted, then how else could it be abiding except by the written word which has endured, uncorrupted through centuries? Bro. Harkrider drove this point home with stinging clarity.

In our judgment, the most impressive and decisive point made in the first night came when bro. Harkrider took up Gottfredson's comment on Jude 3. He pointed out that if it could be established that "once" in the passage meant "one time for all time," there would be no room for the supposed revelations of Mormonism. Bro. Harkrider had done some research into Langenscheide's Greek-English Dictionary referred to by Mr. Gottfredson. He pointed out that this book was, in the first place, of only a general nature; i.e., it did not define Greek words of any particular period (Classic, Koine, Modern, etc). He further pointed out that 27 book stores consulted in the Los Angeles area, none of them carried this book and was found in none of the many college libraries in the area. Bro. Harkrider was finally able to find a copy of the book in the U.C.L.A. bookstore. He began then to suspect that perhaps this book was not an authoratative work, so he approached Dr. E. N. O'Neil, who is the Chairman of the Classics Department at Southern California University (where Gottfredson had attended), and asked him if this book was a standard reference work. Dr. O'Neil said no. Dr. O'Neil put in writing the statement: "It is inadequate because of incompletion," and answered other questions about the book as well as the word HAPAX. Dr. O'Neil statements, over his signature, were projected before the audience.

After exposing Mr. Gottfredson's "authority," bro. Hark-rider then presented the testimony of such recognized Greek authorities as Arndt & Gingrich, J. H. Thayer, Abbott-Smith, Moulton & Milligan, A. T. Robertson, M. R. Vincent, and W. E. Vine, all of whom defined the word HAPAX to mean only one time — once for all.

In Mr. Gottfredson's second negative speech he went back over his previous assertions that bro. Harkrider had not presented any evidence that ALL truth was written down in permanent form. Mr. Gottfredson failed to take up any of bro. Harkrider's charts and arguments. Rather, he spent almost all of his time delivering a discourse attempting to establish that "not a single passage of scripture" was of universal application. As expected, he made no further reference to Langenscheide and Jude 3.

Second Night

The proposition for the second night concerned whether or not the Book of Mormon and other latter-day revelations are the will of God. Mr. Gottfredson affirmed; bro. Harkrider denied.

In Mr. Gottfredson's first affirmative speech we were rather amazed to observe that it consisted in its entirety of an affirmation of his personal inspiration and his personal testimony of the truthfulness of Mormonism. His only argument was to this effect: "I am inspired; I know the Book of Mormon is true; therefore, you must accept my word at peril of your salvation if you do not."

Bro. Harkrider in his first negative speech dealt briefly with Gottfredson's assertions about his personal inspiration and then advanced to the forceful presentation of an abundance of discrepancies, contradictions and inconsistencies in the Mormon writings. He also made it stand out quite clearly that Gottfredson had not used the Bible to sustain his position; that he had surrendered the Bible by his position that it was not written for universal application.

In Gottfredson's second negative speech he asserted that the Greek manuscripts of our New Testament contained so many variations as to render it unreliable. He then made an attempt to reply to some of the contradictions bro. Harkrider had presented in Mormon writings. Then Mr. Gottfredson closed his part of his debate with his personal testimony.

Bro. Harkrider dealt Gottfredson's manuscript variations assertion an annihilating blow by quoting from recognized scholars such as Abbot, Bentley, Nescott and Hort, Grant, Vine, Robertson, Wordsworth, Schaff, Thiessen, Bruce, and Kenyon, all of whom testified to the effect that the variations in the N. T. MSS were insignificant and that the original texts had been virtually restored. Not only did these non-Mormon scholars so affirm, but bro. Harkrider presented the testimony of Dr. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Associate Professor of History & Scripture at BYU, a Mormon, and personal friend of Gottfredson. Dr. Anderson affirmed the essential accuracy of the N. T. manuscripts. His statement was made in April, 1963!

Bro. Harkrider then took up the attempts by Gottfredson to reconcile the contradictions in the Mormon writings and demonstrated clearly that the contradictions still remained. In fact, some of Mr. Gottfredson's remarks had served to make the contradictions more obvious, as demonstrated by bro. Harkrider.

His speech was concluded by a brief, but complete, summary of most of the affirmative material along with the charts. An appeal for an honest, sincere consideration of the material presented marked the end of what we consider to have been one of the best debates yet held concerning the Bible and Mormonism.

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