Book of Mormon

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The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ[1] is one of the four standard works, or scriptures, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). The other standard works are the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Moroni gives Joseph Smith the plates
Joseph Smith Translating the Plates

Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. translated the Book of Mormon from a set of gold plates he received from an angel named Moroni[2]

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

-Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” [3]

The Book of Mormon tells the story of the descendents of a man named Lehi, who took his family from Jerusalem to the Americas. According to the book, Lehi's wicked sons, Laman and Lemual, turned against his righteous sons, Nephi and Sam, and were cursed with dark skin[4]. Mormons believe that descendents of Lehi were the ancestors of some Native Americans; these people are referred to as "Lamanites" in the Book of Mormon:[5] A post-resurrection appearance in the New World by Jesus is also described in the Book of Mormon.


Nephi and Sam's descendents, the Nephites, eventually turned to wickedness and were destroyed by the more numerous Lamanites. One of the last Nephites, Moroni, buried the golden plates in what is now New York State to keep them from falling into the hands of the Lamanites and being destroyed.[6] Three Nephites were blessed with eternal life and still wander the Earth today serving others.[7]

In 1982, the subtitle, "Another Testament of Jesus Christ," was added to the title page[8].

Mormons and other Latter-Day Saints believe that the book is of ancient origin and that the personages and events described therein are factual. At the same time, Mormons deny that the book is to be considered inerrant. Critics assert that its contents have been changed a number of times by LDS authorities; Mormons reply that the changes are merely grammatical corrections.


Contents

Historicity

The Book of Mormon is widely criticized for the absence of evidence supporting it. The list of missing artifacts includes almost forty entire cities (all cities named therein), animals (such as horses and cattle), metals (iron and steel), evidence of wars (involving multiple thousands of deaths), weapons (including swords, spears and armor), machinery and other technology cited within it - spanning the many hundreds of years covered by the narrative.

Because no such supporting evidence has been found, the LDS church takes no official position on the geography of the Book of Mormon.

Artifacts of such a nature (found in the Americas) have been found to have been introduced into the areas in question by Europeans colonists much later than the timeframe claimed in the Book of Mormon. Mormon Apologists have worked to find counterarguments and responses to all of these claims.[9]

Mormon apologists have responded by citing, for example, the first Book of the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi) in which discoveries of place locations thought not to have existed prior to discovery are to be found. An instance of this concerns the alleged discovery of the place known as "Nahom" as mentioned here ([5]), a burial place which was discovered and is said by Mormons to be referred to in no other text.[10]. Likewise Old world geography in the Book has been pinpointed by apologists.[11].

Opponents have pointed to linguistic anachronisms in the text, such as it being written entirely in a Sixteenth-century King James style and its use of words such as French word "adieu". Mormon apologists argue that they have found numerous Semetic linguistic and literary traits within it which make it appear authentic, such as the inclusion of Chaismus[12] and numerous other Hebrew traits within the text[13]

Mormons do ultimately confess that the main evidence and support for the Book of Mormon does not center upon history or language but upon faith that it is a divinely inspired document.

Mormon apologist Jeff Lindsay has compiled his own list Book of Mormon evidences.[14]

Contents

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ [15] is divided up into many sections or parts, including a Title Page, Introduction, The Testimony of Three Witnesses, The Testimony of Eight Witnesses, the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, A Brief Explanation about The Book of Mormon, and the following main parts or divisions commonly referred to as "books," as in "The Book of Moroni," followed by the common abbreviation in parentheses:

The first sentence of the Introduction is quite self-explanatory: "The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel." [16]

Other denominations

The Book of Mormon is accepted as Scripture by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and by other Latter-day Saints denominations, the largest of which, the Community of Christ (est. 1860), publishes its own versions of the Book of Mormon with different chapter and verse divisions and one with "modernized" language. Other Christian denominations, Catholic and Protestant, reject the Book of Mormon, considering it to be neither inspired nor ancient.

Polygamy

Although the Book of Mormon generally forbids polygamy, it allows for its practice when divinely mandated, apparently for the purpose of raising righteous posterity. The Book of Mormon says the following concerning plural marriage:

"Wherefore, my bretheren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife, and concubines he shall have none... For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things." (Jacob 2:27,30).

The alleged revelation that authorized the practice of polygamy among Latter-day Saints during the 19th Century is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 132.

Notes and references

  1. The Book of Mormon; Title page since 1982: The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Original title page: The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.
  2. "History of Joseph Smith," History of the Church Vol. 1
  3. "A Treasured Testament," Ensign, July 1993, 61
  4. GospelDoctrine.com
  5. Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
  6. The Book of Mormon
  7. "Clyde J. Williams on the Three Nephites and the Doctrine of Translation," Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 42, Deseret Book.
  8. A Short Introduction to the Book of Mormon
  9. [1]
  10. FAIR Wiki- Mormon Apologetic resource- Nahom
  11. [2]
  12. Chiasmus
  13. [3]
  14. [4]
  15. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/contents
  16. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bm/introduction

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