Clay Christensen’s Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Every now and then I read a testimony from someone else that has such a powerful impactClay Christensen on me that I need to share it.  Such is the testimony of Clay Christensen.  You can read his bio here http://www.claytonchristensen.com/biography/.  I don’t know him personally, but have rubbed shoulders with him in very small ways.  He majored in economics at BYU.  My husband, David, also majored in economics.  They were in the same economics class.  Brother Christensen invited David to study with him.  David soon realized what an amazing person he was and wondered what Brother Christensen was getting out of the study!   Also, he was my daughter’s bishop when she went to school at Wellesley.  He was once a member of the Council of Seventy for the church.  He’s also worked in the nursery. He wrote the book The Power of Everyday Missionaries.  He has had severe health challenges of late.  His faith is such that he says that doesn’t matter which side of veil he serves.  He wants to do missionary work wherever the Lord calls him.  Here is his testimony of the Book of Mormon:

 “I was born into a wonderful Mormon family, and as I grew up I found few reasons to disbelieve the teachings of the church. My parents had deep faith in its precepts, and their example and encouragement were powerful–I believed in my parents, and I knew that they believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not until I was 24, however, that I came to know these things for myself.  I had been given a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. After I had lived there for a few weeks, far away from the supportive environment in which I had been raised, it became clear that adhering to Mormonism in that environment was going to be very inconvenient.  In fact, doing the sorts of things I described in the first part of this essay within the Mormon congregation in Oxford would preclude my participation in many of the things that had made Oxford such a rich experience for prior recipients of my scholarship. I decided, as a result, that the time had come for me to learn for certain and for myself whether Mormonism was true.

I had read the Book of Mormon before – seven times, to be exact. But in each of those instances I had read it by assignment – from my parents or a teacher – and my objective in reading it was to finish the book. This time, however, my objective was to find out if it was a true book or a fabrication.   Accordingly, I reserved the time from 11:00 until midnight, every night, to read the Book of Mormon next to the fireplace in my chilly room at the Queen’s College. I began each of those sessions by kneeling in verbal prayer. I told God, every night, that I was reading this to know if it was His truth.  I told Him
that I needed an answer to this question – because if it was not true I did not want to waste my time with this church and would search for something else. But if it was true, then I promised that I would devote my life to following its teachings, and to helping others do the same.  I then would sit in the chair and read a page in the Book of Mormon. I would stop at the bottom of the page and think about it. I would ask myself what the material on that page meant for the way I needed to conduct my life. I would then get on my knees and pray aloud again, asking the Lord to tell me if the book was true. I would then get back in the chair, turn the page, and repeat the process, for the remainder of the hour. I did this every evening.

After I had done this for several weeks, one evening in October, 1975, as I sat in the chair and opened the book following my prayer, I felt a marvelous spirit come into the room and envelop my body. I had never before felt such an intense feeling of peace and love. I started to cry, and did not want to stop. I knew then, from a source of understanding more powerful than anything I had ever felt in my life, that the book I was holding in my hands was true. It was hard to see through the tears.   But as I opened it and began again to read, I saw in the words of the book a clarity and magnitude of God’s plan for us that I had never conceived before. The spirit stayed with me for that entire hour. And each night thereafter, as I prayed and then sat in that chair with the Book of Mormon, that same spirit returned. It changed my hear and my life forever.” http://www.claytonchristensen.com/beliefs/

 

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Does the LDS Church Lie?

News headlines are notoriously misleading.  They often used “trigger” words to create a certain impression.  Such were the recent headlines concerning the articles published on the church website concerning plural marriage.  The Huffington post headline was Mormon Church Admits For First Time That Founder Joseph Smith Had A 14-Year-Old Bride,”  This post was an AP article which included a short video of an interview with the Reverend Paul Raushenbush.    In the interview the interviewer uses the words that the church’s essays were trying to “justify” Joseph’s actions.  It also included some quotes from the essays on the church website.    Another headline in the UK Telegraph was “Mormon Church Finally Admits Founder Joseph Smith was Polygamist with 40 Wives.”

In both headlines the words “admits for the first time” and “finally admits” imply that this knowledge was never admitted before.   David Grant wrote a post for LDS.net from which I’d like to quote.  I like the way he says it.

Mormon History Was Never Hidden

“For instance, the word, “admits,” is charged with accusation that there had been a previous denial of some kind. On the contrary. Off the top of my head I can think of three definitive declarations that attest to the practice of polygamy early in church history: Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a 1905 Improvement Era article by Prophet Joseph F. Smith, and a 1992 Ensign article.

In fact, being a student of Joseph Smith and history, I learned of these 14-year-old “brides” (another baggage-laden word) and 30-40 wives in my early twenties as a student at Brigham Young University, as I combed through journals and other documents in a quest to get to know and understand Joseph Smith better.

The events and history of Joseph Smith’s marriage to teenage and other brides have been well known and documented within available resources since there were accounts written of the event way back in history. All anyone had to do was look… and some did.

The information has been readily available for anyone to read. For example, Richard Bushman, in his book, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, has attempted to write more objective historical accounts of Joseph Smith and has included more difficult events in his history. Thanks to Bushman, the names of Joseph’s wives have rested on thousands of Mormon bookshelves since its publication in 2005.

Internet reach and information ease fluidity resulting in the availability and sharability of history have put the Church in the new and sometimes uncomfortable position of having to clarify interpretations of events, statements and doctrines when it would rather testify.”

I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  To my knowledge the church has never lied about any of its history.  It pains me to have those insinuations “out there.”  As the church stated in its essays, accurate historical documents have been sketchy:  “Many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. . .  The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscences are not always reliable. Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue. Like the participants, we “see through a glass, darkly” and are asked to walk by faith.”

Shelving Doubts Until Further Light and Knowledge Comes

David Grant goes on to say:

“It may be astonishing to some, and they may think me delusional, dishonest or brainwashed, but I can look at all of the evidence, including Joseph Smith’s marriage to a “14-year-old bride,” and still say without hesitation that his claims are truthful. That he saw the heavenly beings he said he saw and that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture and his role in bringing it forth is reported accurately.

Of the many intervening considerations that have allowed me to get to that conclusion in the face of disparaging and difficult circumstantial evidence, four have been the most useful: deep historical study of primary sources; the return of prodigals; the Book of Mormon; and, spiritual work.”

He cites individuals in Joseph’s time and in our modern times who have “come back” to Joseph.  Individuals who resolved their questions.

“The experiences of these men and many like them have caused me to wonder and have stood in the way of my departure as I have had occasional and sometimes serious doubts and concerns when I have gone so far as to say, “do I need to seek truth elsewhere?”. Their experiences have effectively challenged me to shelve my doubts for a time until further light comes, which it always has.”

I, like David Grant, have shelved my doubts.  I recognize that many haven’t been able to “shelf” with doubts.  I have no criticism of them.   Spiritual work and a testimony of the Book of Mormon have buoyed me up.

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Difficult questions–Plural Marriage

Coming from a Framework of FaithJoseph Smith

I think every woman at some point of their spiritual journey in the LDS church has had to come to terms with plural marriage.  I think most men have also, but I don’t think it’s such a “hot button” for them.  At least, not what I have noticed.   My approach to difficult questions are to always come from a framework of faith and seeking to understand.  Because of I have a firm testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith, I have had questions and a lack of understanding, but not doubt.   Lest one think the journey of faith has been easy, let me assure you the questions have sometimes been HUGE.

Co-existing with Unanswered Questions

I don’t have all my questions answered, but I can live with that.  Faith can co-exist, in fact, always does, without complete understanding.  Richard Bushman who wrote “Joseph Smith: A Rough Stone Rolling” said that we simply cannot understand plural marriage in our day and time and culture the way Joseph understood it.  That may seem like a cop-out to some, but to me it is satisfying.   I’ve had my soul searching issues that I’ve sought answers for in prayer, temple attendance and increased obedience.  Some I’ve had a resolution with, some not. I’ve relied on the testimonies of prophets, apostles and other respected mentors in my life to get me through those times.  I’ve often felt like Peter when the Lord asked him if he would also desert him as many others had.  Peter said, “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”  I sometimes feel the same way about the prophet.Joseph.  He restored all the beautiful doctrines of the restoration that I love.  If I desert him, I lose so much of what I hold dear.  I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  That I cannot deny.  That has carried me through some rough times.

It’s not the purpose of this blog to go into the details of plural marriage.  The church has done am excellent job of that with their posted essays.   I have always known about plural marriage in the church.  I’m a product of polygamous marriages.  I’ve know that Joseph practiced plural marriage.  I knew that it was a source of great conflict with Emma.  I’m surprised at the people who said they didn’t know these things.   When the church posted the essays of plural marriage, my reaction was this is not new information, only more detail.  Moreover I was encouraged and uplifted by the church’s essays. They were honest. They relied on known facts.  Nothing was whitewashed.  The difficulties were spelled out.  As the record states: “Many details about the early practice of plural marriage are unknown. . . . The historical record of early plural marriage is therefore thin: few records of the time provide details, and later reminiscences are not always reliable. Some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge about this issue. Like the participants, we “see through a glass, darkly” and are asked to walk by faith.”    It was made clear that those faithful early saints initially abhorred the thought of plural marriage.  Through deep and earnest prayer many gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the principle.   How I admire them!  What a trial of faith!   I can’t think of a greater trial of faith.  Here is what Lucy Walker recorded.

Lucy Walker recalled her inner turmoil when Joseph Smith invited her to become his wife. “Every feeling of my soul revolted against it,” she wrote. Yet, after several restless nights on her knees in prayer, she found relief as her room “filled with a holy influence” akin to “brilliant sunshine.” She said, “My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew,” and “supreme happiness took possession of my whole being.”

Do I trust Father?  Living True to Covenants

I  have read and studied many articles and blogs on plural marriage.  People whom I’ve never met have strengthened me with their blogs and websites.   One individual in particular, Greg Smith, influenced me in this regard.  He gave a talk at the 2009 FairMormon Conference.   It’s a lengthy article going into claims made against Joseph Smith, but the most important part of the article, to me, is the account of his personal journey in studying about Joseph and plural marriage.  After he read some disturbing claims about Joseph and plural marriage, and knowing that he had many things yet to learn and understand about the topic, and knowing that he didn’t have years to devote to looking up primary sources he expressed the following sentiments:

“So, I determined then to take that to the Lord and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. The scriptures talk about having the Spirit give you words—give you words to pray when you don’t know what you should say (e.g., Romans 8:26, 3 Nephi 19:24). Well, I thought I knew what I was going to say, but apparently that wasn’t what I was supposed to say, so I ended up saying something quite different from what I knelt down intending to talk about.  Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself telling my Father in Heaven what bothered me and instead of begging him for answers or insisting upon them (as I had half planed to do) I found myself telling him that I would not forsake him, that I would not forsake our relationship, that I was not going to turn my back on it or on him. And, that I was not going to abandon my covenants. I told him that come what may, I would do whatever he wanted me to do. And then, I asked him if it would be spiritually dangerous for me to commit the kind of time and energy and effort and intellectual work that this project would probably require.

“I thought this was going to be the first of many struggling prayers over the issue. But God is gracious and he told me very clearly that I was quite free to investigate it, that it would all work out, though he gave me no idea of how or in what way, and that I had nothing to worry about. And here I am, four years later, talking about it—you must be careful what you ask for, you may get it. I almost think he was a little bit unfair! If I had known this was part of the deal—I did not bargain for this. I did not set out to be the person people ask about plural marriage. Anyone out there who wants the title can see me after. . .

“But, the problem was, in that moment, when I first approached God with this, was that my spiritual life did not have four or five years, which is how long I’ve been doing this now, to sit in the church archives. My spiritual life could not be put on hold for that long. How long could I halt between two opinions? If Joseph be Baal or a sexual predator, don’t follow him. Jesus called the apostles and did not tell them to spend three or four years with the primary sources before deciding to answer the call to “Come, follow me.”

And for me, ultimately, the question (I see now) had nothing to do with plural marriage at all. Plural marriage was only the catalyst for a much more fundamental question and that question was, “Do I trust Father?” And I see now, by the grace of God, that my instinctive reaction was to do that, to express my trust and, amazingly, to mean it.  http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2009-fair-conference/2009-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-plural-marriage-but-were-afraid-to-ask

I feel much like Greg Smith.  I have committed to Father that I trust Him and I will be true to the covenants which I have made with Him.

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The Content of the Gold Plates of the Book of Mormon

The Gold Plates were a combination of records

My intent in writing a blog is to introduce sincere investigators to the Book of Mormon.  I want to help others learn about the Book of Mormon.  I hope my readers will begin to read the Book of Mormon on their own and use this blog to help them in understanding it.  In my last blog I talked about the Gold Plates, their appearance and construction.  This blog will continue on with the content of the Gold Plates.  The Gold Plates were a unique compilation of other records put together by Mormon.  The following is a short list of the records which are included in the Gold Plates.  I’ll give a description of each in this blog.

  • Large plates of Nephi
  • Small plates of Nephi
  • The Plates of Brass
  • The Plates of Ether
  • The personal writings of Mormon and Moroni

There were “many records of many kinds”mormonpng

The Title Page of the Book of Mormon starts thus: “An account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi.”   As I stated in my one of my previous blogs,  Mormon, a great prophet/military general, lived around 315 to 385 AD.  He had access to the many records written by various other prophets from the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem around 600 B.C.  These records were engraved on metal plates.  That’s almost 1000 years of history!   He had a divine commission to select from among those numerous records that which was to comprise the Book of Mormon. This was his life’s work. It is because of this divine commission to assemble the plates that the Book of Mormon is named after him.  His work was a work of love.  It was a work directed by God. Mormon gives us some idea of the extensiveness of records which he had access to when he writes the following:

Helaman 3:13  And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them.
14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.
15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.

Let’s start at the beginning!

The Book of Mormon starts with the family of Lehi being directed by God to leave Jerusalem around the year 600 BC because of its prophesied imminent destruction.  In 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, pillaged Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and carried many Jews captive to Babylon.   That is the beginning setting of the Book of Mormon.   Lehi’s son, Nephi, begins the narrative of his family’s journey into the wilderness close to the Red Sea and their eventual journey to the “promised land” of America.

Nephi writing1 I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.

Thus begins the Book of Mormon.   Nephi commences his record on what is simply called the plates of Nephi.  

Nephi is commanded to make two records

Nephi commenced his record on what is simply called the plates of Nephi.   A few years later he was commanded to make an additional record. He describes this commandment in 1st Nephi chapter 9. This additional record was “for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.” The first record was to contain more of a history of the “reign of the kings and their wars and contentions.” For clarity, it is referred to as the large plates of Nephi. The additional record is known as the small plates of Nephi.  Although Nephi  happy to comply with the Lord’s request, he records that he didn’t know the Lord’s purpose in this request. He writes, “Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” The next verse of scripture typifies Nephi’s faithful attitude.  He writes:

1 Nephi 9:6 The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.

The Lord indeed had a “wise purpose” in asking Nephi to make two records.  Almost two thousand years when Joseph is translating the plates, part of the manuscript, containing his translated material to that point was stolen.  That story deserves its own blog post!  It will be forthcoming.

The Small Plates of Nephi

The small plates of Nephi, include 1st and 2nd Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni. In contrast to the “large plates of Nephi” they are not an abridgment. They are included in our current Book of Mormon exactly as they were written by the original authors. Historically the small plates of Nephi cover the same time period as the large plates up to the reign of King Benjamin around 130 BC.  They are 143 pages and cover 470 years, although most of the material is concentrated on the writings of Nephi, his brother Jacob and Jacob’s son, Enos.   Those three books occupy 138 pages and only cover about 200 years.   As you can see 270 years are covered quickly in only five pages.  The small plates of Nephi are a priceless treasure. Along with the historical narrative of Lehi’s leaving Jerusalem and traveling to the promised land of America, Nephi includes some remarkable prophecies, dreams and visions of both himself and his father. Prophecies of the coming of Christ, his ministry, death and resurrection are interwoven skillfully throughout the small plates.  Jacob adds some important doctrinal chapters.  In inspired language he assures us that the Jews worshiped the Father in the name of Christ.

Jacob 4:4-5  For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

5 Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name.

The Large Plates of Nephi

The large plates of Nephi contain the books of Mosiah, Alma, 3rd and 4th Nephi. This section of the Book of Mormon begins in 130 BC and covers the very critical years preceding the coming of the Savior into the world. Mosiah, Alma and 3rd Nephi combined are 320 pages, but only cover about 165 years. This is a very concentrated focus on the teachings of the prophets, their missionary labors, the intrigues of war, the political machinations and the faithfulness and apostasy of both the Lamanites and the Nephites, and the preparation of a people to receive the Savior. Fourth Nephi covers the time after the coming of Jesus until the Nephites fall into complete apostasy, about 320 years. It is a very short, but powerful synopsis of these years.  After Jesus three day personal ministry they created a ideal society in which they had their goods in common.  There were “no poor among them,” and the love of God prevailed.

4 Nephi 1:2 – 3
2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

This society lasted for almost 200 years!  It shows us that through following the teachings of Jesus Christ perfect society can exist.

4 Nephi 1:15 – 18
15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in aone, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
18 And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings;

Unfortunately after 200 years the society started to break down through pride love of wealth.  They stopped having the goods in common.  Individual wealth was stressed and class distinctions developed.  These are powerful teachings for our day as we are to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.

The Plates of Brass

Although the Plates of Brass do not have their own “book,” they are quoted extensively brass platethroughout the Book of Mormon, particularly by Nephi.  What are the Plates of Brass? Why were they in Lehi’s possession?  Lehi was told in a dream that his life was in imminent danger and that he and his family should leave Jerusalem immediately.  Lehi was one of many prophets living in Jerusalem in this dangerous time.  He has testified of the wickedness of Jerusalem and prophesied of its destruction.  Because his teachings were so unpopular, the Jews threatened to take his life.   Lehi’s family left hastily leaving all their possessions.  They took only their food, tents and bare necessities.   After they had traveled far enough that their safety was secured the Lord spoke to Lehi again in a dream and told him that his sons needed to go back to Jerusalem for the Brass Plates.  The Brass Plates were a record of the Jews and the words of the prophets.  Nephi describes them thus:

 1 Nephi 5:11 – 14
11 And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
12 And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
13 And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers;

The Brass Plates were their scriptures.  They were essential for their spiritual survival. They were a record of God’s dealings with his children.  They contained the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They contained God’s laws and his words through the words of his prophets.  From these Lehi taught his children.  From these Nephi, his brother Jacob, and later in the Book of Mormon, Jesus himself, taught the people from the words of Isaiah.  Later in the Book of Mormon Alma teaches the importance of the Brass Plates and their other scriptures.

 Alma 37:8 – 9
8 And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.
9 Yea, I say unto you, were it not for these things that these records do contain, which are on these plates, Ammon and his brethren could not have convinced so many thousands of the Lamanites of the incorrect tradition of their fathers; yea, these records and their words brought them unto repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer.

Nephi also includes several chapters from the book of Isaiah, almost verbatim to our current King James Version of the Bible. Isaiah lived about 100 years before Nephi and was probably the most influential prophet in Nephi’s life. He read and understood Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming Messiah and wanted his people to know and understand them. Nephi wrote:

1 Nephi 19:23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.

The Plates of Ether

The book of Ether in the Book of Mormon is a unique contribution to the Book of Mormon in that it is a history of an entirely different group of people than the rest of the book. It is a record that was found on this continent during the explorations of a group of Nephites during the reign of King Mosiah. During their explorations they found “a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed.” Searching among the ruins they found a record of this people engraved on plates of ore. After the explorations they returned to their king and presented the record to him. It is a fascinating account of a group of people who were directed by God to migrate to this continent around the year 2200 BC.  This record was included with the Nephite records which were handed down through the prophets. Moroni, Mormon’s son, later abridged this record and it is know as the book of Ether.

The personal writings of Mormon and Moroni

The Book of Mormon concludes with the personal writings of Mormon and Moroni, each with a separate book. Mormon witnesses and records the final destruction of his people, the Nephites. His record is a sad account of a once righteous people who were prepared for the personal ministry of Jesus Christ to a violent, degraded, uncivilized people who delighted in bloodshed. It has much to teach us about the effects of seeking revenge and refusing to call upon God.

Mormon is killed by the Lamanites and his son, Moroni finishes his father’s record with some firm admonitions for our day.  He writes Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”  He bears witness of him who is to bring this record forth in our day, Joseph Smith,  And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.”   He bears witness of Jesus Christ, miracles and faith, encourages his readers to Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.”  

Moroni adds his abridgment of the Plates of Ether to the record, then adds some precious additional writings of his father in the form of letters and sermons.

Moroni buries the platesMoroni burying the plates

Moroni wanders for some years before he buries the plates.  The heading to the book of Moroni suggests that he was alive for 20 more years.   It was a time of bitter war among the remaining Lamanites.  It must have been a lonesome time for Moroni.  He records:

Moroni 1:2 – 3
2 For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.
3 And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.

Before he buries the plates he closes the record with an invitation to his readers to pray and find out for themselves the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Moroni 10:4 – 5
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Come unto Christ

If the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ, which it is, then you would expect its opening and closing words to bear witness of Christ.  The very first chapter of the 1st Nephi begins with a vision which Lehi has of Christ.

 1 Nephi 1:8 – 10
And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his aluster was above that of the sun at noon-day.
10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

The Book of Mormon closes with Moroni’s eloquent and urgent plea for his readers to come unto Christ.

 Moroni 10:32 – 33
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

I bear testimony that I have put Moroni’s promise to the test.  I have read the Book of Mormon many times.  I have asked God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if it is true.  I have received confirmations to my heart, mind and soul that it is true.  I invite my readers to do the same.

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What Are the Gold Plates?

WHAT ARE THE GOLD PLATES?  gold plates official image

One may wonder just what does the LDS church mean by the Gold Plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.   I have grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I grew up singing about the “Gold Plates.”  There is a Primary song that goes like this, “The golden plates lay hidden deep in the mountain side.”   Joseph Smith was directed by a heavenly messenger to a place on the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York to dig up a metal box containing metal plates and other artifacts.   These are referred to as the Gold Plates.  From those plates, under divine inspiration, he translated the Book of Mormon.  This is my heritage.  Yet, I recognize that to others, this idea of finding metal plates with ancient writing, dating back to 600 BC, might seem like a far-fetched idea.  Is that plausible?

Many ancient records have been found throughout the world

The world of archeology is always filled with new discoveries.  That’s the passion of archeology.  Have there been other discoveries an ancient plates?   To answer to that question is a resounding, yes!  There has been a treasure trove of ancient records written on both papyri and metal plates discovered in both the New and Old Worlds.  Research and documentation has been extensive.  Paul Cheesman, a noted archeologist, wrote the following in an LDS Ensign article.

The Plates of Darius I, ruler of Persia from 518–515 B.C., are the closest parallel to the Book of Mormon yet discovered. Two tablets, one of gold and one of silver, were placed in each stone box to be buried at the four corners of his palace. They describe the boundaries of his kingdom, praise Ahuramazda, “the greatest of all the gods,” and pray protection upon Darius “and my royal house.” They were discovered by an archaeological team in 1938. (National Archaeological Museum, Tehran, Iran.)https://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/10/ancient-writing-on-metal-plates?lang=

Extensive research has been done on the archaeology, the geology, and the culture of the Book of Mormon, knowing that if such a society existed there would be a trail of evidences left in the earth.   All research is extremely interesting and valuable, but to members of the LDS church, the validity of the Book of Mormon does not lie in external sources.   External sources do not prove that the Book of Mormon is true.  A testimony of its truthfulness comes through study and prayer.   As Paul Chessman writes, “Archaeological evidences which support The Book of Mormon do not convert, but we would hope that these thought-provoking discoveries might inspire and excite the reader to the point where they would want to study The Book of Mormon with real intent and gain a testimony of its truth.” (ibid)

What did the Gold Plates look like?

When collecting historical data various sources are often put together to form a more complete picture.  It is the same when the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.  Many people made statements describing different aspects of the plates, their appearance, size and weight.  In court, testimonies that vary slightly from each other are often seen as more truthful than when they match precisely. If all the statements are exactly the same, it can indicate that the witnesses have compared notes to fabricate a story that is too perfect.   Here is some of what we do know.  Much of this material is taken from an article in the New Era Magazine of the LDS church.  https://www.lds.org/new-era/2007/07/what-did-the-golden-plates-look-like?lang=eng

  • They had the “appearance of gold.”  It is never stated that they were made of pure gold.

“Many critics have been quick to point out that if the record was made of solid gold it would have weighed much more than a person could lift. Besides being too heavy, thin plates of pure gold would not function well as a book. The metal would be so soft that it could easily tear from the rings, and engraving would be limited to one side.

The text of the Book of Mormon itself refers to Nephi’s seeking “ore” from which to make his plates. Metal ore usually has a mixture of various metals in it. Gold and silver are often mixed together in an alloy called electrum. Logically, the Book of Mormon plates could have been composed of these two metals. Some have suggested a combination of copper and gold.”

  • They were about 6 inches by 8 inches and about 4 inches tall.
  • “They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metalic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.” (quoted by Emma Smith)
  • They weighed from 40 to 60 lbs.
  • They were bound by three “D” shaped rings.
  • A portion of the plates  were sealed to the point that they looked solid.

The plates were sealed by Moroni after he had separated from the rest of his people. He would have used materials that were readily available to him at that time. The descriptions say they were “securely bound” and “appeared solid.” The statements indicate a complete encapsulation of the plates to protect and preserve them for the future.” (Ibid)

  • There were fine engravings on both sides of the plates stained with a black, hard stain to make them more readable.
  • The writing was from right to left, consistent with the Hebrew language.

A Model of the Plates

At the top of this blog I’ve included an image of the official facsimile made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the Church History Museum.   Here is the statement by Kirk Henrichsen concerning the making of the facsimile.

“In an attempt to be as accurate as possible, all known statements about the plates were compiled and compared. Unfortunately, there was not space in this article to include all of the descriptions.

“The process of making and using the model of the plates taught us more about them and led to some logical deductions. The difficulty in making the plates would encourage a scribe to be careful to fill the whole page and not waste any space. We learned how difficult it is to turn soft metal plates over loose metal rings. You have to lift each one carefully or they bind against the rings. Pliable metal changes with the pressures of movement; it becomes brittle and breaks. The holes have to be an elongated shape larger than the rings and cannot be too close to the edges or they tear out.” (Ibid)

The Value of the Gold Plates

We do not know the monetary value of the Gold Plates, but it is certain that such an archaeological find would be highly sought after.  Joseph could have sold them for monetary gain, and in fact, was cautioned by the angel Moroni that he would tempted to do so.  The following is from Joseph Smith’s history.

 (the angel Moroni) “added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.” JSH 1:46)

Thanks be to Joseph that he was true to his calling!  To honest truth seekers the value of the plates is in the eternal truths that it contains, the testimony of Jesus Christ that permeates it pages.

A testimony of the Book of Mormon comes through faith, not sight

Would actually seeing the plates increase the likelihood of one believing that it is true? Perhaps it would motivate one to investigate further, but that investigation must be done with a sincere heart, with real intent, and with faith in Christ.  For me I do not have to see, to believe.  As Jesus said to Thomas,”Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed.”  Truly that is the beginning of a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

“Seeing the plates would not necessarily motivate someone to accept the restoration of the gospel and make changes in his or her life. That motivation comes from reading and accepting the teachings of the Book of Mormon. What really matters is the spiritual witness that is promised to those who humbly seek to know the truth of these things. A true testimony of the Book of Mormon comes from reading it and, as counseled by Moroni in a promise he left to us in Moroni 10:3–5, praying about it.” (Ibid)

I think the information about the appearance of the plates is fascinating.  I like to picture them and picture Joseph translating them.  I love the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but this is not where my testimony comes from.  I have read the Book of Mormon many times and have had a spiritual witness that it is true.   I invite all who read my blog to do the same.

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Overview of the Book of Mormon

THE BOOK OF MORMON IS TRUE!Book of Mormon

My goal in writing about the Book of Mormon is to present its truths in a clear and concise manner to those not of the LDS faith.  I have a firm testimony, born of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true and it is a second witness of Jesus Christ and his gospel.  This is my anchor.  Monday evening we had the privilege of attending a Family Home Evening in the home of our good friends Paul and Cindy Middleton.   Paul grew up in the same ward as Gracia Jones, who is a direct descendant of Joseph Smith.  She told us her conversion story.  She said that when she first held the Book of Mormon she heard a voice in her mind telling her that it was true.   As she said that, the spirit bore witness to me again that it is true.  Because of that testimony I am writing this blog and hope to eventually publish an e-book.  My blogs are going to be part of that book.

WHAT IS THE BOOK OF MORMON

The front cover of the Book of Mormon tells us exactly what it is.  It is another testament or testimony of Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.   The title page of the Book of Mormon tells that it was “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.”  It also tells us that it was “written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof.”

So, we learn the following about the Book of Mormon:

  • It was written to convince the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.
  • He manifests himself to all nations.   He is no respecter of persons.  His ministry is not limited to one people or one time
  • The Book of Mormon was written under the command of God
  • It was written by the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
  • It was translated by the gift and power of God

When a person “bears testimony” that the Book of Mormon is true, they are bearing testimony to the above truths.

WHAT THE BOOK OF MORMON IS NOT

Much has been written about the more secular aspects of the Book of Mormon such as the historical record that it presents and the geographical setting, but President James E. Faust said the following about the Book of Mormon:

“It is important to know what the Book of Mormon is not. It is not primarily a history, although much of what it contains is historical. The title page states that it is an account taken from the records of people living in the Americas before and after Christ; it was “written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. … And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”  President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated:  “The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities … is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work.”
What, then, is the Book of Mormon? It is confirming evidence of the birth, life, and Crucifixion of Jesus and of His work as the Messiah and the Redeemer. “(Ensign, Jan. 2004)

MANY WRITERS CONTRIBUTED TO THE BOOK OF MORMON

To understand the Book of Mormon it is important to understand its organization, and the times and the context in which it was written. Into this context we will fit the major writers and teachings of the Book of Mormon. We will come to know each writer and hear their specific testimony. They all testified of Christ, but each writer has their individual style and their particular emphasis.

mormonpng

Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon. He was simply the translator. Multiple writers contributed to the Book of Mormon. The title page of the Book of Mormon states the following: “An account written by the hand of Mormon upon the plates taken from the plates of Nephi.” Mormon lived around 315 to 385 AD. He had access to the many records written by various other prophets from the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem around 600 BC. The records had been engraved on metal plates. He had the onerous task of abridging these records into a manageable size. During this abridgment process he quoted verbatim several other writers.   After Mormon’s death, his son, Moroni, completed the record, adding a few of his own words.

There is a science of measuring literary style called “wordprintingor stylometry.” According to an article on FairMormon.org, a website dedicated to answering questions about the Mormon Church, the “main assumption underlying stylometry is that an author has aspects of literary style that may be unconsciously used, and be used to identify their work. Stylometrists analyze literature using statistics, math formulas and artificial intelligence to determine the “style” of an author’s writing. If wordprinting is a valid technique, then this analysis suggests that it is “statistically indefensible” to claim that Joseph Smith wrote the 30,000 words in the Book of Mormon attributed to Nephi and Alma. The Book of Mormon also contains work written by more than one author. Critics who wish to reject Joseph’s account of the Book of Mormon’s production must therefore identify multiple authors for the text, and then explain how Joseph acquired it and managed to pass it off as his own.” Though not scientific, it has been my personal experience in reading the Book of Mormon to recognize these different styles. I have felt the spirit and testimony of each one. It is as if they had become real. I have felt the “power” of their words. They have been to me as a “voice speaking from the dust.”

My focus is to be true the purpose of the Book of Mormon to bear witness that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is unique in that though it is built around the history of a people, it is interspersed with doctrine, prophesies and a witness of Jesus Christ.  That testimony is a “golden thread” running throughout the book.  The story provides the frame work and lends continuity to its structure. The history and geography help put the Book of Mormon in the time and context of the Bible, both the Old and New Testament.

In the next blog I’ll discuss in more detail the various records from which Moroni compiled the Book of Mormon

 

 

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The Mediator

MediatorIn my last blog I wrote about the gospel of Jesus Christ–that it is the power of God unto salvation as Paul states.   As the angel Gabriel told Joseph when he visited him instructing him to take Mary as his wife, Jesus was to save his people from their sins.  The “how” of that particular concept, that Jesus can save us from our sins, cannot be fully comprehended by our mortal minds.  It is a matter of faith.  President Ezra Taft Benson of the LDS Church said the following:

“We may never understand nor comprehend in mortality how He accomplished what He did, but we must not fail to understand why He did what He did.

Everything He did was prompted by His unselfish, infinite love for us. Hear His own words.”

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; …

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (D&C 19:16, 18.)

One of the best stories to illustrate our need for a Savior, the “why” and the “how,” is a story entitled “The Mediator” (this link is to the video available on lds.org) , told by Elder Boyd K. Packer, apostle in the LDS Church.  I’ve included it here in its entirety.  The idea of the balance between divine justice and mercy can be difficult to understand.  Some believe that since God loves us all we have to do is to say “I’m sorry” and everything is okay, yet divine justice requires that a penalty must be paid.  This may sound harsh, but just as in a court of law, simply apologizing does not mitigate the penalty imposed by the law, so it is in the eternal courts.  I believe that our true self, our eternal spirit self knows this and acknowledges it as fair and just.  Our true self wants to live by the law of divine justice.  It feels right and good.  Here is Elder Packer’s story:

“Let me tell you a story—a parable.

There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.

He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.

So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn’t worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.

The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.

But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.

Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.

“I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,” he confessed.

“Then,” said the creditor, “we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.”

“Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?” the debtor begged. “Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?”

The creditor replied, “Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?”

“I believed in justice when I signed the contract,” the debtor said. “It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.”

“It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,” the creditor replied. “That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.”

There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.

“If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,” the debtor pleaded.

“If I do, there will be no justice,” was the reply.

Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?

There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended—but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.Balance scales

The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.

“I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.”

As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, “You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.”

And so the creditor agreed.

The mediator turned then to the debtor. “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”

“Oh yes, yes,” cried the debtor. “You save me from prison and show mercy to me.”

“Then,” said the benefactor, “you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”

And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken. The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied.

Each of us lives on a kind of spiritual credit. One day the account will be closed, a settlement demanded. However casually we may view it now, when that day comes and the foreclosure is imminent, we will look around in restless agony for someone, anyone, to help us.

And, by eternal law, mercy cannot be extended save there be one who is both willing and able to assume our debt and pay the price and arrange the terms for our redemption.

Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice untempered, unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full recompense for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing.

But know this: Truth, glorious truth, proclaims there is such a Mediator.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5.)

Through Him mercy can be fully extended to each of us without offending the eternal law of justice.

Jesus Gethsemane

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