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.
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 “wordprinting” or 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