What is the Book of Mormon?

bom1The “musical of the century” (or however it’s actually being billed) has made it to my neck of the woods.  Book of Mormon: the Musical has come to town. I haven’t seen it, I don’t intend to see it anymore than I would plan on seeing any show or movie that covers topics that offend my sensibilities, and there are more than just joking around about my faith. However, the musical, the missionaries going to the theater area to offer people the opportunity to learn more about what our church really believes and does, and other things kind of started me thinking that perhaps an introductory post about the Book of Mormon would be in order.

What the Book of Mormon Is NOT:

  • A comprehensive history of what happened in the ancient Americas.
  • A replacement for the Bible.

What the Book of Mormon IS:

  • Sacred scripture, to members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • A second witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (see the front cover).
  • An abridgment of records kept by people living in the ancient Americas, but only sacred records.
  • Proof that God can choose to speak to and inspire His children as He sees fit.

A Simplified Background

A man named Lehi was called to be a prophet to wicked Jerusalem, as were many others during his time. His preaching put him and his family at risk, so God led the family out of Jerusalem and eventually to somewhere on the American continents. (A favorite passtime for some Latter-day Saints is to try to figure out where that landing would have occurred.) Lehi’s son, Nephi, was commanded by God to begin keeping records on metal plates. This continued throughout the history of their civilization.

After hundreds of years, the civilization was dying out — largely because of wars and refusal to keep God’s commandments. A prophet named Mormon was called of God to begin abridging sacred records. He went back to leading part of the army and was killed in battle. His son, Moroni, finished the abridgement and hid it in a stone box in a hill that, during the time of Joseph Smith, was in the state of New York.

Joseph Smith was told by an angel where the plates were located and given instructions on how and when to retrieve them. He was given power by God to translate the records, and the translation is known today as the Book of Mormon.

Sounds a bit out there, doesn’t it? But is it really any crazier than believing that Peter walked on water, Jonah lived for three days in the belly of a “big fish,” or an entire nation of people walked throug the middle of a sea on dry ground?

“Proving” the Book of Mormon

In all honesty, I don’t expect the Book of Mormon to be proven true beyond a doubt. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to prove the voyages mentioned in the book, find relics that can ONLY be taken as from this ancient civilization, or that DNA studies or other tests will ever fully support the writings of the Book of Mormon. So, why do I believe it really is scripture from God?

Well, the first thing I have learned in my dealings with God is that He really does set things up so that faith is required. While I don’t totally understand it, I do know that faith is a very true power, and that we need to develop it during our time on earth. If everything were proven, there would be no need for faith. However, if you are (as I was) willing to step out on faith and truly intend to follow through with the answers you receive, there is a spiritual test that you can put the Book of Mormon through: near the end of the Book of Mormon, there is a passage of scripture (Moroni 10:3-5) that gives a formula for testing the truthfulness of the book.

  1. Study the Bible and know how good God has been to people.
  2. Read the Book of Mormon, and compare it with the Bible.
  3. Pray and ask God if the things you are reading are true.

Remember, though, the caution found in James, chapter 1: If you lack wisdom, you can ask God, but you must ask in faith with “nothing wavering.” In other words, you’ve got to trust that God is really going to answer and be ready to act on the answer to your prayers.

Further Reading: