Where Is the Book of Mormon?

Nov 19, 15 Where Is the Book of Mormon?

Posted by in Book of Mormon, Featured, scripture, Temple

In 1832, with the infant church barely two years old, the Lord announced to Joseph Smith that it stood condemned for not taking seriously the things which had been written, especially in the “new covenant,” the Book of Mormon.[1] One hundred and fifty four years later, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Church once more risked such condemnation.[2] Now I fear we again face that danger. Of course, the Book of Mormon remains central to our religious identity. It is the keystone of our missionary efforts. We continue to encourage converts and youth to read it and pray to know whether it is true. But the actual details of what the Book of Mormon says are conspicuously absent from much of our practice and discussions. Instead, we seem to have reduced it to a mere artifact, a sign that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Church is true. Such behavior cannot be pleasing to the Lord, who described the Book of Mormon as containing the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[3] Joseph Smith said that we “would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”[4] To do so, however, we must actually follow what is written in its pages, not just rely on the fact of its existence. Our regard for the actual words of the Book of Mormon is especially crucial at this time of turmoil within the Church.[5] As we collectively wrestle with what it means to be Mormon – how we should live our lives and run our Church – we would be well-served to return to the principles of the “new covenant.” Let us consider some of what that encompasses and what it does not.[6] Perhaps surprisingly, the Book of Mormon does not include: Eternal Families. There is no promise of celestial marriage or eternal families in the entire book. Instead, even when the Book of Mormon does talk about families, the focus remains firmly on individual salvation, supported by family, church,...

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Columbus: An Essential Part of My Faith No Matter How Many People He Murdered

Oct 12, 15 Columbus: An Essential Part of My Faith No Matter How Many People He Murdered

Posted by in Featured

FYI: As a Mormon I am *required* to venerate Columbus. Maybe you didn’t know that, and not that that would have stopped you from denigrating a man who is essential to my faith. Well, Columbus veneration is a deeply held and authoritative tenet of my faith—I mean, it’s not *required* in the sense that I’ll be kicked out, but everyone knows what faithful people should *really* believe, if you catch my drift—that to believe in Columbus is to also believe in Christ, and to not believe in Columbus…Well. You see where I’m going with this. Now, I don’t think historians are “evil.” I accept that there are documents detailing Columbus’ enslavement of thousands of natives and his initiation of the transatlantic slave trade, his torture of innocent people, his rape and pillage of Hispaniola, his fearful inspiring of mass suicide, his selling of little girls into sex slavery, his setting in motion events that would ultimately lead to indigenous human extinction—all these are just the facts of history. I’m not anti-history. But historians are also selective, and don’t often talk about the other facts, that Columbus was also really religious, and a great navigator of the seas, who had a bold and adventuresome spirit, and saw himself as spreading Christianity for the glory of God. So no, the man wasn’t perfect. Who among us is? None of these imperfections change the fact that he was clearly the nameless man in the Book of Mormon whom the Spirit of God fell upon and then completely abandoned the moment he laid eyes on a native girl, who came to the Americas apparently alone, practically the only guy on the open seas, whom Nephi clearly foresaw, without whom the Restoration of the Gospel could never ever have happened ever. Yes, that figure is clearly Columbus and he’s an essential part of my religion. Sure, his methods for spreading Christianity for God’s glory seem a bit unorthodox. And I’ll freely admit that without him, so many other bloodthirsty...

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My Experience Reading the Holy Qur’an

I recently had the opportunity to visit the East London Mosque with a group of study abroad students. We were given a tour of the mosque and learned some of the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith tradition. At one point our tour guide made the following comment: “How do we know that the Qur’an is true? Because it was given by an angel to the Prophet Muhammad who was from a rural background with little education. How could someone with so little schooling have produced something as pure and true as the Holy Qur’an?” With this my Mormon ears immediately perked up as I’d heard a similar argument many times before in my life about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. So I decided to give it a try. I’d never read the Qur’an before and so I picked up a copy and read the text cover to cover over the course of about two months this summer. What follows are some of my general impressions of my experience with the Qur’an. For full disclosure: I am completely unqualified to speak authoritatively about Islam in any way. My intention is merely to offer my perspective as an “outsider” who knows only a little about Islam. Anyone with more than a passing familiarity would be able to offer better context and analysis than what I present below. Any errors in how Islam is presented are entirely my own. SCATTERED IMPRESSIONS AND REACTIONS The first thing that struck me was how “familiar” the narrative of the Qur’an felt, especially given how much Islam is unfortunately so often perceived as “The Other” in contemporary American religious culture. In fact, at times it felt much like I was reading the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). There are narratives of prophets and heroes. God commands regulations for prayer, diet, community interactions, family structures, charity, and social justice. There are multiple narratives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Pharaoh, and others from the Bible. There are also a fair number...

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Does Joseph Smith Pass the Biblical Prophet Test?

I have always enjoyed scripture study. I was attempting to “feast on the words” of the Bible but it had always been difficult for me. There seemed to often be some bit of historical context I was missing, or certain passages that seemed to contradict Mormon doctrine. To make matters worse, each time I would look through all of the Mormon resources I had available to me, the verses or chapters I had the most questions about seemed to be completely ignored. I looked everywhere to find Mormon-written books on the Bible to provide answers: Institute and Seminary manuals, commentaries available at Deseret Book, etc. I found almost all of them to be unsatisfying; most were devotional in nature, and typically used the verses as a starting point from which to quote from prophets and apostles, which meant it didn’t really address the scriptures directly. I went on a search for non-Mormon commentaries and first found a lot of Evangelical commentaries which were often more scholarly and certainly longer and more in-depth, but just as frustrating. When it came to interpretations of scripture, everything had to fit in an evangelical belief system. So while I had found more detailed commentaries, I was simply trading one religious interpretation for another. Eventually I found more academic commentaries such as the Anchor Bible series. Some may argue that these commentaries still have a bias, simply an academic or even non-believing bias. However, I found them refreshing. Rather than sweeping confusing passages under a rug and quoting from other parts of the Bible to support a position, the commentators actually read what the scriptures said, and tried to interpret what it means, even if it contradicts other scripture. This academic approach also created problems, however. I quickly ran into areas of academic consensus which were either superficially, or entirely opposed, to Mormon Doctrine. While Mormons emphasize the importance of scripture written by Prophets, I learned that many books attributed to famous Biblical figures were actually not written by...

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I’m Sorry Argentina

I’m sorry Argentina. I taught you incorrectly. When I served my mission in Rosario, Argentina 94-96 I misled the people I taught. I feel terrible because I fell in love with the people there. I was treated with kindness and respect. They welcomed me into their homes, we ate together, sung together, prayed together and cried together. I am forever changed because of the love they showed me. When I was a young missionary I wanted to improve the discussions or “charlas” as we called them. We were provided  a flip chart that had illustrations so that the investigator could better understand. I’m sure it was hard enough to understand with our American accents. In the flip chart, there weren’t many images to relate to during the teachings. Especially in the first charla. So I took the liberty to add more. My resource was old Liahona and Ensign magazines that every missionary apartment had. I began my search with scissors and a glue stick in hand. I found some great ones and the investigators, I felt were getting a better idea of what was being taught. So instead of just this image: I also included this:     See how much better the story is told with these images? You get Joseph studying… and then God the Father and Jesus appeared while I recited “Vi una columna de luz, mas brillante que el sol…”. There were no images that explained the Book of Mormon in the flip charts so I went to the Church’s publications to find a picture of how the translation happened. This is where I totally went wrong. I searched for images of the Urim and Thummim, but I couldn’t find any. I remembered one from my youth, but I couldn’t find it any of the hundreds of magazines that were stacked in my apartment.  I did, however, find a ton of Joseph with him studying/reading the plates with either him writing or a scribe writing. I settled for these images: During the lesson, I would...

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Missing Grace

Salvation by grace is all over the Book of Mormon like white on rice. And by grace, I don’t mean the modern Mormon misconception of a little dollop doled out by God after we have done everything we can possibly do. I mean the superabundance of grace God gives us to be saved without our doing anything at all. A grace separate and apart from works. A grace that precedes works. A grace God is dying to give us for the asking. Grace figures in every major conversion story in the Book of Mormon. These stories are structured so there can be no mistake the protagonists are saved by grace without their having to do anything to earn it, to qualify for it, or to merit it. That is because, time after time, the people being saved are in a state where they are rendered immobile. In other words, they literally can do nothing. They can’t move a finger. And so the salvation that comes to them while in this state cannot be the result of any work of their own, but purely and solely through the grace and mercy of God. Story No. 1 (Mosiah 27; Alma 36)—Mine by the Right of the White Election! Alma the Younger, full of sin, while on his wicked way to destroy the Church, ran into an angel blocking his path. Alma was struck down by the angel and remained motionless for three days. But things were going on in his mind . . . and in his heart. Alma, recognizing his plight, called upon God for mercy, and was instantaneously saved by the grace of God. (Alma 36:18) Upon arising, he proclaimed that he was “redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.” (Mosiah 27:24) Alma the Younger was saved by grace. All he had to do was ask. It was not based on any works of his, for the only works he had done before being saved were evil, and he could...

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The Keystone Dichotomy

“This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God… If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions… The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; If false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it… If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of deception, and to be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments – by evidences adduced from scripture and reason…” — Elder Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Liverpool, 1851, pp. 1-2 “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church…” –President Ezra Taft Benson “I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed...

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I Don’t Want to Be On your Team

I wrote a post not that long ago titled Why I Left. You can read it if you want but essentially I put the Church on blast for pretty much everything I think is wrong with it. I meant every word of it. Right away I received more than a few supportive messages which gave me both strength comfort. Then there were a few messages that seem to imply that I had been drafted into the 2014 cool kids club. To be clear, I don’t want to be on anyone’s team. Relationships are important to me but I don’t want to be in a clique. I just want to work through these issues with the support of faithful members and those who are a little critical. I still love the Church very much. I don’t think that is so weird or uncommon. Navigating a faith crisis for me has at times created so much cognitive dissonance I have, just like the wine press, let more than a few tears under the crushing pressure of it all. I think as time moves on the amount of venom I spit will lessen. With time comes maturity, which may lessen the frequency of my Internet tantrums. I may respond to these overwhelming and heart wrenching experiences with more sensitivity and love. I love the gospel but loathe the patriarchal hierarchy. I love the Saints and hope one day to be able to attend meetings with them again. I thought I’d take a break from my normal polemics and share a few reasons out why I still love the Church. The Book of Mormon– I have a very intimate and meaningful relationship with the Book of Mormon. My wife and kids know it’s my favorite book but not many others would. I still read from it regularly. I honestly don’t give a damn about horses, swords, or cement. I’m not interested in discussions involving evidences for or against historicity. Navel gazing is not my thing. Instead, I prefer to focus on the book’s...

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Is Revelation Just Divine Dictation? – The LDS.org Book of Mormon Translation Essay

As part of their “Gospel Topics” essays, the Church released an article on the translation of the Book of Mormon [1]. Some of the controversial topics discused include the use of the “seer stone” vs the “Urim and Thummim” and the use of a hat along with these stones. The most interesting section to me, however, was “The Mechanics of Translation.” What was interesting about it? First, they set up the process of tanslation as being somewhat mysterious. They quote Joseph Smith as saying, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon.” They go on to quote those that recall the translation, usually from decades later, to describe what happened. There was one very obvious omission, however. The document they refused to use comes from the time of the translation (1829). It comes directly from the mouth of Joseph Smith as recorded by Oliver Cowdery, not as a later recollection but as a scribe taking down his words. It contains a description of how translation of the Book of Mormon is performed. Is this a rare document? Were they unaware of it? It’s unlikely, that document is contained right in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 9. Because they set up the translation process as being so mysterious one would think they would use any information available. Secular historians would agree that D&C 9 contains the words of Joseph Smith, believing Mormons would say that those words of Joseph Smith are also the words of the Lord. Regardless, it’s a much better source than secondhand and thirdhand memories. In an earlier revelation (D&C 8), the Lord tells Oliver that he too can translate the Book of Mormon. After Oliver tries and fails, the Lord explains why he was unsuccessful; that explanation is D&C 9. Why would the authors of the essay ignore D&C 9? It can’t be because they didn’t know about it. We must assume some competency on the part of the writers....

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Book of Mormon on Trial: Bob Rees

Feb 04, 15 Book of Mormon on Trial: Bob Rees

Posted by in Apologetics, Featured

This is Bob Rees’ essay in response to Earl Wunderli’s essay. Below you will find Earl’s essay along with Bob’s responses in blue. To read Earl Wunderli’s essay click here. Hi Bob: Thank you for sending your FAIR paper to Tom Kimball for forwarding to me. I’ve read it with great interest and will respond to it here. In your Abstract, you note two criticisms. First, you write that my case “exaggerates Joseph Smith’s intellectual and cultural background and compositional skills.” Some believers are indeed convinced that the Book of Mormon is true because Joseph Smith could not have written it himself. It was because of this stumbling block for some readers of my book that I explore this briefly in a section entitled “Joseph Smith as Author” on pages 50-56, pointing out that beyond his limited formal schooling, he was intelligent if not a genius, a good reader who read widely and studied the Bible, and was creative, imaginative, and a good story teller, among other things. We don’t know just how intelligent Joseph Smith was, or how much he was handicapped by his cultural background, or what kind of compositional skills he had. Such judgments were what I was trying to avoid in my research. Based on my research, which, I believe, shows that the Book of Mormon is a nineteenth century creation, I would argue that we may well underestimate Joseph Smith’s intelligence and compositional skills, and overemphasize his cultural background. Earl: You refer to the belief that some (including me) have that Joseph didn’t have, as I put it, the “intellectual and cultural background and compositional skills” to have written the Book of Mormon as a “stumbling block” (“an impediment to belief or convict ion”), but it seems to me it is no more so than that the opposite is a “stumbling block” to those like you who are convinced otherwise. My argument, which I make in my article “Joseph Smith and the American Renaissance” (Dialogue ) and for which...

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