Book of Mormon

How do you feel when you read the Book of Mormon? Several times I’ve heard some people say, “It’s just like the Bible”.

I remember thinking that myself.  In fact, it may be, or seem similar to the Bible in many ways; however I honestly did not enjoy reading the Book of Mormon as much as I had always enjoyed my Bible.

I marvelled that Joseph Smith translated it within only a couple of months, while for eight months I struggled to get to the end of it. I had a difficult time reading it and wouldn’t come near to saying that I even enjoyed reading it at all. It was a trial. I did it out of duty to the Lord.  Seven years later, it pains me to admit that.

Right now I am reading and studying this marvelous book for the fourth or fifth time and I am thoroughly amazed that I ever did struggle so.

There are nuggets of gold, incredible truths buried within these scriptures that flood the heart and soul. Each day as I sit and ponder what I’ve gleaned with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, my heart overflows with deep love and joy and gratitude for Heavenly Father’s goodness to His children.

“And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
 
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”    1 Nephi 11:22-23

It is my desire to continue to give this study all of my mind, my heart and strength. Communing with the Lord in this way has become the highlight of my day.

With the Book of Mormon, God has provided you and me something priceless. Can we ever know in this lifetime the full breadth and depth of all of those blessings that we have been offered?

“The Book of Mormon is true. And was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the last days.” Jeffrey R. Holland
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Testimony of the Book of Mormon

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As promised last week, for your interest I’ve included the transcript of a couple of questions about the Book of Mormon that John Dehlin asks of Terryl Givens (professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond and commentator).

While I may not feel the need for this kind of input, I do appreciate that there are some who may struggle and seek others’ observations. And too, I really enjoy Givens’ insights regarding what we learn about revelation from the Book of Mormon. 🙂

Dehlin:

“…It seems possible that through some sort of conspiracy, that this book (The Book of Mormon) could have been written secretly by a group of people. What are your thoughts on that?”

Givens:

“Well, I think it all depends on what are the presuppositions with which you begin your investigation of the Book of Mormon. If you’re beginning with the assumption either that Joseph was a fraud, or that there is no such thing as supernaturalism, then of course you have to come out with some kind of an environmental explanation for how Joseph put this stuff together. And if you’re proceeding on that set of assumptions then these kinds of theories that you’re talking about are the most plausible and reasonable ones that one can suggest-the best that we can come up with.

“Perfect Beauty and Symmetry and Organic Unity”

But I’m not disadvantaged in that way. I don’t have to prima facie exclude supernaturalism or the possibility of modern prophets because those possibilities are just part of my world view. They’re part of my paradigm. And then I also come at it from a different perspective because my whole life has been devoted to the study of literature-to the reading of texts.

…I find those theories utterly incompatible with the perfect beauty and symmetry and organic unity of the Book of Mormon as a literary work.”

Dehlin:

“Really?!”

Givens:

“Yeah. Absolutely. There’s coherence to it. In the very first-the opening chapters- where Lehi has a series of visions and experiences, there are a series of themes that are laid out. Revelation. Christ. Scriptures. And Zion in the wilderness. And those themes are carried and executed throughout the book with such perfect consistency from beginning to end. Especially the theme of revelation.

The very first real theological claim that the Book of Mormon makes, of what I think is real importance, is 1 Nephi 10 when Nephi is talking about the experience his father had with the vision of the tree of life. And he goes to the Lord and asks if he can have that same vision. The angel says, “What, don’t you believe the words of your father?”

Well, the entire Old Testament tradition is predicated on the notion that prophecy is given to prophets. Revelation is the province of leaders of nations or peoples. And at that moment, Nephi says, “Yea, thou knowest I believe all the words of my father.” And then the angel breaks into this hosanna shout and gives Nephi his own private personal vision.

“Individualized Personalized Revelation”

So at that moment early in the Book of Mormon it’s established that the major theological divergence of the Book of Mormon from the Christian scriptural canon is the principle of individualized personalized revelation. And that is carried out thematically throughout the book, in such a pervasive way.

“And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.” Moroni 10:29

Fathers get revelation for their sons, generals get revelation as to where the Lamanites are going to attack, hunters get revelation as to where to look for the deer, enquirers get answers to theological questions and doctrinal  questions and then the book ends with a return to that exact same theme, right, where Moroni makes the extended process to a futurity.

So, in that way and in terms of the Christology that is so pervasive everything in the book chronologically and thematically is oriented around the centrality of Christ’s incarnation. It doesn’t make sense to me to try to explain that literary work as a kind of potpourri, as a kind of pastiche of all kinds of odds and ends that just come together from a variety of sources.

And then other more subtle indications, like the way the audience is so carefully constructed and shifts, from Nephi’s family and  posterity, to a Lamanite people who were going to displace the Nephites, and gradually by the end of the Book of Mormon it’s to an unknown audience through whom this record will come by means unknown.

“Cohesive, Coherent Literary Work”

This isn’t to my mind compelling proof that the Book of Mormon is inspired or ancient, but it is compelling proof to my mind that we’re working here with a literary work that is cohesive, coherent and not to be explained as I said in terms of this kind of ad hoc constitution or mosaic.

I think in this regard, Grant Hardy has done a magnificent job of showing that there is a complexity and a literary sophistication to this work that even Fawn Brody and others were far from fully appreciating.”

(some dialogue)

“…that’s the striking thing about Joseph is that again and again, he chose the most difficult possible way to perpetrate a fraud. Why not follow the path of Jacob Burma, or Immanuel Swedenborg or a thousand other mystics, who said, “Well, I fell into this dream trance and this book was revealed to me.” Why pretend that you’ve got an actual physical artifact that you have to prove to people exists. Why develop a Christology that is completely out of sync with what would be more plausible in terms of an ancient American record. So, yeah, there’s a certain perverseness to his self destructiveness, if he was a fraud.

Dehlin:

Yeah, because… If it were a fraud, right, if it were a conspiracy, he brought his wife into it, he brought his parents into it, he brought his siblings into it, he brought Martin Harris into it, Oliver Cowdery, the Witmers-all those people and nobody, nobody broke the agreement, right?

Givens:

“Well, that to my mind is one of the oldest defenses made of the Book of Mormon and it’s always been, I think, the most compelling. The fact that so many of those witnesses defected from the church, that broke personally with Joseph Smith, only enhances the value of their testimony with regard to the Book of Mormon, because that would have only added additional weight to expose the fraud, and yet, not a single one ever did.”

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on the earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” Joseph Smith

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Would you like your own Book of Mormon? Contact me.

Or Call 888-537-2200 and ask for one. It’s free!

“There have been many people who have prayed, as your Mormon friends suggested, and felt that God was not leading them because of the “off the wall” doctrine. Did God lead them in a different way or do we assume that those people were not sincerely open to God’s leading?”

A few weeks after I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I received a letter from a very dear friend, asking me this question. I had no idea how to respond at that time. I’ve often pondered that question. Even today, what can I say?

God gave me a powerful witness of the Book of Mormon so that I know with all my heart and mind that it truly is a historical work and that it is a third testament of Jesus Christ. Why me? And why do others not receive the same?

I believe my instincts kept me from searching the internet for anti Mormon literature. And instincts kept me from approaching my past leaders to ask them for their opinion or guidance.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord” Jeremiah 17:5

I just knew that a biased opinion, even if knowledgeable on some important issues would make my way very murky and would more than likely, completely add confusion to an already seemingly overwhelming task-that of learning the truth for myself.

Based on what I’d learned from reading my Bible, I believed that God was interested personally in me, desired for me to do His will and would lead me in the direction of His choosing. I chose to remain completely dependent on Him to reveal His truth to me. So, I followed direction, and sought first to read the Book of Mormon and then pray as instructed.

Though it may not be necessary for everyone to receive a testimony as soon as possible when investigating the church, it is a great advantage in my opinion. True, I didn’t study everything about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before I received my witness. True I knew very little about the church, which scared everyone around me to death!

Putting first things first enabled powerful enough evidence for me to withstand naysayers. Powerful enough to endure others anger, contention, bitterness and difficult questions.

And especially, powerful enough to endure the fiery darts of the adversary-with truths that immediately got thrown in the path -twisted and bent out of shape to be almost unrecognizable as good and holy and pure as their origin.

Was it not for Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost to help recognize and discern the differences between truth and error, how very lost I would be.

There are many people desiring to know the truth and desiring to know which church is true but don’t know where to find it. Just as sad is the reality that people feel dependent on knowledgeable men, scholars, books or the internet to point the way to truth, rather than asking and seeking of God.

For example, just about that same time, one of my family members stated that a preacher friend said that he had studied Joseph Smith for 2 years and had decided he was a fraud. Again, I was not sure how to respond. (I had not yet received a testimony of Joseph Smith as God’s true prophet.)

Today, I would say, “One does not study Joseph Smith. Study Jesus Christ. Look only to Him, give Him your whole heart, mind and soul, trust Him and ask Him what the truth is that He would have you seek. Believe that He desires to answer you.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him”  Jeremiah 17:7

While you are seeking, first and foremost, seek a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Read it. Ponder upon the words. Pray. Ask. Once you know the truth for yourself, once you commit to this marvelous church and have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, you will be able to discern and sift the truth of all other matters regarding this marvelous church.

Afterwards, when you find yourself mired in controversial stuff, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost will strengthen and guide you into all truth. Even then, be vigilant in praying and seeking the Lord for answers, as the adversary may be be hard at work, seeking your downfall.

Do you have a testimony of the Book of Mormon?

Brothers and Sisters, those of you that are converts to the church, are welcome to share your testimonies or conversion experience here.

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Next week, in “Addressing the Book of Mormon, Part 2”, for your interest I’ll post a transcript of an interview including a couple of commonly asked questions regarding the Book of Mormon. Terryl Givens, professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond and commentator, elucidates.

You’d like your own Book of Mormon? Do contact me.

Or call 888-537-2200 and ask for one. It’s free!