I have always believed that if you want to learn more about what it is like to be a horse, don’t ask a pig to tell you.
|Horses and Pigs by Naomi|
The same thing goes for Mormons. If you want to learn more about Mormons, ask a Mormon. Especially when it comes to the Book of Mormon.
Let’s begin this post with a story.
Once upon a time, long before the birth of Christ, a large family left Jerusalem on a secret journey. They were told not to start fires, not to tell anyone where they were going, and they were led by a magical object that was fueled by their faith. When they came to the end of the wilderness they fashioned a ship and sailed across an ocean to reach a new promised land. The eight-year journey was difficult; not just because of the terrain and the diet (raw meat), but also because the family could never get along. Once they arrived in the new land the family split in half—some followed one brother, the rest followed another brother. From that point on the two fractured families were at odds with each other, mainly because one group (called the Nephites) believed Christ would come and save them from their sins and the other group (the Lamanites) did not.
The families grew and multiplied, cities were built, armies were formed, battles waged. Both groups of people cycled through periods of wickedness and righteousness until ultimately, following his death and resurrection in the old world, Jesus Christ himself appeared to the people in the new world. A long blissful peace followed. However, after several generations the people started to fracture and split again, becoming more wicked than ever before until finally they all but destroyed each other.
And that, my friends, is the Book of Mormon in less than 240 words.
The Book of Mormon vs. The Bible
The Book of Mormon is like the Bible in many ways. For instance, there are long lists of tedious and seemingly pointless information. The Book of Mormon also quotes many Bible passages (much of the book of Isaiah is repeated in the Book of Mormon, as are the Beatitudes). This is not surprising since they are meant to be scripture from the same God, and, being the kind of person who needs things repeated several times before I am willing to do them, I think it is perfectly reasonable that He would emphasize the most important information twice.
And of course, there are some great stories. Take the story of Ammon, for instance, who found an ingenious way to stop thieves from stealing the king’s sheep.
|Ammon and the Lamanite by Naomi|
There’s Alma the Younger who had a miraculous change of heart and later converted hundreds of Lamanites. The Brother of Jared (strange name, but his real name is even stranger) asked the Lord to light the darkness inside his boats and was granted not only light but also insight into a great heavenly mystery. There was Mormon who became the leader of an army when he was fifteen, and there was Samuel the Lamanite, who with the protection of the Lord, could not be pierced by arrows or bruised by stones while he delivered his prophesy about the birth of the Savior.
The Book of Mormon is also filled with allegories, symbolism and metaphors that can be applied to our modern lives, just like the Bible. The Book of Mormon and the Bible do not contradict; they dovetail. They are not rivals or enemies; they are long-lost cousins.
|Cousins by Syrena|
If You Read it, Keep in Mind…
…it is not the Hunger Games (though at times you might wonder which book is bloodier). With all these great stories of faith and miracles, battles and stratagem, don’t expect it to be a page-turner. Mark Twain famously described the Book of Mormon as “chloroform in print.”
But the Book of Mormon wasn’t written to entertain, it was written to testify. People who love the Book of Mormon love it for the same reasons people love the Bible—not for its plotting and character development—but because it inspires us to be better people. A careful reader will discover what the book is really about: faith, obedience, forgiveness, and the power of perfect love.
It is not written so that you could feverishly turn the pages, but it was written to turn your heart. And only someone reading it with an open heart will understand what I am talking about.
Why More Scripture?
You would think that having more scripture to add to the Bible would be more trouble than it is worth. And for what purpose? Most people haven’t even read the Bible the whole way through, so why add more scripture?
Besides, it would be a bold and stupid undertaking for a man to create a fake book of scripture about an entire ancient population and pass it off for truth. It would be a lot of work, too. Too much to be worth it. So why did Joseph Smith do it?
Because an angel told him to, of course.
(We will discuss the Strange Mormon Custom of Angels some other time.)
We don’t believe the book was “written” by Joseph Smith. We believe it was translated by him. It was actually written by many different people. Ancient people.
But we still haven’t answered the question: if the Book of Mormon echoes what the Bible already says, why is it necessary?
Everyone knows evidence is more compelling when it comes in twos and threes. Even though there are fervent seekers of truth who would readily believe just one account of Christ in the New Testament, the Lord generously gives us four (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
The Book of Mormon is yet another witness of Christ. What makes it unique and important is that it is a witness of the New World, as the Bible is a witness of the Old World, showing that Jesus Christ is not just the savior of one people or one continent, but of all people and all continents.
At the start of my post I summed up the Book of Mormon in 240 words, but I can do better than that. I can sum up the Bible and the Book of Mormon in just eight: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.
One More Thing
The Book of Mormon is one of those books in which you will find what you seek. If you are seeking for something to mock or disprove (or an alternative to chloroform) you will find it. If you are seeking for truth and light and another witness of the reality of Christ and his power, you will find it.
I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from the Book of Mormon:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. 2 Nephi 31:20
The Spirit speaketh truth and lieth not. Jacob 4:13
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. Mosiah 3:17
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order: for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he ha strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. Mosiah 4:27
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon our shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. Mosiah 24:14
Yea, I know that I am nothing: as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. Alma 26: 12
Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If you have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God? Alma 33:14
Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. Alma 43:45
I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive not witness until after the trial of your faith. Ether 12:6
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble: and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27
God has not ceased to be a God of miracles. Mormon 9:15