Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why Joseph Smith Didn't write the Book of Mormon


The Book of Mormon is a remarkable book. It is filled with spiritual commentaries, explanations, revelations, personal conversions and an account of the Savior's visit to some of his "other sheep". I really am lost to understand why so many people get so offended by it. It is beautiful!

I have always had an appreciation for the Book of Mormon. I never doubted its authenticity. One reason I have such conviction is because I have read it. I am baffled that a person could read this book and not be inspired by the Holy Ghost. How could anyone find fault with a book that so thoroughly teaches us to follow Jesus Christ? 

In recent years I have become even more sure of the purity and divinity of this book. I have mentioned before that I have some acquaintances who are Messianic. In general, they shun traditional Christian practices and observe the Law of Moses or Torah. In my conversations with these Torah-Observant Christians, I found some overlap with LDS beliefs. I also found their conclusions confusing.

I would ask "What about the verse taht says Jesus is the last and great sacrifice?" or What about Jesus' explanation of how he fulfilled the law?". I got such strange looks! It turned out those phrases (and many others) are in the Book of Mormon.

First Alma explains the Law of Moses and that the Savior will fulfill the Law.

14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. Alma 34


Later, during the Savior's visit, he explains more about the fulfilling of the Law of Moses.

19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. 3 Nephi 9


3 And he said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.

4 Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.
5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.
6 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.
7 And because I said unto you that old things have passed away, I do not destroy that which hath been spoken concerning things which are to come.
8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.
9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. 3 Nephi 15

Since my first encounters with Messianics I have read the Book of Mormon twice. I have also searched and studied more about the Law of Moses so that I might better understand my friends. I have been truly amazed by the Book of Mormon! It is filled with explanations about the Law of Moses! The Book of Mormon also shows the dangers of trying to follow the Law without continuous revelation.

Alma, a prophet, went to teach a group of people called the Zoramites. They were teaching false doctrines. When Alma encountered them, this is what he heard.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.


17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God. Alma 31

When I read this, after an unpleasant encounter with a Messianic, I had chills! (Not the good kind!) This man, unlike others I have met of this faith, said many of the same things the Zoramites said! The next few chapters give a chilling warning of how far people might go if they are lead away by false teachings.

I am not trying to insult my Messianic friends. This isn't really about them and their beliefs. My point is that the Book of Mormon has answers, MANY answers, to the questions these seekers of truth are asking. Their reasoning is sound if the Bible is their only source. They reject the "traditions of men" and seek to follow the truest form of the gospel as they see it. I have great respect for that. But my testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon has grown exponentially because of this experience.

Let's say, just for the sake of arguement, that Joseph Smith, an uneducated, 24 year-old farmer from rural New York, made up the Book of Mormon. How could he know that such questions about the Law of Moses might come up one day? In the 1800's the religious fervor was about Protestant religions.Someone seeking to write a reliegious book at the time might write one that oposes the protestant movement or even the Catholic church. I find it hard to believe that someone would have the insight to include so much about the Law of Moses. Why would he do that?

The answer is, he didn't. No man or even a  committee of men could have the forsight to write it. Only God could author such a book! It was through divine inspiration that this book was written by ancient prophets. Divine guidance brought about its translation. There can be no other logial explaination. Either Jospeh Smith was the greatest writer to ever live or he was who he claimed to be; a prophet of God, called to restore the true church on the earth.





9 comments:

Kristi said...

I also disagree with the Messianics but it is based on the Bible (Rom. 7) which is complete and covers this issue long before the BoM came about. When many in Rome tried to put new Christians under the Old Law Paul addressed that. Your arguements for the validity of the BoM are weak. Many uneducated young men are very eloquent and imaginitive. He included mention of the law of Moses because including references to the Bible added an air of authority and it had certainly shaped his thinking and vocabulary. He even copied portions of scripture into the BoM. While the BoM does contain wisdom and some truth and can even be emotionally inspiring that does not make it God's revelation anymore than the Declaration of Independence can be called God's revelation. I don't find the BoM offensive but I do not find it to be God's Holy and inspired word.

Kristi said...

I had to look it up but I wanted to add that Galatians also addresses those who tried to live under the law.

Amy said...

Kristi, I agree that there is biblical evidence(at least to my mind) that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ. Hebrews is pretty clear on this too. The problem is that some Messiancis don't accept Paul as having authority. One man even told me "you can't trust anything after Acts to be the word of God." ?! There is a serious aversion to what some percieve as "traditions of man" How Jewish traditions are okay and Christian traditions aren't is beyond me!But this is beside the point of my reply.

I might have misrepresented this as a complete explaination of why I believe the Book of Mormon is true. It is not even close to complete. This post (http://howtobesuperwoman.blogspot.com/2011/09/why-do-you-believe.html) might give you a little more insight into my personal beliefs on this subject.

I wrote this as one more example of why the Book of Mormon is true. I know the New Testament gives some explaination of the Law of Moses. Obviously it isn't clear enough or there wouldn't be Messianics or similar groups. Nor would there be denominations or even different versions of the Bible. We would all be Catholic or Orthodox. We would all use the same Bible. 1 Corinthians 1:10, for example, says that we should all be perfectly joined together with no divisions. These divisions alone are proof to me that the Bible is not enough. There are too many ways to interpret what it says.

The Law of Moses required at least 2 witnesses. (Deut 17:6 and 19:15) This law of witnesses was still in effect in New Testament times.(Matt. 18:16, Heb. 10:28, 1Tim. 5:19, 2 Cor. 13:1) It is a pattern that God uses to declare his word. When there is a discrepency, he sends a second witness. Paul himself was not convinced by a single witness of Jesus Christ. His conversion may have been an extreme but it was necassary to forward the work of God.
The Book of Mormon is not a replacement of the Bible, nor is it a contradiction. It is the second witness. When there are misunderstandings of what the Bible says (like with Messianics) the Book of Mormon can clarify. The examples I have given in this post are significant to me. There are many more. If you really want to know more reasons Joseph Smith didn't write the Book of Mormon, I would be happy to share them.

Kristi said...

We are not likely to change each others minds but I do enjoy the discussion and a friendly debate. :) I'll have to go read the post that you've mentioned here.

My response to the issue of denominational divisions as evidence of the insufficiency of the Bible would be that we have a different cause and effect as we look at these circumstances. I would say that these divisions are a result of sin and our fallen natures. In spite of the saving work of Christ the process of sanctification is not complete until we get to heaven. We still have errors in our thinking and views of God not to mention in our ability to lovingly interact with each other. And it's not that we can't know Him now but we can't perfectly know him or "Know him even as we are known" (1 Cor 13:9-12) until heaven. Here's a good article with scripture references about sanctification (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/being-and-becoming/)


I hear that goofy stuff about "don't believe anything after Acts" too and I think it's evidence that sin still colors our view of God and scripture. It's only by the grace of God that we understand anything. The Holy spirit was given to us to illuminate the scripture for us but more than a few people have confused their own will with the Holy Spirit.

Here would be my follow-up question: The Mormon church is certainly not free of divisions even though they have the BofM. You have described the BofM as the second revelation needed to clarify or complete the Bible to prevent divisions. So why has it not brought unity to the Mormon church?

The issue of multiple witnesses was required for legal matters between men. It was not something that God applied to himself. (Duet 19:15) He (and His word) is a witness unto itself. (1 John 5:6-12, Rev. 22:18-19) He is GOD so to say that his word requires seperate confirmation shocks me. You also mentioned that there are multiple translations of the Bible which is true but there have also been several revisions of the BofM over the years. I would see that as at least a similar issue to multiple translations of the Bible. Revisions and Translations are very different things but they both imply an incomplete or inaccurate previous edition. I see translations (good ones) as trying to find way to say the same thing in a new language that was said in the original language. Revisions usually imply a correction of a previous error.

And may I say again that I truly enjoy respectful discussion of different viewpoints and I would love to continue.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I appreciated your research here. And even though it's not my conversation here, I just wanted to add that, actually, I do believe the Declaration of Independence (and the constitution) was God-inspired, and so did its authors.

Also, any divisions among Mormons come for the same reasons that there are divisions among any religion-- people live the doctrines to varying degrees. People are proud and sometimes pick and choose what is most convenient to believe or obey, but that does not change the doctrines or what God has revealed.

Kristi said...

So you believe that the Declaration of Indepence was the perfect, infallaible, revelation of God? That's the point that I was trying to make. Because something is inspiring does not mean that it is God's word. It's not an arguement, but I suspect that many authors of the DofI would be horrified to have the Bible or BofM put on equal footing with their work. Because something is inspired by God (inspired - aroused or guided by or as if aroused or guided by divine inspiration) doesn't mean that it is God's word. We may have a difference of vocabulary here. Inspired does not = God's word. And I agree, that what people choose to believe does not change the truth Of God's word. What I'm trying to say is that Amy made an arguement that the BofM was necessary to prevent divisions. That's not a good arguement because there are divisions in the Mormon church as well. Humans will always find a way to divide each other. :) I believe that the divisions come from sin and a sinful view of God's word. That's basically what you said.

Amy said...

I agree with you that we (all of us) are divided because of sin and human frailty. And I suppose it is a bit of a cop-out to imply that "the Book of Mormon clears it all up, the end." But it does help.

We Latter-Day Saints also believe in continuing revelation. That is the reason for the priesthood and a Prophet and Apostles. They are to help keep us on the path God has established. I know it might sound crazy. Sadly, our society has conditioned us to doubt anythig we can't prove and to be wary of anyone claiming divine communications. Detractors of my faith often use passages like Matthew 7:15-20, saying that it proves that prophets are false. I disagree. This passage explains how to distinguish a true prophet from a false one.

I have also been told that if you read the Bible and follow everything it says, you will know what to do and shouldn't need a prophet to clarify. Hmmm. So why do you need preachers and priests and ministers and evangalists? The work of God is to bring His children home. He hasn't abandoned us for more impotant things. He gives us more help than we can ever imagine. And don't forget, God has called many prophets throughout history. They were often disliked (to put it mildly) and rejected by the majority. There is no where in the Bible that says there will be no more prophets and no more priesthood.

Kristi said...

This might be the point where we have to "agree to disagree" because I do not believe in "continuing revelation". My reasons are so well expressed by this article so I have to refer to it again. http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue98.htm
But that certainly does NOT mean that I believe God has "abandoned us for more important things"! I do believe that he gives us more help than we can possibly imagine or even know but I think we disagree on what that help looks like. I do believe in a continuing illumination of the Bible by the Holy Spirit. He enables us to understand the Bible because without him we are blind as it says in 2 Cor 4:3-7. The Holy Spirit can use others to teach us more about the Bible too. And through the Bible we understand God, his character and his majesty. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict of us sin and to give us an understanding of God and his word. And in pursuing a better knowledge of God, and in seeking to bring Him all of the honor and glory that he deserves and in seeking to be a more faithful servant to Him, then He will undoubtedly direct our circumstance through his good and perfect providence. And what you said doesn't sound crazy but I am careful about things that I can't prove and I am extremely careful about anyone claiming divine revelation. Does God require that I follow him without using my mind and the reasoning ability that he has given me? As I said I would never trust my reason alone but neither would I abandon it. There are many verses that ask us to pursue and defend truth and it's clear that they are not saying fight for the truth with gut feelings. Acts 18:28, Acts 19:8-10 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet 3:15, 2 Tim 4:2,3, 1 Thess 5:21, Prov 4 (and a lot more of the Proverbs too) and what were the priests so interested in when they spoke to Jesus as a child in the temple. I don't think it was an awe of his gut feelings. :)

The reason I seek out pastors, teachers and those wiser than myself is to make sure that I have a right and true grasp of the truth. I like and agree with your interpretion of Matt 7:15-20 but what about Deut 18:19-22. Have you ever seen a prophecy (or perhaps your own special revelations) not come true? God's pretty tough on those situations.

There are long periods of time in the Bible when there were no priest or prophets (400 yrs from Joseph to Moses, 400 yrs between the OT and NT) so I don't think that prophets or priests are necessary for God to be at work in his people.

However I would say that Jesus Christ was the final and perfect priest who still lives today. Heb 4:14-16

And that he was the perfect, final Prophet (Deut 18:15 John 1:21 Heb 1:1,2) who still lives today.

God came to be the prophet, priest, king and sacrifice that no person on earth could ever be.

It's late here. I'm up WAY too late thinking and studying but I'm enjoying this so maybe we can follow up later. I've got family coming so I might not respond for a few days. Thanks for discussing this with me. It really helps me.

Amy said...

Kristi, I posted this comment before I read the article. It was late so I made some notes and I will give a more in-depth resonse to the article soon. In the mean time, I have shared some of my personal expereinces and insights on this subject already. Look under the "Not LDS?" tab or under "prophets" or "revelation" in the labels block.