Last Monday, I wrote a post about how we often misunderstand the Book of Mormon. This post is a follow-up of that one.
I have no problem with the statement that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. I just accept that characterization for a different reason than most people.
it was used as the keystone ("Here is Moroni's promise. Read this book from
cover to cover with that promise in mind. Follow that promise. THEN,
when you've done that, we'll start teaching doctrine."), missionary work
flourished the most. When we started using it as a doctrinal
proof-text and started focusing on teaching doctrine over converting
spiritual experiences, missionary work flourished the least.
know people who were converted to Mormonism through the Bible, and
nearly every unique aspect of Mormon theology is grounded more in the
Bible than in the Book of Mormon (which far too few members realize),
but I know so many people whose subsequent reading of the Bible was
influenced by what they read in the Book of Mormon - who "gained a
testimony" of the Book of Mormon then had totally new insights as they
read the Bible. After all, the Book of Mormon says in at least two places that
it's primary intent is to convince people to believe the Bible - and,
in my opinion, that means believing what the Bible actually teaches, not what
centuries of theologians and religionists have said it teaches.
I believe the Book of Mormon
does what it was intended to do very well, when used as it says it
should be used - not for every single person, since nothing works for
everyone, but generally. I think we as a people might understand that
better if we actually used it "correctly" as a "correcting tool" -
again, not with regard to doctrine but rather with regard to "spiritual
orientation" or the opening of "spiritual eyes" to possibilities that
have been hidden by centuries of denial.
To say it in a slightly different way:
In more than once passage, the Book of Mormon itself says that, ultimately, the Bible is more important than the Book of Mormon. I believe that message is loud and clear in the Book of Mormon - but it doesn't
contradict the idea that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our
religion. The Book of Mormon can be the keystone while allowing the
Bible to be the most important theological treatise (the record "held
up" by the Book of Mormon) - which is how I would classify the two if I
was trying to be concise. In other words, the Book of Mormon says as much about
the worth of the Bible as it does about the role of Joseph Smith -
although it does address that role, obviously.
The core intent
of the Book of Mormon is to teach and testify of Jesus, the Christ. I
don't think there is any reasonable dispute about that. However, I believe that
this goal is accomplished differently than too many members realize.
structure of the Book of Mormon (especially Moroni 10:3-5) is laid out
in such a way that people who read it will believe that God can and will
speak to them (let them know the truth of all things) - and that such a
recognition will allow them then to read the Bible and understand and
believe what it really says (primarily about God, their relationship to
God and what the "power of godliness" really entails). In other words, the Book of
Mormon allows people to read the Bible with "new spiritual eyes"
through which the "mists of darkness" caused by centuries of Christian apologetics can be overcome and people can understand who they
To say it differently, much of the grand theology
of the Bible has crashed and burned since the Bible was written and
canonized (and even before then). The "keystone" allows that theology
to be rebuilt firmly; it "holds it together" not because of the words
themselves contained in it but because of the process generated by the
concept it teaches of a Father God who actually will communicate with
his children and, subsequently, when re-reading the Bible, teach them of
their "divine worth".
A core failure of our current approach at the local membership level,
in my opinion, is both a lack of understanding of the Book of Mormon's role in
that process (and what the Book of Mormon actually says) and a lack of
understanding of the Bible and what it actually teaches. When we
short-circuited and altered how we study, view and use the Book of
Mormon, I believe we started losing the former respect for and
understanding of the Bible that LDS members used to have.
Edith Russell: Associate Editor
30 minutes ago