Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Testimony of the Book of Mormon

I have read the Book of Mormon and pondered it and prayed over it (just like the Bible) and have felt a confirmation of the Spirit. I have compared it to the word of God in the Bible and have had my witness of the Bible strengthened as a result. One of the stated purposes of the Book of Mormon is to convince the world of the truthfulness of the Bible (Mormon 7:9), and it has done so for me.

Intellectually, I also can accept it as canonized scripture for four primary reasons:

1) God spoke to many inside the Bible where His words are not recorded in the Bible. There literally are dozens of texts mentioned therein that are not included therein. In other words, there are multiple examples of sacred, inspired texts and revelation cited in the Bible that, if found, would be accepted (I hope) by every Christian. "Canonization" was accomplished by those who understood that they were NOT defining the totality of God's words to His children; rather, they were reviewing what records were available to them and making decisions about validity AND importance. "Canonization" has come to mean FAR more than it did originally - and I can't accept those later, artificial constraints.

2) The Biblical pattern appears clear to me: God spoke through prophets PRIOR to the birth of Jesus - including to those outside of the House of Israel (Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, is a wonderful example); He spoke THROUGH Jesus; He spoke through prophets AFTER the death of Jesus (including new visions and visitations - like Paul's); the resurrection didn't stop revelation through prophets and He never said He would stop speaking through prophets. That claim was a retroactive one made LONG after the records were first recorded - and it is EXACTLY like the claim used by the Jews to reject the New Testament after nearly 400 years of official silence after Malachi. If new records are found claiming to be God's words to ancient Polynesian prophets or Asian prophets or Icelandic prophets or African prophets - and if those records inspire people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and allow Him and the Holy Ghost to bring forth good fruit unto Him and live humble lives of dedication as disciples - and in every way produce "Christians" and "good fruit of the true Vine" - then I will accept the possibility that they are, in fact, true scriptural words of God to that people. I won't accept them automatically, but I won't reject them automatically either.

3) I also have been fascinated to see what I believe are the misconceptions about the Book of Mormon (both by non-Mormons AND Mormons alike) fade away one by one as new information and evidence arises. For example, from the time I first read it so many years ago, I have thought it was a record of a very small minority of people in a very small geographic area (with the exception of the Jaredites, who appear to have been nomadic roamers of the classic Asian steppe model) - full of the same hyperbolic language that runs throughout the Bible and is a characteristic of many ancient records. I am not bothered by former beliefs of members and leaders that appear now to have been wrong, since those teachings aren't teachings OF or IN the Book of Mormon but rather beliefs ABOUT the Book of Mormon - and that is an important distinction that very few people make. (Again, it is interesting to me that so many Biblical scholars understand the nature of interpretive disagreement when it comes to Biblical scholarship but are unable to grant that same flexibility to Book of Mormon scholarship - again establishing a standard for Mormons to which other Christians aren't held.)

4) Finally, I have been struck as I have studied what the book actually says in both 1 Nephi and Ether by how incredibly different and spot-on those two books are. I don't have time or space in this post to explain that statement in detail, so I simply will leave it at that.

I have heard multiple reasons why people reject the possibility that the Book of Mormon might be the word of God and a real prophetic record, but I have not heard one in all my years that is more convincing than my personal witnesses.


Unknown said...

Thank you -- wonderful words. For me, the thing about the Book of Mormon is that it brings me closer to God. I've had too many prayers answered through that book, too many important spiritual promptings while reading it, too many insights gleaned from its pages to see the Book of Mormon as anything other than the word of God.

I found God -- and God found me -- because I've studied and pondered the Book of Mormon. Every once in a while I hear disparaging comments from someone who claims to have read it and didn't see any value in it. It must take a very shallow person to miss the depth of the book. (Or at least a very shallow reading, and a very jaundiced eye.)

I love the New Testament as well, and I'm really enjoying the writings of Paul right now as we study with our family. Reading the books of the Bible and Book of Mormon are like watching general conference and hearing the gospel from a variety of perspectives, but it's clear they're all listening to the same spirit and in tune with the same God. I wish more people -- inside and outside the church -- would take more time to comprehend the richness and depth of the Book of Mormon.

I join Elder Holland in stating that no fraud could have possibly written that book. Attack the Book of Mormon and you're attacking me, because if that book is a sham then so am I. I'm as far from perfect as anyone could be, but too many of the things I like about me (and others seem to like) come from the relationship with Jesus Christ that I continue to enjoy because of that inspired book of scripture and the principles I have applied while reading it.

Christy said...

I appreciate your post and Lorin's comments. Both of you wrote so beautifully what I feel but cannot express as well. I have had my witnesses from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, espcially one very powerful one that got me on my knees and eventually back to church.

I still am amazed when answers come to me through reading the Book of Mormon. It is one of my most valued possessions.

Paul said...

I'm not sure what you mean by number 4, but the rest seems to be specifically geared towards other Christians--perhaps compelling for those who object to the BoM because they believe the Bible.

Since the majority of the world aren't Christian, maybe you can explain how your witness of the BoM should be considered more true than a Hindu's witness of the Bhagavad Gita, for example. Why is the burning in your bosom, or your intellectual acceptance, more valid than the same burning and reasoning in a devout Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim believer?

I'm not asking to start an argument--I am interested in your perspective.

Papa D said...

Paul, I don't think mine is any more valid than someone else's relative to their own sacred records - since I'm not convinced that those records aren't as equally "inspired" and "true" for those to whom they were written. I definitely am of the school that believes God speaks to all who will listen in their own tongue according to their own understanding - and I think that view is a core Gospel principle within Mormonism that actually is supported within all of our canon, including the Book of Mormon.

Iow, there is NOTHING in the worldview of Mormonism that excludes extra-Christian records as divinely inspired - although I am well aware that there are many members who don't see it that way until it is explained in terms they can understand and accept. I've never had a member disagree with me in person, since that situation allows me to answer initial questions and provide clarifications to immediate misunderstandings of precisely what I mean.

Papa D said...

As to my #4, I am considering whether to write another post specifically about it.

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