Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How the Book of Mormon Works for and Speaks to Me

I find it fascinating to see how the Book of Mormon was used in the early days of the Church - and it is interesting that it was used exactly like a friend once said he saw it "work" on his mission. ("So when people read the Book of Mormon for the first time (those that didn't reject it outright because it was outside of the Bible), it did kind of open the door to additional scripture, personal revelation, and the rest of the gospel.")

I love the Book of Mormon for a number of reasons, but I've never had a burning in the bosom feeling about it. I've prayer for that type of experience, back when I was younger and didn't realize that's now how God speaks to me, personally.  I just love what it teaches and the feeling of attachment I have to it. I also am intrigued by what some key passages say about its purpose - and those passages don't say what we emphasize so much right now in the Church.

1) It was written to help people believe the Bible. That is stated directly as the primary purpose in Mormon 7 - especially verses 8-9. In other words, it is a second witness - not a first witness - and it was used in the early church to help them understand and believe the Bible better and more fully, not as the primary witness of Jesus or the central scriptural canon of our theology that tends to be our focus now. (It's interesting to note that nearly all of our truly unique doctrines are from the Bible, not the Book of Mormon.)

2) It was written to help people accept that God will be merciful to them personally - by remembering His mercy throughout history to others. This is the central message of Moroni 10:3-5 - and we tend to cut the heart out of that passage when we breeze past verse 3 in order to get to verses 4-5. We literally change Moroni's admonition when we make it nothing more than, "Pray about the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true." That's not what the passage actually asks people to do - at least, not everything it asks them to do.

That's how I see the Book of Mormon, and it works for me - even though, again, I've never had a distinctly powerful manifestation of it being a factual, historical record (even as I accept it as such as my default view but am fine with it being inspired fiction, if you will).  My connection is intellectual (really studying slowly and carefully what is written in it), emotional (many of the stories and how I feel while reading it), observational (seeing the effect it has had on others), spiritual (the insights and theological framework it has given me), etc.

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