The Book of Mormon is one of the sacred texts of the Latter Day Saint movement. It is regarded by most, if not all, Latter Day Saint groups as divinely revealed and is named after the prophet Mormon who, according to the text, compiled most of the book. It was published by the founder of the LDS movement, Joseph Smith, Jr., in March 1830 in Palmyra, New York, USA.
Along with the Bible, the Book of Mormon is esteemed as part of the canon of sacred scripture by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Community of Christ, and other churches that claim Joseph Smith as their founder. In 1982, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added the subtitle Another Testament of Jesus Christ to its editions of the book to help clarify and emphasize its purpose.
The Book of Mormon was first published by Joseph Smith, Jr. in March 1830 in Palmyra, New York. According to Smith's written account, the book is a translation of gold plates which contained the writings of prophets in ancient Meso-America between approximately 600 B.C.E. and 400 C.E. The plates were said to be buried by Moroni, the last of these prophets, at a hill called Cumorah.
Smith claimed that on September 22, 1827 he received the plates from an angel named Moroni and was directed to translate them using two stones called the Urim and Thummim that were deposited with the plates. In addition to Smith's account, eleven others signed affidavits that they had seen the gold plates for themselves. Their written testimonies are known as The Testimony of Three Witnesses and The Testimony of Eight Witnesses. These affidavits are published as part of the introductory pages to the Book of Mormon.
Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that the book was either the original creation of Joseph Smith (with or without the assistance of one or more of his associates) or was based on a prior work such as View of the Hebrews. Unresolved issues of the book's historicity and the lack of supporting archaeological evidence have led some adherents to adopt the position that the Book of Mormon may have been the creation of Joseph Smith, but that it was nevertheless divinely inspired.
The book's purpose, as stated on its title page, is "to show the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord has done for their fathers" and to convince "Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations."
The format of the Book of Mormon is a compilation of smaller "books." Each of the books is named after the prophet or leader noted in the text as the author. The Book of Mormon is composed of the following books:
The book's sequence is primarily chronological based on the narrative content of the book. Exceptions include the Words of Mormon and the Book of Ether. The Words of Mormon contains editorial comment by Mormon. The Book of Ether is presented as the narrative of an earlier group of people to have come to America before the immigration described in First Nephi. The books of First Nephi through Omni are written in first-person narrative, as are Mormon and Moroni. The remainder of the Book of Mormon is written in third-person historical narrative, compiled and abridged by Mormon (with Moroni abridging the Book of Ether).
The version published by the LDS Church is known as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In addition to the main body of the work, it contains the following:
The books from 1 Nephi to Omni are described as being from "the small plates of Nephi." This account begins in ancient Jerusalem around 600 B.C.E., at roughly the same time as the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. It tells the story of Lehi, his family, and several others as they are led by God from Jerusalem shortly before the fall of that city to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. They travel across the Arabian Peninsula, and then to the promised land (the Americas) by ship. These books recount the group's dealings from approximately 600 B.C.E. to about 130 B.C.E. During this time, the community split into two main groups, the Nephites and the Lamanites, and grew into separate sizable civilizations, which warred against each other.
Following this section is the Words of Mormon. This small book, said to be written in 385 C.E. by Mormon, is a short introduction to the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, and 4 Nephi. These books are described as being abridged from a large quantity of existing records called "the large plates of Nephi" that detailed the nation's history from the time of Omni to Mormon's own life. The book of 3 Nephi is of particular importance within the Book of Mormon because it contains an account of a visit by Jesus from heaven to the Americas sometime after his resurrection at Jerusalem and ascension. During his American ministry, he repeated much of the same doctrine and instruction given in the Gospels of the Bible and established an enlightened, peaceful society which endured for several generations, but which eventually broke into warring factions again.
The Book of Mormon is an account of the events during Mormon's life. Mormon received the charge of taking care of the records that had been hidden, once he was old enough. Mormon writes an account of the wars, his leading of portions of the Nephite army, and his retrieving and caring for the records. Mormon eventually is killed, after he hands down the records to his son Moroni.
Moroni then makes an abridgment (called Ether) of a record from a previous people called the Jaredites. The account describes a group of families led from the Tower of Babel to the Americas, headed by a man named Jared and his brother. The Jaredite civilization is presented as existing on the American continent long before Lehi's family arrived in 600 B.C.E., beginning about 2500 B.C.E., and it was much larger and more developed.
The book of Moroni then details the final destruction of the Nephites and the idolatrous state of the remaining society. He adds a few spiritual insights and mentions some important doctrinal teachings, then closes with his testimony and an invitation to pray to God for a confirmation of the truthfulness of the account.
The central event of the Book of Mormon is the visitation of the resurrected Jesus to the Nephites around 34 C.E., shortly after his ministry in Galilee. Many of the writers in the book teach about Jesus. There are 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon and 233 include Jesus Christ in some way.
An angel prophesied to Nephi that Jesus' birth would be 600 years from the time he and his family left Jerusalem. Many prophets in the Book of Mormon, beginning with Lehi and Nephi, saw in visions the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, and were told his name. At the time of King Benjamin, the Nephite believers were called "the children of Christ". The faithful members of the church at the time of Captain Moroni (73 B.C.E.) were called "Christians" by their enemies, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. For nearly 200 years after Jesus' appearance at the temple in the Americas, the land was filled with peace and prosperity because of the people's obedience to his commandments. Mormon worked to convince the faithless people of his time (360 C.E.) of Christ. Moroni buried the plates with faith in Christ. Many other prophets in the book also wrote of the reality of the Messiah.
Church members officially regard the Book of Mormon as the "most correct" book of scripture. Joseph Smith told of receiving a revelation condemning the "whole church" for treating the Book of Mormon and the former commandments lightly—"former commandments" being understood to mean the Holy Bible. The importance of studying the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible has been stressed by every church president since Joseph Smith.
The Book of Mormon’s significance was reiterated in the late twentieth century by Ezra Taft Benson, Apostle and 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In an August 2005 Ensign message, then LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley challenged each member of the church to reread the Book of Mormon before year's end. The book’s importance is commonly stressed at the twice-yearly general conference and at special devotionals by general authorities.
The Community of Christ views the Book of Mormon as an additional witness of Jesus Christ and publishes two versions of the book through its official publishing arm, Herald House. The Authorized Edition is based on the original printer's manuscript and the 1837 Second Edition (or Kirtland Edition) of the Book of Mormon. Its content is similar to the Book of Mormon published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the versification is different. Community of Christ also publishes a 1966 "Revised Authorized Edition," which attempts to modernize some of the language.
In 2001, Community of Christ President W. Grant McMurray reflected on increasing questions about the Book of Mormon: "The proper use of the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture has been under wide discussion in the 1970s and beyond, in part because of long-standing questions about its historicity and in part because of perceived theological inadequacies, including matters of race and ethnicity."
At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, President Stephen M. Veazey ruled out of order a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record." He stated that "while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church."
Critics of the Book of Mormon challenge the historicity of the text and raise several major issues that undermine the text's authority:
The Book of Mormon is now published by the following:
Church critics claim that the original versions of the Book of Mormon contained substantial evidence that Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon and that the church has revised the Book of Mormon to remove this evidence. The Tanners have documented almost 4,000 changes in the Book of Mormon between the 1830 edition and modern editions.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag adding the phrase "or out of the waters of baptism", and correction of spelling and grammatical errors. The contention is that many of the changes were systematic and are signs of fabrication.
Supporters of the Book of Mormon maintain that correctness refers only to the content, notably the doctrine. Since Joseph Smith later made corrections to the text of the Book of Mormon, on both copies of the manuscript (the original and the copy prepared for the printer) and in later editions, he did not consider the book to be an infallible translation as it first appeared in print. The Book of Mormon itself indicates that it may contain errors made by the men who wrote it. The vast majority of the changes noted by the Tanners have been discussed in official Church publications including the Ensign, Improvement Era. Millennial Star and Times and Seasons, and are consistent with early pre- and post-publication edits made by Joseph Smith. Some corrections were made due to earlier print or copy errors, or changes in punctuation.
Since 1989, the LDS Church's Brigham Young University has been publishing a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon. Volumes 1 and 2, published in 2001, contain transcriptions of all the text variants of the English editions of the Book of Mormon, from the original manuscript up to the newest editions. Volume 3 will describe the history of all the English-language texts from Joseph Smith to today. Volume 4, published in parts from 2004-2006, contains a critical analysis of all the text variants.
The complete Book of Mormon has been translated into 80 languages. Selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into an additional 27 languages. In 2001, the LDS church reported that all or part of the text was available in the native language of 99 percent of Latter-day Saints and 87 percent of the world's total population.
Translations into languages without a tradition of writing (e.g., Cakchiqel, Tzotzil) are available on audio cassette. Translations into American Sign Language are available on videocassette and DVD.
Typically, translators are members of the LDS Church who are employed by the church and translate the text from the original English. Each manuscript is reviewed many times before it is approved and published.
In 1998, the LDS Church stopped translating selections from the Book of Mormon. The church announced that each new translation it approves will be a full edition.
All links retrieved June 16, 2016.
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