Book of Mormon
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.
Origin of the Book of Mormon
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.
Purpose and organization
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:
- Title page
- First Book of Nephi: His Reign and Ministry
- Second Book of Nephi
- Book of Jacob: The Brother of Nephi
- Book of Enos
- Book of Jarom
- Book of Omni
- Words of Mormon
- Book of Mosiah
- Book of Alma: The Son of Alma
- Book of Helaman
- Third Nephi: The Book of Nephi, The Son of Nephi, Who Was the Son of Helaman
- Fourth Nephi: The Book of Nephi, Who Is the Son of Nephi, One of the Disciples of Jesus Christ
- Book of Mormon
- Book of Ether
- Book of Moroni
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:
- A modern day introduction written by church leaders
- The "Testimony of Three Witnesses," the "Testimony of Eight Witnesses," and the "Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" (as it concerns the Book of Mormon)
- A brief explanation of the contents of the book
- Chapter headings
- A pronouncing guide to names and places in the Book of Mormon
- Footnotes and cross-references to the Bible
- An index of doctrinal teachings.
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.
Another Testament of Christ
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 (3 Nephi 11 to 3 Nephi 26). 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 (1 Nephi 10:4, 1 Nephi 19:8; also 3 Nephi 1). Many prophets in the Book of Mormon, beginning with Lehi and Nephi, saw in visions the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus (1 Nephi 11) and were told his name (Mosiah 3:8). At the time of King Benjamin, the Nephite believers were called "the children of Christ" (Mosiah 5:7). 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 (Alma 46:13-15). For nearly 200 years after Jesus' appearance at the temple in the Americas (4 Nephi 22-23), the land was filled with peace and prosperity because of the people's obedience to his commandments (4 Nephi 1). 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.
Role of the Book of Mormon in Mormonism
Role within the LDS Church
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.
Role within the Community of Christ Church
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."
Question of Historicity
Critics of the Book of Mormon challenge the historicity of the text and raise several major issues that undermine the text's authority:
- Few scholars identify any correlation between locations described in the Book of Mormon and any Mesoamerican or other American archaeological site.
- Many animals, plants and technologies named in the Book of Mormon did not exist in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans at the end of the fifteenth century.
- There is no linguistic connection between any Native American language or language family and any Near Eastern language or language family.
- Mayan writing has no relationship to any Near Eastern writing system.
- Mayan records from the time period identified in the Book of Mormon make no mention of people or places named in the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is now published by the following:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the expanded title The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (since 1982)
- Herald House for the Community of Christ as The Book of Mormon - Revised Authorized Version (1966) and The Book of Mormon - Authorized Version (1908)
- The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite) as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates taken from the Plates of Nephi—an original edition compiled by a committee made up of Church of Jesus Christ apostles: Thurman S. Furnier, Charles Ashton and William H. Cadman
- Richard Drew, Burlington (Voree, Wisconsin), Wisconsin for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite); a photo-enlarged facsimile of the 1840 edition
- Zarahemla Research Foundation as The Book of Mormon - Restored Covenant Edition
- The University of Illinois Press as The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition (2003) (this edition is based on the 1920 LDS edition)
- Doubleday under the title The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (2004)
- Herald Heritage (Herald House) (1970) - a facsimile of the 1830 edition.
Changes to original text
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. These revisions include wording changes such as "King Benjamin" to "King Mosiah" (Mosiah 21:28), 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 (Title Page; 1 Nephi 19:6; Jacob 1:2; 7:26; Mormon 8:1, 17; 9:31-33; 3 Nephi 8:2; Ether 5:1). 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 describes 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 (such as 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.
- Originally, The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi; the latest LDS Church version is entitled The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
- Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Newsroom. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Testimony of Three Witnesses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Testimony of Eight Witnesses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet History of the Church, Vol. 1, Chapters 1-5. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews 1825 (Hayriver Press, 2002, ISBN 1930679610).
- Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2002).
- Brent Lee Metcalfe, (ed.) New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993).
- Title Page Book of Mormon. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Many of the chapter headings were written by Bruce R. McConkie (July 29, 1915 – April 19, 1985), an Apostle.
- 1 Nephi 18 Book of Mormon. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Ether Book of Mormon. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Joseph L. Allen, Sacred Sites: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2003, 1591562724), 8.
- Doctrine and Covenants The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, A Testimony Vibrant and True The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- W. Grant McMurray, They "Shall Blossom as the Rose": Native Americans and the Dream of Zion Call to the Nations Conference February 17, 2001. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Andrew M. Shields, "Official Minutes of Business Session, Wednesday March 28, 2007," in 2007 World Conference Thursday Bulletin, March 29, 2007. Community of Christ, 2007.
- Citing the lack of specific New World geographic locations to search, Michael D. Coe, a prominent Mesoamerican archaeologist and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University, writes (in a 1973 volume of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought): "As far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing [the historicity of The Book of Mormon], and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group."
- Luke P. Wilson, The Scientific Search for Nephite Remains Institute for Religious Research, December 22, 2011. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- Lyle Campbell, American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America (Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Jorge Súarez, The Mesoamerican Indian Languages (Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0521296692).
- Martha J. Macri, "Maya and Other Mesoamerican Scripts," The World's Writing Systems, edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 172-182.
- for example, Frederika A. Kaestle and David Glenn Smith, "Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Evidence for Prehistoric Population Movement," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 115 (2001): 1-12.
- Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003, ISBN 1568582838), 59-80.
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism - Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987).
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Criticism of changes to Book of Mormon. Retrieved July 6, 2008.
- Royal Skousen, The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text Critical Text of the Book of Mormon, 1 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001, ISBN 0934893047); Royal Skousen, The Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts. Critical Text of the Book of Mormon, 2 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001, ISBN 0934893055, v.2 ISBN 0934893063).
- Royal Skousen, Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. 4-1 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2004, ISBN 0934893071); Royal Skousen, Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, 4-2 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005, ISBN 093489308X); Royal Skousen, Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, 4-3. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2006, ISBN 093489311X).
- "Taking the Scriptures to the World", Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- "First Presidency Emphasizes Following Christ’s Example" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, April 2005. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- "Translation Work Taking Book of Mormon to More People in More Tongues" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, February 2005. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Abanes, Richard. One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003. ISBN 1568582838
- Allen, Joseph L. Sacred Sites: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands. American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2003. ISBN 1591562724
- Berrett, William E. and Milton R. Hunter. A Guide to the Study of the Book of Mormon. reprint ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1417968826.
- Brodie, Fawn M. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, second, rev. ed. New York, NY: Vintage, 1995 (original 1971). ISBN 0679730540
- Campbell, Lyle. American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Daniels, Peter T., and William Bright (eds.). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0195079930
- Evans, John Henry. Message and Characters of the Book of Mormon. reprint ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1417968184
- Metcalfe, Brent Lee. New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1993. ISBN 1560850175
- Morton, Elder William A. Book of Mormon Ready Reference. reprint ed. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1417968508
- Palmer, Grant H. An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2002. ASIN B00GYL84RA
- Potter, George and Richard Wellington. Lehi in the Wilderness: 81 New Documented Evidences That the Book of Mormon Is a True History. Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2003. ISBN 1555176410
- Reynolds, Noel B. Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins. Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 1997. ISBN 093489325X
- Skousen, Royal. The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text. Critical Text of the Book of Mormon, 1. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001. ISBN 0934893047
- Skousen, Royal. The Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts. Critical Text of the Book of Mormon, 2. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001. ISBN 0934893055 v.2 ISBN 0934893063
- Skousen, Royal. Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, 4-1. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2004. ISBN 0934893071
- Skousen, Royal. Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, 4-2 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005. ISBN 093489308X
- Skousen, Royal. Analysis of textual variants of the Book of Mormon. Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, 4-3. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2006 ISBN 093489311X
- Smith, Ethan. View of the Hebrews 1825. Hayriver Press, 2002. ISBN 1930679610
- Southerton, Simon G. Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2004. ISBN 1560851813
- Súarez, Jorge. The Mesoamerican Indian Languages. Cambridge University Press, 1983. ISBN 0521296692
- Tanner, Jerald, and Sandra Tanner. Mormonism - Shadow or Reality? Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987. ISBN 9993074438
- Vogel, Dan, and Brent Metcalfe (eds.). American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2002. ISBN 1560851511
- Ziegler, Wesley. An Analysis of the Book of Mormon. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1417968559
- Ziegler, Wesley. An Analysis of the Articles of Faith: The Book of Mormon. Reprint ed. Kessinger, 2007 (original 1949). ISBN 0548048975
All links retrieved February 8, 2022.
- Official sources
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Official website)
- Book of Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Edition)
- Apologetic views
- The Nephi Project
- Book of Mormon Evidences
- Book of Mormon All Gospel Art
- The Book of Mormon at Light Planet
- Book of Mormon Online
- Critical views and websites
- Skeptics Annotated Book of Mormon
- MormonInfo.org - challenges to the Book of Mormon and Mormon history
- MormonWiki (Information on the Book of Mormon and Mormonism from Evangelical Christian perspective)
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