Tuesday, February 15, 2011
A Beginner's Guide to the Book of Mormon
I recently gave away a copy of the Book of Mormon to a friend here in our little village, and wanted to provide him with some information about it.
1. As the picture above illustrates, the Book of Mormon tells the story of peoples whom Christ visited after his ascension and resurrection in Jerusalem. These were some of the "other sheep" of which he spoke in the New Testament. (John 10:16) These peoples originated from the fertile crescent or Jerusalem areas, coming at three different times to the New World: the people of Jared traveled over via barges shortly after the fall of the tower of Babel (spiritual history detailed in the Book of Ether); the Nephites and Lamanites traveled via ship in 600 BC from Jerusalem at about the time of Jeremiah the prophet (spiritual history comprising the entirety of the Book of Mormon, minus the Book of Ether); and another people called the Mulekites also came over in 600 BC, also from Jerusalem, although they did not keep records and did not interact with any other peoples until between 300-130 BC, when they combined with the Nephites (discussed in the Book of Omni). The Nephites are Jewish, yet believe in Christ and know him by name due to revelations given to founding prophets Lehi and Nephi.
2. The Book of Mormon (with the exception of the Book of Ether) originated from records kept by descendants of the first Nephi, and by Nephite prophets. Mormon, a Nephite historian, compiled the records from 600 BC through about 400 AD, and then wrote his own account in his own book of Mormon (confusing, I know), recording the destruction of his people by the Lamanites (who did not believe in Christ). It is after this prophet that the entire book is named and from which the nickname of "Mormon" derived. Mormon's son Moroni then took the records, added his own account, including his wanderings about, a fugitive hiding from Lamanite destruction because of his belief in Jesus Christ. He buries the record, inscribed on golden plates, and, about 1,400 years later, helps Joseph Smith to find them as a resurrected angel in upstate New York. Moroni is the angel atop our temples. Joseph Smith translated the work in about 5 months, printing it as The Book of Mormon in 1830.
3. The Book of Mormon is not a history book, an archeology book, or a geography book. Instead, it is a book of scripture like the Bible in that it testifies of Christ both before and after his coming. As revelation, it is best understood through revelation from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, that understanding, spiritual or otherwise, takes longer for some people than it does for others. Yet for anyone who undertakes a serious study of the book, it will come. In providing this understanding, the Spirit will build upon our knowledge of life and other revelation, particularly our understanding of the language in which we are reading The Book of Mormon. (2 Nephi 31:3) This is one reason The Book of Mormon has been translated into 83 languages.
4. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of my faith. In 1986, prophet and president of the Church Ezra Taft Benson (also former US Secretary of Agriculture) explained three ways in which The Book of Mormon is the keystone of my religion. First, it is the keystone of my witness of Christ. This is true. I learn about God through prayer, and I have learned the most about Christ by reading the Book of Mormon. He is mentioned in over half the verses, and through revelations to Book of Mormon prophets, it has provided me with significant insights into the Atonement, wrought in the garden and on the cross. I have learned about Christ's life by studying the New Testament; I have learned about Christ's saving power by studying the Book of Mormon. Second, it is the keystone of the doctrine of my faith. It binds Old and New Testaments together, and its truth and power are a testament to Joseph Smith's prophetic mission. Third, it is the keystone of my testimony. I have begun most days by reading from its passages. This I began when a child, and have continued it throughout my life. It grounds me in a happiness and knowledge that Christ is my Savior, God my King, and that Joseph Smith and the entire story of the founding of my faith is not just a story, but the truth of God and a blessing to me today.
I love The Book of Mormon and hope anyone reading this will accept the challenge seriously to come to love it, too.