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Why the Book of Mormon?

In this month’s New Era, President Henry B. Eyring begins his message by saying, “When I was a young man I wondered why the Lord needed to have the Prophet Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon to begin the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The rest of this article, titled “Why the Book of Mormon?” answers this question. President Eyring began finding answers when he started his service as a missionary. He focuses on four main answers: it is a powerful missionary tool, it testifies of Christ, it brings the Spirit, and it teaches and invites. As always, President Eyring offers simple but profound insights.

I believe that many other returned missionaries can tell similar stories of how their understanding of and relationship with the Book of Mormon grew through their missionary service. I know mine did. And, yes, I think that I now understand better why the Lord introduced the Book of Mormon at the beginning of the Restoration. This “marvelous work” is indeed both a strange and a wonderful thing, and it deserves much closer attention than most in the world are willing to give it.


8 Responses

  1. If you pray about whether or not a book is scripture, then how do you know when to stop? You could pray about every book ever written. If it is just because Joseph Smith claimed to be a Christian prophet, then we do not need to pray about it. God has already answered in the Biblical scriptures how to know. He says the test is if they make even one false prophesy… which he has. Even if he hadn’t though, prayer would still not be the test. The prophesy test is what should be used to test a prophet.

  2. Interesting point, Justin. I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I believe in prayer, and I believe in continuing revelation. An it’s clear that the Book of Mormon makes a claim and a promise that not many other books make, so it’s not really necessary to “pray about every book ever written.” Like I said in my original post, I think the Book of Mormon really deserves much closer attention than most people are willing to give it.

    I also believe that those who have tried to make Joseph Smith an offender for a word have failed to make a good case. (I assume you’re applying the standard set forth in Deuteronomy 18:20–22, which, by the way, would disqualify several Old Testament prophets if it were applied in the way you suggest.) The specific examples of “false prophecies” I have heard from Joseph Smith’s critics are based on some fairly flimsy evidence or a simple misreading. For years Joseph Smith’s defenders have been saying, “You’ll have to do better than that.” But so far all I’ve heard in response is the same-old same-old.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment.

  3. Why make something subjective your foundation rather than something objective?

  4. So, epistemology? Well, this foundation you speak of isn’t purely subjective, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that it is. Is a subjective experience a valid foundation for belief or knowledge? Who decides what’s valid and what isn’t? Jesus taught, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16–17). The Apostle Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Now, in both cases we are being told to do something in order to gain knowledge. But it seems that there is both an objective and a subjective component to it. How will we know whether Jesus’s doctrine is from God? If we do what Jesus tells us to do, will the truth of it be self-evident in some sort of objective way? Or if we prove all things, put all things to the test, how will we know what is good so that we can hold on to it? Will it just be obvious? Perhaps, but whose criteria do we use to make that judgment? As Paul said, “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. … The natural man receiveth not the things of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:11, 14). Can something that is spiritually discerned be examined objectively? Possibly, but I tend to think that the subjective experience, the witness of the Spirit, is what we are told to seek after.

  5. My concern is that revealed in Jeremiah 17:9.

  6. Thanks for clarifying your concern, Justin, but I’ll basically refer you to my previous comment, with this suggestion regarding Jeremiah: read the entire chapter. What was Jeremiah really saying? Was he saying that we shouldn’t trust our hearts because they will always deceive us, even when we’re sincerely praying to God? Not at all. He was commenting on the captivity of Judah, which came because of sin, because their hearts had departed from the Lord (see verse 5). Specifically, he was condemning those whose hearts were set upon riches and the vain things of this world (see verse 11). In verse 10 he also reiterated the teaching you’ll find elsewhere in the Bible (for instance, 1 Samuel 16:7 and 1 Kings 8:39)—the Lord looks on and knows men’s hearts. He knows our thoughts, intents, and desires and will bless us accordingly. Verse 9 sets up this declaration by asking, “Who can know [the heart]?” Rather than being a revelation about the untrustworthiness of the heart, it is a rhetorical device.

    Anyway, please let me know if you have anything to say about the article I wrote the original post about. It’s good. That’s why I wrote about it.

  7. Magmeister,

    Thank you for drawing our attention to this article. It seems natural to use the Book of Mormon heavily in our missionary work and church life in general, so much so that I can hardly imagine using anything else as a substitute focus: as a thought experiment, imagine using the Doctrine and Covenants, the New Testament, or Pearl of Great Price instead and draw out the likely implications for the Church. The fact of the Book of Mormon emphasizes the Restoration and the content focuses us on what we have in common with other Christians: Jesus Christ.

    I am still surprised by what I read in the Book of Mormon, as I consider insights about Jesus Christ, faith, and repentance that strike me as if for the first time in passages I read and heard first as a child.

    Good response to Justin, by the way.

  8. Nicely put, jnillsson. I agree wholeheartedly. The Book of Mormon, more than any other book of scripture, really is a natural starting point for missionary work because of its focus on the Savior, as well as its connection to the Restoration. And President Eyring says it so simply and clearly that it just makes sense.

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