April 1986: President Benson presides over his first General Conference. Did anyone listening to his humble little talk, called “Cleaning the Inner Vessel,” realize that it would send ripples through the Church and start a massive change in Church policy and doctrine?
President Benson said:
Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: “And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.” (D&C 84:56.) The Lord continues: “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.” (D&C 84:57.)
Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers: “That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84:58.) We have felt that scourge and judgment!
The Prophet Joseph said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.” (Book of Mormon, Introduction.) The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.
Only a teenager at the time, this is one of the few general conferences of which I remember well. Our family concentrated our family scripture reading on The Book of Mormon shortly thereafter.
Some LDS proponents of Socialism like to compare capitalism to the infamous Gadianton Robbers in the Book of Mormon. It seems a simple line to draw between the “Profit Motive” of Capitalism and the secret combination of the Gadiantons to “get gain.” Too simple in fact. A more careful reading shows that in some ways the Gadianton Robbers seem to be more like Marxist Revolutionaries.
Chapter 3 of the book of 3rd Nephi in the Book of Mormon is interesting in that it is one of the few sections of the text which purports to give us a glimpse of how the Gadianton Robbers viewed themselves, rather than how they were viewed by Mormon and his Nephite protagonists. Verses 2 through 10 are the record of an epistle written to the governor of the Nephites, Lachoneus, from the leader of the Gadianton Robbers, Giddianhi:
As the title indicates, this is a book about what the civilizations of the American continent were like before Columbus arrived. The book is based on the most current research on the subject, though I must warn you that even our best most recent research seems quite tentative to me, as the author often admits. But here are some interesting new directions that seem worthy of note.
Not long ago I did a reprint of a Mormon Matters post where I asked people if they would regularly study inspired fiction. The overwhelming answer was “no.” But in the choir of voices, there was one particularly interesting response that I think is worthy of sharing.
Now this commenter did not believe the Book of Mormon is in any way historical. In fact, when he took my question to the group, he rewrote it like this:
Did coming to believe realize The Book of Mormon was only inspired fiction not a literal history cause you to reduce your efforts to study it in any way?
His response was then:
I’ve known this since my teenage years, so a before/after comparison is impossible. All of my adult study of the Book of Mormon has been informed by my understanding that it is not a literal history.
His biggest concern with my original post was that:
I think the terms “fiction” and “fictional” are loaded words that break the spiritual mood. To keep a religious feeling, it’s probably better to say “parable” or “inspired stories” or simply “scripture,” with the understanding that scripture is not history and vice versa.
My concern with his rewording was that just saying “parable” failed to get to the heart of my real question, which was how do you explain the plates. Joseph Smith carted them around and many many people touched them under a cloth.
Then an amazing thing happened, he actually gave an tentative answer to this question. Outside of this one time, I never seen nor heard of any person in favor of an “inspired fiction” view of the Book of Mormon actually make an attempt to explain how such a thing is possible! (See also Mike Parker’s article on this subject.)
The post below is a reprint from Mormon Matters. The discussion that followed was intriguing. Most of the posters that no longer believed in the historicity of the Book of Mormon openly admitted that when the Book of Mormon lost it’s historicity for them, it also lost it’s value as scripture worthy of study. There was at least one notable exception of someone that still studied it as scripture regularly, if perhaps a reduced level overall, though he admitted that he felt the same way about the Bible as well. Also intriguing was John Hamer’s concerns that the wording was biased because the word ‘fiction’ might be a loaded term. I had not intended it to be so, but I compromised by adding a ‘revised wording’ version at the bottom.
I’m intrigued by those on the bloggernacle that see The Book of Mormon as fiction but inspired by God. It’s common to hear someone that holds that belief say that it doesn’t really matter if The Book of Mormon is historical or not.