As many of us embark on a re-reading of the Book of Mormon, I wished to mention a few things to ponder.
The Book of Mormon came forth in a Miraculous Manner
1) Joseph Smith wrote the extant text of the Book of Mormon in 85 days, from 7 June to 30 June, 1829. That is the same number of days we have to read the Book of Mormon between today and 31 December, 2018. 1
2) We have much of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon. This manuscript lacks the erasures and corrections that are present in Joseph Smith’s own writings following June 1829. This is consistent with the account of contemporaries that Joseph would dictate text he reportedly saw written on the seerstone inside his (beaver) hat. These contemporaries insisted that Joseph would resume the dictation each day without any reference to what the scribe had previously written. 2
3) Critics of the divine origin explanation for the Book of Mormon long tried to claim Joseph had copied the Spaulding manuscript – until that manuscript was found and seen to be insufficient to explain the Book of Mormon. Current critics have fallen back to the idea that Joseph was magically intelligent and therefore capable of a feat that has never been performed by any other human. Thus even critics must believe in miracles (if secular) to explain the Book of Mormon. 3
The Book of Mormon Restores Plain and Precious Doctrine
1) As discussed by the Givenses in The Christ Who Heals 4, the early Christian fathers taught a doctrine that aligns with the gospel as restored by Joseph Smith, a hopeful and compassionate gospel that is not found in Christianity outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2) We have lost the initial pages Joseph dictated from the plates. However we see elsewhere in the extant Book of Mormon that the authors believed we had the creation narrative, explaining why they were not recording that narrative again. The Book of Mormon understanding of the creation narrative depicts a God yearning to save all mankind, inspiring Book of Mormon prophets to yearn for the salvation of enemies and unknown future generations. The Book of Mormon depicts a Christ who would offer Himself as sacrifice to secure the salvation of all mankind willing to embrace this gift.
3) Modern scholarship suggests the Bible coalesced from multiple accounts and took it’s current form circa 500 BC 5 following the reported flight of Lehi from Zedekiah’s Kingdom of Judah.
4) Whether or not the lost pages contained a creation narrative that drove Joseph’s later focus on the creation, it is clear that the redemptive creation narrative suggested by the extant Book of Mormon was a key focus for Joseph Smith. 6 By June 1830 Joseph had apparently produced the creation account now canonized as the book of Moses in The Pearl of Great Price. In Kirtland, Egyptian mummies and associated papyri inspired the creation account now canonized as the book of Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price. In the midst of the sexual iniquities being rooted out in spring 1842, Joseph published the Book of Abraham creation narrative. He simultaneously endowed an inner circle with power in a ceremony that revolved around the creation narrative in which the endowed parties swore to reject sexual behavior outside of marriage.
5) While female narratives are sparse in the Book of Mormon, there is no indication that Book of Mormon females were seen as inherently wicked or that they were viewed as property. The account of the Queen of the Lamanites suggests that kingship was conferred on the man the Queen accepted as the King’s successor, which she showed by agreeing to marry the successor. This aligns with biblical levirate marriage customs, as described in the Book of Ruth. These levirate marriage customs had been eradicated from Western Christianity starting in 1050 AD. 7
6) While Jacob decries Nephite men who have taken concubines and multiple wives 8, Jacob affirmed that plural marriage had been practiced in the past and could be practiced in the future. This strongly reinforced the preference for monogamy, yet allowed for a view of marriage that permits every woman and her children to be united into the Family of Mankind via the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Enough, let’s get reading!
If you read roughly 7-8 pages a day, you will be able to read the entire Book of Mormon (English version) by 31 December 2018. Enjoy!
- John Welch, “How Long did it take Joseph Smith to Translate the Book of Mormon?“, Ensign, January, 1988. ↩
- For discussion of the importance of the use of a skin hat, see my post, The Beaver Skin Hat: How Joseph Interpreted the Plates (2015), and the 2018 podcast where Don Bradley confirmed that Joseph did use a beaver skin hat (Finding the Lost 116 Pages). ↩
- Brian Hales’s 2018 JWHA presentation, cataloging the extensive number of criticisms of the divine origin explanation, showing how these criticisms themselves require us to believe the unbelievable. ↩
- See my review, “The Christ Who Heals – Thoughts on Palm Sunday. ↩
- Cory Crawford, “The Documentary Hypothesis,” available at the post “LDS Perspectivers on the Bible and Documentary Hypothesis.” Crawford explains that the current biblical creation narrative contains elements of the Babylonian creation myths, suggesting 500 BC as the date of the final formulation of Genesis. ↩
- See Adam and Eve in the Lost 116 Pages? (July 2017) ↩
- I see I haven’t actually created a post specifically about the Queen of the Lamanites, but I do discuss her situation in my 2015 post “To my dear friend, John Dehlin”. If you are one who is very anxious about how women are treated at Church, you might find the rest of that post informative. I was not being sarcastic when I wrote that post. ↩
- Jacob 2:22-33. ↩