Monday, January 18, 2010

Origin of the Book of Mormon and the Bible

In my posting "The First Vision" I described the initial revelation that was given to the young boy Joseph Smith Jr. It is a remarkable story; some may say an unbelievable story. Because it does seem like something that just doesn't happen in modern times, I can understand the inclination to discount the experience and all that Joseph Smith did after that experience as farce. But before you do discount the story, the man, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he went on to establish, I invite you to examine the greatest evidence that Joseph Smith was divinely chosen to be a prophet, the Book of Mormon.

Before I explain more concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, I feel it is proper to address, in part, the origin of the Holy Bible. I feel this is important because the Bible is widely accepted as true, however I don't believe I would be exaggerating when I say that the majority of those that do accept it as true have ever questioned why they think it is true. They have likely accepted it as truth without much consideration regarding where the book came from and how it came into being. I believe that touching on the origin of the Bible will help give a proper context when considering the origin of the Book of Mormon.

First, the word "bible." The word "bible" is of Greek origin, being derived from ta biblia (the books). In course of time "biblia," a neuter plural, was regarded as a feminine singular and in that way "the books" came to be spoken of as "the book." We must therefore understand that that the Bible is not a single book but rather a divine library of books. Source

The Holy Bible today comes in many different versions: The King James Version, The Revised Standard Version, and The New International Version to name just a few. It is wonderful that this book of scriptures is so widely available today, but it was not always so. The Bible had to be compiled from various records. The Bible as we have it today is the product of thousands of well-intentioned people, and some not-so-well-intentioned people, trying to preserve ancient records. What may even surprise some people is that the world does not have any original writings from any of the biblical authors. Not Moses, not Isaiah, not Matthew, not Peter, not even Jesus Christ. So from where did the Bible come?

The short answer is that the writings were copied from manuscripts which were copies of manuscripts which were copies of translated manuscripts which were translated. I'm oversimplifying, but this is the idea. We do not have Moses' original writings. Someone copied down his writings who copied his writings and then translated it into another language. That new language was then copied down and recopied and so on. There are many ancient manuscripts that still exist, but none are originals. Some people may have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but even these are simply copies of an original manuscript, or more correctly copies of copies of copies. One need only spend about 15 minutes researching the Septuagint, Masoretic, and Vulgate manuscripts and it should become quite clear that the Holy Bible as you read it today has gone through hundreds if not thousands of translations, omissions, and revisions.

Bible scholars spend their lives researching the origins of the Bible. My purpose is not to attempt to reproduce or add on to their work, but to illustrate the point that the Bible came into being through the works of many hundreds if not thousands of scribes, translators, and leaders. I would direct you to these links for a more thorough explanation of the Bible's origin: LDS Bible Dictionary:Bible; LDS Bible Dictionary:Bible, English.

The confusion of the origin of the Bible aside, I know it to contain the truth. I was once asked "How do you know that the Bible is true?" I'll give you my response toward the end of this post. But the question is valid for everyone, how do YOU know that the Bible is true? Or if you don't know if the Bible is true, how can you know for yourself if it is true? The answers to these questions are found in the Book of Mormon.

The origin of the Book of Mormon is pretty easy to understand when compared with the Bible. In fact it is so easy to understand that its explanation is found in just a few paragraphs inside of every Book of Mormon. Quoting from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.

In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto him and obey the laws and ordinances of his gospel may be saved. Introduction
I don't think that there is anything I can add that can simplify the explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon either came into being exactly as described above, or it came into being some other way. If the Book of Mormon was written anciently by prophets of God in their native language on gold plates and then preserved by the power of God and subsequently given to Joseph Smith by an angel and then translated by Joseph Smith by the gift and power of God then can there be any conclusion other than Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet? I am open to listening to any other explanation, but my conviction is that Joseph Smith was a prophet and I know it by the Holy Ghost.
The Book of Mormon's final writer, Moroni, extended an invitation and promise to everyone who reads the Book of Mormon. The invitation is to ask God in the name of Jesus Christ if the book is true. The promise is that God will reveal that it is true to you by the Holy Ghost, or the feelings of joy, happiness, peace, hope, and faith that will be put in your heart. That is how the Holy Ghost speaks to us, in our hearts (Galatians 5:22-23). I know the promise is true. I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm in my heart that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that you too can know for yourself, but you must be willing to read the book, or at the very least part of the book, and exercise faith in Christ when you ask Heavenly Father if the book is true. Here is Moroni's invitation and promise:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. Moroni 10:3-5
Let's say that you want to pursue this invitation and promise. What would it mean if you received an answer to your personal prayers that the Book of Mormon is true? The answer is explained in the introduction to the book.
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)

Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah. Introduction
The Book of Mormon was compiled by the ancient prophet Mormon. It consists of sacred books written by ancient prophets who lived in the Americas during the same time as the people described in the Bible. It was written on gold plates in the language of reformed Egyptian (Mormon 9:32). Centuries after the plates were written Joseph Smith received the plates by the hand of the Angel Moroni and translated them into English (Testimony of The Prophet Joseph Smith). This is a miraculous origin, but nonetheless true!

Going back to the question I was once asked, "How do you know that the Bible is true?" At the time, I was a bit stumped. I knew that it was true by the Holy Ghost, but still what was the impetus that led to the Holy Ghost testifying to me the Bible was true? After thinking about if for a while, the answer came into my mind and heart..."I know the Bible is true because I know that the Book of Mormon is true!"

It wasn't until later that I understood just how profound that realization was. I discovered that one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to prove to the world that the Bible is true. This may seem silly. You may think, "Well of course the Bible is true, it's The Holy Bible!" Considering all of the translating, omissions, and errors that went into compiling the Bible doesn't it seem natural that God would prepare another set of scriptures that would corroborate the claims made in the Bible? The Book of Mormon does just that.

In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Nephi, who lived around 600 B.C., saw in a vision the coming forth of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Bible is described as a book coming forth from the Jews and that through time the book (Bible) had many plain and precious truths taken away from it. Nephi saw that the book (Bible) went among the Gentiles (all who were not Jews, including but not limited to the Romans who adopted Christianity) but many would come under Satan's power (Apostasy) because of the plain truths that had been removed from the book (Bible). But Nephi saw that the Lord would be merciful unto the Gentiles and unto Nephi's posterity and minister unto Nephi's posterity insomuch that they would write down their dealings with God (Book of Mormon) and it would come forth along with other records (Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price) to establish the truth of the first record (Bible). I have condensed the scripture a bit below, but I would invite you to read the entire chapter if possible.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

And I said unto him: I know not.

And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be merciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.

And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.

And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.

And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.

And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth. 1 Nephi 13:20-25, 29, 33-36, 38-41
How can you know if the Bible is true? The Book of Mormon was given to mankind to convince us all that Jesus is the Christ. When you discover by the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, you will also know that the Bible is true. I know that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain the truth and the word of God. They are both of divine origin. Both contain the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the two, the Book of Mormon contains the clearest explanation of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is.

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