The Book of Mormon is the keystone of the LDS religion. It is officially declared to be a literal record of the original inhabitants of the Americas, as recorded on gold plates. The thesis of the Book is that the American Indians are of Hebrew origin, descended from the lost tribes of Israel. The narrative contains numerous unique stories and fantastic claims, which are increasingly being tested against well established history and science.
Accepted by Mormonism today as the most important and perfect scripture, it contains very little actual doctrine, and Joseph Smith himself seldom if ever referred to the Book in his countless lectures. Few members are aware of the numerous 19th century books published prior to the Book of Mormon which bear striking resemblance to Joseph’s later work. While much speculation revolves around how the story actually came to light, the critical question remains – was it written by articulate, God fearing, sword wielding, chariot riding, Christian/Hebrew Indian sailors in an undiscovered language and location, using a method of inscription upon metal plates which also remains unknown in the old and new worlds?
LITERAL OR FICTION?
In the 1842 Wentworth letter, Joseph Smith suggested, “the history of ancient America is unfolded” in the Book of Mormon. Modern day LDS prophets continue to reiterate that the Book “…recounts the history of a group of Israelites that lived in Jerusalem…contains a history of the ancient inhabitants of the Western hemisphere.” (Todd Christofferson, Library of Congress, Dec 7, 2016)
While the RLDS Church conceded decades ago that the Book of Mormon is not an actual historical record, allowing members to derive value from inspirational stories, the LDS Church remains committed to an increasingly untenable literal interpretation. In light of the mounting evidence, faithful members must seriously consider if in fact sophisticated pre-Columbian Indians recorded the story.
TRUE OR FALSE?
“There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.” (The Book of Mormon – Keystone of Our Religion, Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Oct 1986)
“The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon…so does our claim to priesthood keys, revelation and restored church… Either the Book of Mormon is what Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.”
(True or False, Jeffrey Holland, 1994)
“For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied…yet still it stands. None of these pathetic answers withstand examination. There is no other answer… if anyone is foolish enough to reject 531 pages…teeming with literary complexity…Such persons have been deceived…if they leave this Church, they must do so crawling over, under, around the Book of Mormon to make their exit.” (Safety For The Soul, Jeffrey Holland, LDS General Conference, Oct 2009)
“It is not necessary for me to suggest that maintenance of the truth of the Book of Mormon is absolutely essential to the integrity of the whole Mormon movement, for it is inconceivable that the Book of Mormon should be untrue in its origin or character and the Church be true.” (Studies of Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts, p. 58)
Gregory Prince, LDS author and historian, has called for those who still believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon to “grow up.”
When Leonard Arrington was asked if there really were Lamanites, he replied “Well, let’s put it like this; that is part of the great Mormon myth that we all hold to and all benefit from.” (Leonard Arrington: The Writing of Mormon History p. 129)
CHURCH SPONSORED ART
Images help to create powerful mental visualizations. As one navigates a thoughtful exploration of the Book of Mormon, it is important to recognize that nearly every piece of Church promoted art is materially false, including the sailing ship, swords, armor, massive walled cities, horses, Joseph openly scrutinizing gold plates on a table, the 8 witnesses gathered together in one place, etc. Established history and the Church’s own records refute the images.
For example, there persists a cherished myth that this painting of Jesus, by Del Parson, was personally overseen by the LDS General Authorities, and that modifications were requested to achieve an image closely resembling Jesus Christ – the implication being that the GAs have seen Him. May this animated image contrasting Del with his painting shed additional light on that notion. Who knew that Mormon Jesus was among us all this time in the form of an artist?