It has long been my habit when reading a book to begin with the front cover, back cover, and first several pages. You can learn a lot about a book by following that simple process. Observe everything you see and make notes about anything that you’d like to research later.
Let’s do that with the book Mormons claim is “the most correct of any book on earth.”
[You can read the first part of Questioning Joseph Smith here.]
Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon
Mormons call The Book of Mormon “Another Testament Of Jesus Christ.” The first English edition was published in Palmyra, NY in 1830. The copyright on the copy the missionaries gave me included two different years: © 1981, 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. Copyrights that are later than the original copyright can indicate changes to the original. That’s something to note and research.
The first page after the copyrights reads — “The Book Of Mormon, An Account Written By The Hand of Mormon Upon Plates Taken From The Plates Of Nephi, Translated By Joseph Smith, Jun.” Many observations and questions come to mind.
The front page goes on to claim the book is “an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites … An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared.” More questions.
The next page was for Abbreviations of the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and other Abbreviations and Explanations. Again, more questions.
The next page is the Contents page. It includes: Introduction, Testimony of Three Witnesses, Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brief Explanation, Illustrations, 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, Mormon, Ether, Moroni, Pronunciation Guide, Index.
The Introduction page begins with these truth claims:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.
Notice that Mormons believe The Book of Mormon is “comparable” to the Bible. The Introduction continues:
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.
How does Joseph Smith fit into The Book of Mormon?
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.
Did Smith believe The Book of Mormon was “comparable” to the Bible or more “correct” than the Bible?
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren 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 by any other book.”
Members of the LDS depend on the accuracy of the translations and writings of their prophet. They also believe that The Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth.” Mormons believe the Bible is also the Word of God, “as far as it is translated correctly.” That is, by the way, the eighth article of faith in Mormonism.
The next page included “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.”
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. The Testimony of the Three Witnesses
Three men are listed as the witnesses: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.
Eight men are listed as the witnesses: Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jun., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sen., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith.
The next page is The Testimony Of The Prophet Joseph Smith. Smith wrote that he was praying to “Almighty God” on the evening of September 21, 1823. Smith wrote that a light appeared in his room and increased “until the room was lighter than at noonday.” Smith wrote that “a personage” appeared at the side of his bed, “standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.” Smith described the personage as a robe “of most exquisite whiteness.” Smith wrote that the personage called him by name and said that God had sent him with a message. The name of the personage was Moroni.
He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; ‘Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted ‘seers’ in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.
Smith wrote that Moroni then left him and ascended “right up into heaven.” As Smith considered what had just happened, he wrote that his room became light again and “the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside.” Smith wrote Moroni told him about “great judgments which were coming upon the earth,” then ascended again. Smith wrote that as he “lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard,” Moroni appeared to him again. This time, as Smith testified, Moroni “added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me … to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich.” Smith wrote that “After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before.” Smith wrote that “the cock crowed” after Moroni ascended the third time.
Smith wrote that he rose from his bed and went outside to do his usual “labors of the day.” However, Smith testified that he lost strength and “fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.” Smith wrote that he heard a voice speaking to him and saw that it was Moroni. Smith testified that Moroni told him to tell his father what had happened. Smith wrote that his father told him “it was of God” and that he should do what the messenger had said. Smith testified that he went to the place where Moroni told him that he would find the golden plates. Smith wrote that he went to “a hill of considerable size” in an area “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York,” and found the plates, “the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.”
You can read a more complete account at Joseph Smith—History in the Pearl of Great Price.
The next section of the introduction to the Book of Mormon was called “A Brief Explanation About The Book Of Mormon.” I noted this interesting paragraph at the end of the explanation:
Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
I look at the Illustrations, then move into the text Mormons ask me to read. It’s often from 3 Nephi.
The dates for the writing, as given in the text, were “About A.D. 34.” The location was somewhere in the Americas. I’ll share a few verses from each chapter so you’ll understand why I respond as I usually do.
And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place. And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death … And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. 3 Nephi 11:1-2, 6-11
And it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting. And Jesus again showed himself unto them, for they were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you? And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter. And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. 3 Nephi 27:1-6
I tell the Mormons I’m speaking with that the chapters sound a little like the King James Bible, but that the words have been changed from the Bible. If The Book of Mormon is a “volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible,” I would expect the translation of 3 Nephi to be comparable to the Bible. It isn’t comparable, which raises serious questions for me about the truthfulness of Mormonism.
I’ll detail some of the questions I ask Mormons and how they usually respond to me – in the next part of our series.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Faith and Self Defense © 2023
We know what the Bible says in Revelation about changing the inspired Word of God. May the Lord reveal His Way, Truth and Life to all who are misled and deceived.