The Book of Mormon: What has it done for you lately?

January 12, 2012 | 29 comments
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Julie is posting detailed commentary and Kent is providing literary reflection; I’m afraid all I have to offer on the Book of Mormon is general observations. This week let’s talk about situating the book as a whole, not so much in terms of content and form (which I’ll address in later posts) but in terms of function and use. How does the Church use the Book of Mormon? How do you use the Book of Mormon?

What the Book of Mormon Says About Itself

One place to start is the Title Page to the Book of Mormon itself, which (we are told) is translated text that accompanied the body of the Book of Mormon text. That page tells us that the Book of Mormon is intended to do three things:

  1. To inform the descendants of Lehi about the history of their ancestors (Nephites and Lamanites) and that they are descended from the house of Israel;
  2. To tell the descendants of Lehi that they are “not cast off forever” and that “they may know the covenants of the Lord,” which complements the first item by making Israelite ancestry not merely an item of historical interest to the descendants of Lehi but a status that activates present-day promises and possibilities; and
  3. To proclaim to all readers (“Jew and Gentile”) that Jesus is the Christ and that God reveals himself to all nations.

The third item is general, but the first two items are specific to the descendants of Lehi or, as they are often termed in the text, “the remnant of our seed.” Once upon a time, that designation, along with the promises extended at various places in the Book of Mormon to the descendants of Lehi, was thought to apply to all Native Americans. Under the current understanding — that the descendants of Lehi are actually a small and unidentified portion of the Native American population, the large majority of which are admitted to be of Asiatic descent — the special promises in the Book of Mormon addressed to the descendants of Lehi actually do not apply to most Native Americans. I have not seen this obvious point discussed elsewhere, although it certainly seems like the kind of thing that would be addressed somewhere in the twenty volumes of the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture.

Another source for statements about the purpose of the Book of Mormon is the text itself, such as 1 Nephi 13:40:

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.

This verse gives what I think is a better statement of purpose than the Title Page, specifically noting that the Book of Mormon would:

  1. Support the Bible.
  2. Restore plain and precious truths that have been removed from the Bible since its texts were originally delivered.
  3. Testify to all people that they must come unto Jesus Christ or they cannot be saved.

Interestingly, the items on this list pulled from 1 Nephi 13:40 seem to match up better with the statements about the Book of Mormon one hears in the present LDS curriculum than the items from the Title Page listed earlier.

Recent Views

From the early days of the Church, the Book of Mormon has been used as a sign of the calling and prophetic status of Joseph Smith. That is certainly true for the LDS curriculum today and also for how LDS beliefs are presented in LDS missionary teaching to those who are unfamiliar with LDS doctrine and history. This tight linking of the Book of Mormon with the life and mission of Joseph Smith is nicely illustrated by a quotation from Elder Holland’s October 2009 General Conference talk “Safety for the Soul.” He related how Hyrum Smith recited Ether 12:7-8 to Joseph as they departed Nauvoo to answer legal charges in nearby Carthage (which led to their detention in Carthage Jail and shortly thereafter to their assassination by a disbanded unit of the state militia). Elder Holland continued:

As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

While undeniably appropriate for exhortation and ministry, linking the Book of Mormon so directly to Joseph Smith (or to LDS doctrine in general) can unwittingly deflect attention from the book itself, as noted most recently by Grant Hardy in Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (OUP, 2010):

Most studies tend to mine the text for evidence in larger arguments about the nature of Mormonism as a religious movement or the credibility of its first prophet. … While historians have searched the Book of Mormon for clues about nineteenth-century America or Joseph Smith, Mormon writers have generally focused either on evidence for the book’s historical claims or correlations with LDS theology. And for many Latter-day Saints, careful scrutiny of the volume’s contents is secondary to the direct relationship with God that the book makes possible. Those investigating the faith are encouraged to pray about the Book of Mormon …. Individuals who feel they have received such a spiritual witness are often content to redirect their energies from textual analysis toward living the wholesome sort of lifestyle that Mormonism advocates. (p. xii-xiii.)

So these quotes give some ideas for how the Book of Mormon can be used or should be used. How do you use it? How does it affect your life? What has it done for you lately?

29 Responses to The Book of Mormon: What has it done for you lately?

  1. chris on January 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    “Once upon a time, that designation, along with the promises extended at various places in the Book of Mormon to the descendants of Lehi, was thought to apply to all Native Americans”

    Zoram and Ishmael become Laminates or Nephites repsectfully even though they weren’t the sons of Lehi. The people of Zarahemla that joined with Mosiah did the the same. I think the BoM is pretty clear and straightforward on this point, of generally labeling all those people who served God as Nephites (although at times it gives them a distinct version of their own -ites) and those people who either fight against God as generally Laminates (although at times it gives them a specific version of their own -ites).

    I see no reason why Native Americans, Mayans, etc. can’t be lumped into this spiritual classification, just as the BoM itself points out others were. They are the inheritors of the land and descended from a people who at some point were “lumped in” with the believers and non-believers.

    It definitely get’s tricky with the whole “principal ancestors” stuff as I think we often confuse and intermingle the spiritual ancestry with the physical. “House of Israel” has been used quite a bit in the church, and if someone looked at that 400 years from now they might start doing DNA research saying how in fact, hardly any of us are from Israel.

    Or the sons of Moses and Aaron and the seed of Abraham (which presumably few if any of us are from birth since the scripture in sec. 84 goes on to say “they become…”)

  2. Dave on January 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. From the perspective of 2012, I agree that lineage doesn’t and shouldn’t matter (see here for a longer discussion). But if we’re talking about what the Book of Mormon actually says, it seems quite clear that some appeals and promises are directed specifically to Lehi’s lineal descendants. That is the most reasonable reading of the phrase “remnant of our seed” which Nephi often employs.

  3. Ray on January 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    For me, it has little to do with doctrine, since most of our truly unique doctrines are based on our interpretation of the Bible. For me, it’s been much more of an “opener to the working of the Spirit” and an “inviter to accept personal revelation from God” than anything else.

    I actually wrote about that just last Friday on my personal blog. If you want to read it:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/01/primary-purpose-of-book-of-mormon-is.html

  4. Dave on January 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Ray, that was an outstanding post — I would have linked to it in my post had I come across it earlier. Here is a paragraph from your post that seems especially relevant:

    One of the primary reasons for the Book of Mormon, according to the book itself, is to testify of the Bible — and to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of communing directly with God. I think the Book of Mormon acts as a catalyst to force someone to humble himself/herself to approach God with a sincere heart and ask for personal revelation. Those who receive a “witness” begin a journey of openness to the Spirit, which is symbolized (and sometimes actualized) in the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

  5. anon but regular reader/poster on January 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Well, as someone born and raised in the Church, RM, married in the Temple but later divorced I was seriously considering leaving the Church but unsure how do it. I just don’t think I have what it takes to be a great member, I am not married anymore, not rich, no stellar university degrees and I know more inactive LDS then active.In my mind I can explain what the Church believes about something then read something else and I get confused because someone’s else’s understanding is superior to mine. Then I read Alma 7. I am not out of the woods yet but I don’t want to leave, I don’t know what God thinks of me,I don’t feel loved by God, or feel connected to Christ. I am still in a confused state but less so then a week ago! So, that’s what thetruths in the Book of Mormon does for me

  6. Paul 2 on January 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    A read of the chapters from Alma 17 to 26 cheers me up more than anything else that I can do. This may sound like an exaggeration but it is not. It makes me feel like very significant personal change is still possible and stlll totally worth it. I end up trying again or trying in new ways and also trusting more in ‘the marvelous light of His goodness’.

  7. Donald on January 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I wonder if 1 Nephi 13:39-40 is speaking of the Book of Mormon. Could they be speaking of other books that will come forth after the Book of Mormon and Bible? Verses 35-37 are clearly speaking of the Book of Mormon, but I’m not sure if 39-40 are.

    Has anyone else ever wondered about these verse, or have another take?

    Another reference referring to the purpose of the Book of Mormon would be 2 Nephi 3:12.

    1. Confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions.
    2. Establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and gbringing them to the hknowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants.

  8. ji on January 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Dave, by changing convincing the Jew and Gentile that “JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD” who manifests himself to all nations to “proclaim to all readers (“Jew and Gentile”) that Jesus is the Christ and that God reveals himself to all nations”, you have watered down what the Book of Mormon says about itself. The Book of Mormon proclaims that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, who manifests himself to all nations.

    Your error is very common — many Latter-day Saints do not proclaim that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD. I do. But when you purport to say what the Book of Mormon’s title page says about itself, you have to say that the Book of Mormon proclaims that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.

  9. wondering on January 13, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Why couldn’t ALL Native Americans be BOTH literal descendants of Lehi AND of mainly Asiatic descent?

  10. Dave on January 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Anon (#5) and Paul (#6), thank you for sharing your own uplifting experiences.

    ji (#7), you are certainly free to compose your own summary of the purpose statements of the Title Page if you don’t like mine. But I’m getting a sense that you are interpreting the specific phrasing of the Title Page in a way that runs rather contrary to the similar statement made at 1 Nephi 13:40 (quoted in the post) that “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father” and to the present LDS view of the Godhead (our term for what other Christians term the Trinity) as united in purpose but composed of distinct Persons, as expressed in the first Article of Faith, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ ….”

  11. JKC on January 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Regarding ji’s and Dave’s colloqy in 7 and 9, it’s probably worth noting that, according to Skousen anyway, the “Son of” language was not in the original manuscript version of 1 Nephi 13:40. I could be wrong, but I remember reading somewhere that the first edition (and maybe a few more early editions) also did not include “Son of.” If Skousen is right, that would appear to support ji’s point that the Book of Mormon itself emphasizes Christ’s Godhood and divine fatherhood, more than his divine sonship.

    But it doesn’t necessarily detract either from Dave’s point that ji’s emphasis, at least taken at face value, could appear to be contrary to the current emphasis on divine sonship. (I rather suspect that that might be ji’s point). It also doesn’t mean that addition of the “Son of” language was unwarranted. I don’t know all the history on this, but seems at least as plausible to me that the addition was to correct an incorrect omission as it is that the addition was a later gloss on the original text.

    Of course, regardless of Skousen’s point as to that particular verse, there is plenty of emphasis in the Book of Mormon on Christ’s Godhood and divine fatherhood. (Mosiah 13:34-35, 15:1-5 is one prominent example). And I don’t think an emphasis on Christ’s divinity and divine fatherhood is at all that irreconcilable with the Church’s current emphasis on his divine Sonship, but that’s another discussion.

    Or is it? Maybe this goes to Dave’s point that the Book of Mormon’s function in the current Church is independent of its content–or at least not tied tightly to its content.

  12. Raymond Takashi Swenson on January 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

    The Book of Ether, actually Moroni’s summary and commentary of the original translation by Mosiah II, is explicit that Jesus us also Jehovah. Same with 3 Nephi, in which the voice if God is heard proclaiming that he is Jehovah who gave the law to Moses and Jesus who has just died on the cross in performing the atonement. The titke page is consistent with the contents.

    As for Lehi’s ancestry of Native Americans, the Book of Mormon asserts that Lehi’s descendants would still be living when the Book of Mormon is made available to them 2400 years later. In the course of normal trade (which linked Northern tribrs with Meso-America), migration, conquest, and so forth, it is highly likely that Lehi is an ancestor of most of the Native Americans now living. As studies of DNA and genealogies in Iceland have shown, because each genetation loses half the DNA of each ancestor, you can be a documented descendant of a person 1000 years ago, but have no specific distinct DNA that identifies you uniquely as such. After all, most of our human DNA is common to all people, just as 99% of it is common with chimpanzees. The distinctive DNA markers re.a very small part of our DNA.

    Yes, it is quite possible to have ancestry from both Asia and elsewhere. Mine is Japanese, Swedish and Italian. Japan has such a short written history, only back to circa 600 AD, that there is no way to exclude input from not only northern Asia via Korea but also Southeast Asia, Polynesia, etc. Then there are a whole complex of religious traditions that echo Israel. You can sometimes find evidence to affirm a specific link, but there can be an ancestral link with no physical evidence.

    And there are tantalizing hints. One LDS linguist who knows Hebrew and has studied the Uto-Aztecan language group has found a significant number of cognates to Hebrew. Hugh Nibley wrote about the way details of Hopi seasonal celebrations corresponded to ones in the ancient Middle East.

    Let me offer a comparison. In 1492, Spain ordered all Jews to either convert or leave. Many left, but others stayed and joined the many others who had become Christians. A survey in Spain found a third of the Spanish men tested had the Cohen gene associated with descent from Levi. Many of the participants in the conquest of thebAmericas wete conversos who were avoiding the Inquisition back in Spain. New Mexico has families descended from early Spanish immigrants who light candles on Friday night as the.mother recites syllables that are descended from Hebrew. Jewish descendants spread into the Americas through the Spanish conquest. Israel can pop up in all sorys of unexpected pkaces.

  13. ji on January 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Dave (no 9),
    I offered what the Title Page really and actually says — you purportedly offered what he Title Page actually tells us but substituted an interpretation instead. If we want to know what the Book of Mormon says about itself, and we want to start with the Title Page, then we must agree that the Book of Mormon says that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.
    This principle is boldly reinforced many times throughout the Book of Mormon. I’ll share one: 3 Nephi 11:14, where Jesus tells those gathered that “I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”
    This is what the Book of Mormon says for itself. I use the Book of Mormon to rejoice in Christ and to know that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and that he took upon him the image of man (see Mosiah 7:27). The Book of Mormon reminds me what great things the Lord has done for our fathers, teaches me the covenants of the Lord, and reminds me that we are not forever cut off from God (see the Title Page). I love the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. This is how it affects my life.

  14. annegb on January 13, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Bill just finished reading the Book of Mormon. The spirit in our home improved noticeably. It’s been kind of magical. Almost weirdly magical.

  15. Dave on January 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    ji, your statements are so opaque it’s hard to tell exactly what you are claiming. You don’t seem to understand that your reading of the Title Page is as much an interpretation as my summary of the statements regarding purpose … except that my interpretation is more faithful to the text. Your interpretation — which seems to be that God is One Person and that drawing a distinction between God the Father and Jesus Christ is unwarranted — simply does not follow from the text you are citing. Repeating your comment a second time or using CAPITAL LETTERS does not strengthen your argument. When it says “JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD” it is saying two different things: (1) Jesus is the Christ; and (2) Jesus Christ is God. Those are not unique or revolutionary claims, nor are they unique to Mormonism. Qualifying “God” with “Eternal” does not change the reference, as if “the Eternal God” refers to a different Person than “God.” Do you think every divine title or description used in the scriptures refers to a different God?

  16. Brad on January 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I found Elder Holland’s talk historically inaccurate. He paints the early persecutions of the LDS as if they were some sort of religious inquisition. The early LDS church was a social movement that sought to purchase and distribute land in a strategic location near the Kansas line. The primary reason for the persecution of early LDS by the Missourians was not so much their belief of the BOM, but fear that they would gradually acquire larger tracts of land and edge out non-believers politically and economically.

    Second, Elder Holland portrays the early LDS as if they were somehow willing to die and suffer hardship rather than deny their testimony of the BOM. Also a gross overstatement. Many early LDS had nowhere else to go by the time crisis struck them. They also had hopes of social and economic improvements to their lives (such as land ownership and good status in a new community) that they believed that they couldn’t find elsewhere. The mishaps to them while crossing the plains were the result of oversight, mismanagement, and bad luck. They were never seeking to become martyrs for the Book of Mormon. I imagine that had they had the chance to renounce their belief in the BOM yet maintain their social status and economic privileges, that few other than the immediate leadership (whose legitimacy was based upon the BOM) would had significant qualms about renouncing the BOM.

    Also, JS was not martyred for his belief in the BOM. The primary causes of his martyrdom were his disputed role in the 1838 Missouri crisis, the destruction of printing press in Nauvoo, allegations of sexual deviance (polygamy), alleged preaching of polytheism, and his perceived assumption of pope-like power at Nauvoo. The BOM had nothing to do with it.

  17. Ray on January 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    /extreme threadjack response

    Brad, that comment has absolutely nothing to do with the OP or any of the comments – and it actually distorts Elder Holland’s talk horribly. Just saying.

    Also:

    “I imagine that had they had the chance to renounce their belief in the BOM yet maintain their social status and economic privileges, that few other than the immediate leadership (whose legitimacy was based upon the BOM) would had significant qualms about renouncing the BOM.”

    I seems you haven’t read very many diaries of the early saints.

    /back to the discussion of the actual post

  18. clark on January 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    JKC – among my favorite parts of the Book of Mormon are the parts with Christ as Father. I’m glad you brought that up. While most focus on the early part of Mosiah 15 which is frequently misinterpreted as modalism the most interesting parts are the rest of the chapter where Abinadi does an exegesis of Isaiah and the meaning of saviors on Mt. Zion. It’s pretty clear in the context of the chapter how Christ is a father and who his seed are. The whole point of the gospel is to be saved through Christ and be born again as Christ’s. And further we should become fathers and saviors ourselves as we work to preach the gospel.

    Anyway the main emphasis of Christ as Father more directly rather than in the sense of adoption also makes a lot of sense in terms of traditional Jewish Merkabah literature. Who knows what form that tradition took at the time of Lehi which predates most Merkabah texts by centuries. But the parallels, especially to Mosiah 15, are pretty pronounced. (Both Ostler and Paulsen have written on this – although just look up some of the main Merkabah texts especially ones focused on Metatron or the Lesser YHWH and it’s hard to miss)

  19. Brad on January 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    How did I threadjack Ray? It seems more like you just got offended. Anyhow no doubt many early LDS were attached because of genuine belief in the BOM. But the BOM wasn’t the major driver of attachment early on. Also historically it has been quite common for religious groups, under great duress, to renounce attachment to a belief. The early LDS aren’t an exception. Read “Divergent Paths of the Restoration” and you will see that the early LDS were quite diverse in their beliefs. The diversity of beliefs among early LDS suggests that the doctrines and beliefs alone weren’t the primary, let alone the only, drivers of attachment.

  20. Dave on January 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Brad (#15), thanks for the comments. I’m not sure you actually read the transcript of Elder Holland’s talk. He never made blanket references to “the early LDS” as a group — his reference was to some exchanges between Joseph and Hyrum shortly before their death. You may disagree with the inferences he makes based on the events he recounts, but your suggestion that he was being “historically inaccurate” seems misdirected.

    Brad (#18), the most recent edition of the book you referenced is published by Herald House, so I assume you are commenting from an RLDS/COC perspective. Perhaps that explains your discomfort with Elder Holland’s remarks linking the Book of Mormon to Joseph and Hyrum’s last days. I wouldn’t disagree with your comment that “the early LDS were quite diverse in their beliefs,” at least to a greater degree than is generally showcased in LDS treatments of the early LDS Church, although I’m not sure that’s particularly relevant to the post.

  21. Lucy on January 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and the bedrock of my personal testimony of Jesus Christ. It is saturated with the Spirit of the Lord. It is an instrument for conversion to Christ and for the gathering of Israel. It is true (see Elder Callister’s recent talk http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-book-of-mormon-a-book-from-god?lang=eng) Ask not what the Book of Mormon can do for you, but what you can do for the Book of Mormon.

  22. Ray on January 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Brad, from the OP:

    “How do you use it? How does it affect your life? What has it done for you lately?”

    Every comment but yours (and now second comment, in response to yours) deals with those questions, in one way or another. It also adds an element of attacking someone by twisting their words beyond recognition. That’s the simple definition of a trollish threadjack.

    Like Dave, I understand your comment – completely. I have three main problems with it, but detailing them would be contributing further to the trollish threadjack, so I won’t do so.

    In lieu of that:

    “How do you use it? How does it affect your life? What has it done for you lately?”

  23. ji on January 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Dave (no. 14) — I’ll try one more time and be done — in your original posting, you said you were writing what the Book of Mormon actually says about itself, but you didn’t do that — you provided an interpretation instead regarding what the TItle Page says. What I wrote was what the Title Page actually says.

    There is no interpretation in what I wrote, but there is interpretation in what you wrote.

    My point is that you purported to describe what the document actually says about itself, but you erred in that effort.

    By the way, the capital letters came from the original title page. They aren’t my emphasis. See, I actually read the title page and I was true to it. JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD. That’s what it says for itself.

    I also believe what it says, but that’s another discussion.

  24. Dave on January 14, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Thanks for the comment, ji. No, that is not what I said. here is what I said: “One place to start is the Title Page to the Book of Mormon itself.” Then I said: “That page tells us that the Book of Mormon is intended to do three things.” if your whole point is that it is wrong to summarize, one must use direct quotes, then quote me, don’t offer your own summarized mischaracterization of what I said.

    And (for the third time) what do you think the Title Page is telling us about God and Jesus Christ?

  25. Eric Boysen on January 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

    My first exposure to the Book of Mormon was in a hotel room in SLC when I was about 13. I started at the beginning and got as far as the testimonies of the various witnesses and Joseph Smith. I doubt I made it any distance into 1 Nephi if I cracked it at all. I found the book profoundly disturbing, particularly its claim to have been delivered to Joseph Smith by an angel. My question to my mother “Do people actually believe this?” carried an incredulity that echoed in spirit Charles Dickens’ dismissal of the such things in an age of railways. As a good Universalist her answer to me was supportive of people finding their own path to spirituality. I see now from a new perspective that that encounter left me richer than I had been at the outset.
    Fast forward a few years, and my next attempt at reading the Book of Mormon was wholly successful weekend marathon when I discovered that a young lady of my acquaintance was LDS. I am certain that experience was too rushed and ill focused in its purpose to give me much more than what I had gone to seek – talking points for conversation, but even so I can see I got more from that quick dash through the text than what I had sought.
    The young lady is no longer part of my life except in my memory. The book, however, remains. I have now read from its pages over and again, both casually and with serious intent for many years. I have studied it. I have been entertained by it. I have found inspiration in it. I have disagreed with it and fought with it. I have treasured it and accepted. I have dismissed it as poorly written. I have dived into it. It has given me peace in my trials. I have tried to ignore it, but it never lets go. It has made my life richer of itself and as a common reference point with others in the church.
    It testifies of the Savior, of who he is. It convinced this Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, who manifested himself to me through its words. Yes, it has faults, but they are mistakes of men, and the biggest mistake of all is to underestimate this book.

  26. ji on January 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Dave (no.23): Your question: And (for the third time) what do you think the Title Page is telling us about God and Jesus Christ?

    My answer: The Title Page is telling us that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.

    This message is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. I even ran across this message again last night in my family’s reading of the Doctrine and Covenants: Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes; I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me. D&C 38:1-3.

    The Book of Mormon (and the Doctrine and Covenants) reminds me that Jesus Christ is “the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel” (D&C 36), “the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever” (D&C 35), “the Lord God” (D&C 34), “the Lord God” (D&C 29), “Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer” (D&C 27). I’ll stop here, these being the sections we’ve read in the recent past. But there are many others.

    How wonderful it is!

  27. Ray on January 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks, Eric. I think your experience is one that is shared by many people – in spirit and general detail, even if not in specifics of discovery.

  28. Justin on January 16, 2012 at 9:54 am

    How do you use [the Book of Mormon]?
    Well, since it is the most correct book — in that it was entirely written and interpreted by the spirit of prophecy and revelation and has been the least touched by the works of men — as have the other books sent forth by God to us [e.g. the Bible], I take its prophecies and revelations as having direct application to me.

    The theme of the Book of Mormon has always been the same: if you keep God’s commandments [whatever they happen to be] according to the law of expediency, then He will prosper you — and if you do not keep them, then you will be cut off from His presence.

    How does [the Book of Mormon] affect your life?
    Well — since its correctness has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of the history of the Nephite civilization or the factual accuracy of its narrative, but rather rests on the simple fact that the Book of Mormon is a work of prophecy and revelation that has had minimal input from men operating under their own power — I think that it presents to the world a prophetic and revelatory-based reality that contradicts the assumptions under which the works of men and the works of the devil operate.

    So it is impossible to understand the Book of Mormon from the perspective of the works of men, or through a filter of the philosophies of men, because it contradicts in every fashion those works and philosophies.

    So I use the Book of Mormon to keep my mind in tune with the spirit of prophecy and revelation — because that’s the only way I can accept the Book of Mormon and understand its meaning [at least without altering the text itself in an attempt to make it accord with my own ideas or the ideas of a particular commentator I might be reading].

    What has [the Book of Mormon] done for you lately?
    Since the Book of Mormon is a tool of discernment, when guided by the Spirit — I can use the Book of Mormon to discern another’s spirit of operation [of God, of men, or of the devil], simply by asking them their beliefs about it.

    If they are LDS who believe the Book of Mormon is true, live its teachings, and therefore manifest the spirit of prophecy and revelation — then they are operating with the spirit of God. If they are LDS who say they believe the Book of Mormon is true, but treat it lightly, preferring other scriptures or the interpretations of men to guide them, and do not live its teachings but merely give them lip service — then they are operating with the doctrines and commandments of men. And if they are LDS who don’t believe the Book of Mormon is true and reject its prophetic and revelatory claims, and seek to alter the text or its meaning — then they are operating with the spirit of the devil.

    Thus, we see that the Lord has made the Book of Mormon a litmus test and He will use it to filter the masses and gather out His elect from the four quarters of the earth, for only the elect will gather around it. All others will end up rejecting it.

  29. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    The OP states: Under the current understanding — that the descendants of Lehi are actually a small and unidentified portion of the Native American population, the large majority of which are admitted to be of Asiatic descent…

    This points my mind to Lehi’s Trek to China and North America.

    And #11′s statement: In the course of normal trade (which linked Northern tribes with Meso-America), migration, conquest, and so forth, it is highly likely that Lehi is an ancestor of most of the Native Americans now living. As studies of DNA and genealogies in Iceland have shown, because each generation loses half the DNA of each ancestor, you can be a documented descendant of a person 1000 years ago, but have no specific distinct DNA that identifies you uniquely as such.

    seems to bring everything together quite nicely.

    Re: the OP’s questions, ditto what Justin said.

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