Issue #10 - April 2003
"The Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the earth, and the keystone of
our religion, and a man will get nearer to God by abiding by its principles than
any other book"1
"We have before us what we call the Book of Mormon;... To us this book is a peculiar one, and we have frequently known that evidences concerning the Book of Mormon and its divinity have been had by individuals outside of the church, as well as those of its members. And I have often wondered that individuals not represented in the church have been made to understand that the Book of Mormon is of divine origin; that in itself it contains the evidence of its truthfulness; and its historical statements and the revelations in the book were certainly true. I may confess before you without any hesitancy that I have a clearer testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon than I have of the Bible, because I have heard a voice from on high stating distinctly as one man would speak unto another,' The Book of Mormon is of divine origin'".2
I believe the Palmyra Seer chose his words carefully! The Book of Mormon was
not the super-structure on which the church and her teaching were built. It was
not the foundation but rather the keystone. The church is built on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets with Jesus being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20).
What did Brother Joseph means when he spoke of the keystone? Webster defines
a keystone as "a wedge-shaped piece at the crown of an arch that lock's the other
pieces in place; something on which other associated things depends for
Webster's explanation suggests that if the keystone is removed it would
precipitate an implosion of the entire super-structure. Without the keystone of the
Book of Mormon the latter-day church's role of washing Israel in the waters of
regeneration, gathering her to the lands of her inheritance, and redeeming her in
the holy city, would necessarily implode. The integrity of the Book of Mormon
cannot be overemphasized, and its role as the keystone depends absolutely on the
book being true and not inerrant.
What do we mean by this? If the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the earth, what does that imply? Is it an immaculate textual incarnation of God himself? The Book of Mormon prophets lamented the difficulty had in the placing of their words (1Nephi 5:230-231, Ether 5:26). A review of the history of the translation of the Book of Mormon discloses the process to be both mechanical and revelatory. The 1837 Kirtland and the 1840 Nauvoo editions reflected several changes, which were primarily grammatical and stylistic refinements. There were, however, theological clarifications amended in the text. The Reorganization has used the 1908 Authorized Version, which is a comparison of several editions with the printer's manuscript. Critics in the evangelical community censure its status as scripture because they suppose that if the text is scripture it should remain fixed and inviolate.
The real test is the question of the book's origin - an ancient history - revealed by the hand of an angel and translated through the Urim and Thummim by the gift and power of God. If the book is true it becomes the strongest evidence and support for Joseph and the latter-day work. Within the framework of post-1960's RLDS church, and with rising thrust thereafter, there was a simultaneous de-emphasis of both the Book of Mormon and its translator. Many of the church's leading officers downplayed Joseph as a Seer and the book as authentic ancient scripture. They repudiated Joseph's encounter with the angels, and his visions were discredited and disbelieved. As a result, the Community of Christ has rejected the Book of Mormon - our keystone -and the church is in the process of imploding. The renaming of the church signals an ongoing attempt to sever ties with the church's history, a history steeped in visions, dreams, angelic activity, and, of course, the gold plates.
Many within the church today have concluded that Joseph wrote the book and that it was not a translation of an authentic ancient scripture delivered by the hand of an angel. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, those adopting this view conclude that the events discussed in the book never took place, yet they ask us to put our trust in it's "faith-promoting" elements. The path that leads to the conclusion that the book is fictional presupposes that the church with it's divine restoration of the priesthood is also a myth. This path ultimately removes the keystone, which has led to our present calamity. This criticism has spilled over throughout the church to such an extent that unbelief has also fastened itself to the traditional Saints. In many ways, the Saints have become causalities of these higher criticisms due, in large part, to their inability to accurately tell the story.
Jerald and Sandra Tanner - the most prolific writers against Joseph and the Book of Mormon - acknowledge that the teachings couched within the book are Christian. It is not believing in the Book of Mormon's teachings which critics view as so diabolical, but rather it is the belief in the book's origin that sets latter-day Saints apart. The restoration tradition has never applied the term sola scriptura like the fundamental or evangelical churches who acknowledge only the Bible as the inerrant word of God.3 Nephi explained: "And because my words shall hiss forth, many of the Gentiles shall say, A bible, a bible, we have got a bible, and there can not be any more bible." - 2Nephi 12:45
With the restoration of the gospel, we not only have an expanded source of canonical writings as found in the Book of Mormon, but we also have an unending source of continuing revelation. The Book of Mormon was the first wave of a dynamic, unfolding model of revelation. It was and is the keystone of our religion. Although filled with doctrine, revelation, testimony, and history, the Book of Mormon has an even greater application. The book is a symbol for the exercising of our faith and the means through which personal revelation confirms a truth greater than the book itself. "And when ye shall receive these things, (meaning the Book of Mormon) 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 10:4-5
1History of the Church (LDS) Vol.4:461
2Joseph Smith III, Sermon Series Vol. 2, Lamoni, Iowa, 12 September, 1894 No. 24
3The Protestant idea of sola scriptura adopted during the reformation, is the belief that the Bible is the sole authority of faith, that all one needs for salvation is in the Bible, and that the Bible is the complete revelation of the Father, the entire Word of God. St Augustine in the 5th century explained it differently which corresponds with the Restoration tradition: "Jesus through the Prophets, then by his own lips, afterwards through the Apostles, revealed whatever he considered necessary. He also inspired Scripture, which is regarded as canonical and of supreme authority and to which we give credence concerning all those truths we ought to know and yet, of ourselves, are unable to learn. Scripture is the supreme authority and reveals all truths we should know. City of God, Book 11, Chapter 3