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The Meaning And Purpose Of The Book Of Mormon


William Schryver

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Great blog post, Will, confirming the centrality of Jesus Christ in all things and the Book of Mormon's place as a witness of Him in our day.

I often refer to the Book of Mormon as a guide to the Second Coming of Christ, which will be his ultimate manifestation to all nations. The historicity of the book, while interesting and useful, is not as you indicated the most important purpose of the Book of Mormon. Its strength lies in its witness of Christ, and it must be primarily judged as that witness. To do otherwise is to miss the point entirely.

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Will, I think that the same standards can and should be applied to the Bible. The witness of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ is the main purpose of both compilations. There are mistakes and contradictions galore in the Bible, but the overall message is clear, and the means of understanding that message is also clear.

However, I think that the book of Mormon is also a witness to the restoration of the Gospel. If Joseph had just went about preaching of his vision, he would have been given short thrift in the religious climate of his day. The Book of Mormon was the unique, polarizing, yet electrifying element that separated the young prophet's pronouncements from the the ministers of the other religions.

But, after the dust settles, your insights are spot on.

Glenn

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I love Pres. Benson's 1987 statement

“Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.”

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My latest blog offering, based on a post I made yesterday on this message board: The Meaning and Purpose of the Book of Mormon

I think that you are on the right track here, Will.

Several people have attempted to find the central focus (and purpose) of the Book of Mormon through use of chiasmus. At the very center of the book of Alma, for example, is Alma 36, a magnificent chiasm with the turning point at the recollection of Alma's conversion at 36:17-18 (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=72&chapid=865). Another colleague takes the center of our current Book of Mormon, at Alma 34:8-17, another chiasm which focuses on the Infinite atonement. In fact, both feature the atonement of Jesus Christ. In either case, since we cannot locate the center of the Book of Mormon without the book of Lehi, it is a toss-up at to what chapter provides the central purpose and focus of the Book..

As to proof, the late Elder Neal Maxwell used to quote Austin Farrer (discussing C. S. Lewis):

“. . . though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
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I think that you are on the right track here, Will.

Several people have attempted to find the central focus (and purpose) of the Book of Mormon through use of chiasmus. At the very center of the book of Alma, for example, is Alma 36, a magnificent chiasm with the turning point at the recollection of Alma's conversion at 36:17-18 (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=72&chapid=865). Another colleague takes the center of our current Book of Mormon, at Alma 34:8-17, another chiasm which focuses on the Infinite atonement. In fact, both feature the atonement of Jesus Christ. In either case, since we cannot locate the center of the Book of Mormon without the book of Lehi, it is a toss-up at to what chapter provides the central purpose and focus of the Book..

As to proof, the late Elder Neal Maxwell used to quote Austin Farrer (discussing C. S. Lewis):

“. . . though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

I think my biggest point was to focus on the Book of Mormon Title Page as an indicator of what Mormon and Moroni felt to be their primary purpose in preparing the Book of Mormon. My wife and I were talking about this on Saturday as we were driving north to the Wasatch Front. I think the BoM Title Page is really quite an amazing piece of text inasmuch as it really does encompass the meaning and purpose of the Book of Mormon. As such, I would argue that the Title Page itself is a kind of textual witness of the truthfulness of the Book it introduces.

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  • 4 weeks later...

With all due respect the main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to restore the House of Joseph(Lamanites) to the true gospel again. The Lamanites are the descendants of Lehi. The purpose is for them to receive it from the Gentiles and understand who they really are. Hence the title page of the BorM," written to the Lamanites who are a remnant of the house of Israel", to come by way of the gentile. Many Lamanites are receiving the book and understanding who they really are!

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I love Pres. Benson's 1987 statement

Indeed, President Benson helped us understand many of the different things we can learn from the Book of Mormon:

Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we really did our homework and approached the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we could expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men, including socialism, humanism, organic evolution, and others.
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In my dealings with the critics of the BOM, one thing becomes evident. There is no giving an inch on the possibility that it could be authentic history, whilst the Bible is given a free pass on possible historical errors.

While disbelievers can accept some/most of the historicity of the Bible, any possible acceptance of the BOM is impossible for a simple reason. The Bible comes to us thru natural means, while the BOM came to us from an angel. Even to suggest that it is possbily historical is to admit the possibiliity of existence of a deity and angels. Atheists can accept parts of the Bible, but it is impossible to give any quarter to a book delivered by an angel.

Even if the Nephites had recorded absolute proof of its historicity, this is a fool's errand to try to convince the world to even read it, to take it seriously. It is in the realm of religion and cannot be considered as a historical document, as the Smithsonian states.

We won't touch it no matter what the evidence says.

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In my dealings with the critics of the BOM, one thing becomes evident. There is no giving an inch on the possibility that it could be authentic history, whilst the Bible is given a free pass on possible historical errors.

While disbelievers can accept some/most of the historicity of the Bible, any possible acceptance of the BOM is impossible for a simple reason. The Bible comes to us thru natural means, while the BOM came to us from an angel. Even to suggest that it is possbily historical is to admit the possibiliity of existence of a deity and angels. Atheists can accept parts of the Bible, but it is impossible to give any quarter to a book delivered by an angel.

Even if the Nephites had recorded absolute proof of its historicity, this is a fool's errand to try to convince the world to even read it, to take it seriously. It is in the realm of religion and cannot be considered as a historical document, as the Smithsonian states.

We won't touch it no matter what the evidence says.

Well, to be fair, most people couldn't care less about the history of ancient America (meso or heartland), so you're already in the realm of stuff people don't care about. But for those who are interested, what are they missing out on by not accepting the Book of Mormon as an ancient history?

In other words, suppose you got a phone call from Richard Adams, author of the textbook "Prehistoric Mesoamerica", and he said he was updating his book and wanted to include the information in the Book of Mormon as part of the history in the textbook. What would you tell him to include?

To keep it simple, what would be the five facts about ancient America that would be included in the new version of the textbook based on the historical reading of the Book of Mormon? For the sake of argument, these claims in the textbook will be referenced as "Indisputable Fact", and footnoted as such. This information will be presented as historical truth for the students.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

(Please post any responses in this thread).

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Ranking may indicate priority, but does not necessarily indicate "main purpose" if that purpose is missionary work. For example, just because we may reach out to those closest to us first doesn't mean that those who have to wait for us to be in a better situation to teach them are any less important to us or to God.

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Well, to be fair, most people couldn't care less about the history of ancient America (meso or heartland), so you're already in the realm of stuff people don't care about. But for those who are interested, what are they missing out on by not accepting the Book of Mormon as an ancient history?

In other words, suppose you got a phone call from Richard Adams, author of the textbook "Prehistoric Mesoamerica", and he said he was updating his book and wanted to include the information in the Book of Mormon as part of the history in the textbook. What would you tell him to include?

Now that he is an emeritus professor (Univ. of Texas) he might feel free to include such facts and not have to fear committing academic suicide by doing so, and he could include such material in any one of several of his books. He would be likely to include such information as gingerly as possible in any case, couching his comments in terms of some interesting, but extraordinary claims posed by serious Book of Mormon research. Probably in a last chapter. He would naturally have to cite several articles and books by John Sorenson (including his forthcoming Mormon's Codex), John Clark, Mark Wright, and other Mormon professionals who have written on the subject. He would have to buttress that with a full discussion of diffusion, since that is no longer the problem it was decades ago, and here the work of Sorenson & Johannessen, David H. Kelley, Dennis Stanford, Betty Meggars, and others proving vast diffusion in history (of those listed, only Sorenson is LDS). Additional facts he might focus on would be the incredible coincidence of the archeological synchronism of the rise & fall of Jaredite & Olmec cultures, as well as of the Nephite & Chiapas cultures (in the Grijalva River Valley). He would have to accompany that with a description of the respective civilizations and their close, systematic parallels (there are dozens). He could do all this in a respectful way, suggesting perhaps that it poses a "problem" which must be addressed, and not necessarily associate it with a religious belief or commitment.

Some good examples of the kind of items Adams might want to include are discussed by Mark Wright at http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/59000-mormon-fair-cast-107-mesoamerican-connections-to-the-book-of-mormon/ .

Adams could leave the Old World parallels to people like non-Mormons Margaret Barker, the late David Noel Freedman, et al., who have made some extraordinarily positive comments..

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Ranking may indicate priority, but does not necessarily indicate "main purpose" if that purpose is missionary work. For example, just because we may reach out to those closest to us first doesn't mean that those who have to wait for us to be in a better situation to teach them are any less important to us or to God.

Written to the Lamanites who are a remnant of the House of Israel. It starts with the title page and ends with the promise written to them(see Moroni 10). How can the purpose be more clearer than that. The BofM was written to the Lamanites who will receive it from the Gentiles in the latter days and then they will find out who they really are. This is the main purpose, it is a record of their forefathers who wrote it for them(Lamanites).
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Ranking may indicate priority, but does not necessarily indicate "main purpose" if that purpose is missionary work. For example, just because we may reach out to those closest to us first doesn't mean that those who have to wait for us to be in a better situation to teach them are any less important to us or to God.

The prophecies seem to indicate that in the Last Days the Lamanites are the ones who will dominate the gospel work. The Gentiles (most of us) are told to repent so we are not destroyed and then to aid them in doing their great work once our time is over.

John the Baptist's declaration that he would diminish while Christ would grow may have some modern applicability. Moreso the state of the elder brother in the Lord's parable about the Prodigal may illustrate what lies ahead.

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Thank you Nehor. People in the church forget what the main purpose of the BofM is. To bring the Lamanites(Joseph) to a knowledge of their heritage.

The Lamanites are not defined as Joseph, since they are descended merely from one of Joseph's sons, Manasseh, and do not even constitute that lost tribe -- which taken by Assyria over a century before Lehi ben Manasseh went to the New World..

As to the multifaceted purposes of the Book of Mormon, Moroni's Title Page does indeed provide plenty of information:

1. written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel

2. also to Jew and Gentile

3. to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know

a, the covenants of the Lord,

b. that they are not cast off forever

4. also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations

In other words, according to Moroni, the Book of Mormon is written for all peoples, not merely one group.

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Wow Robert, really! Who are the Lamanites? What tribe do they belong to? Where do you get your logic? Yes the BofM was written to everyone but specifically to the Lamanites! Read the promise in Moroni 10. It was written to the Lamanites. Lehi is from Manassah who was a son of Joseph. Jacob adopted both of them as his own. Joseph's blessing runs through both his sons. Native Americans>Lamanites>Manassah>Joseph>Israel.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can someone be a Christian and deny the deity of Christ? Or he did have Jehovah's Witnesses and

Seventh Day Adventists in mind?

Thanks,

Jim

He undoubtedly had in mind the nominal "Christian" world. See http://news.yahoo.co...-040220128.html . In Europe, for example, where the people are nominally "Christian," most people do not attend a church and are derisive toward religious belief. The same trend seems to be taking effect in a more delayed fashion in America.

In other words, a lot of non-religious "Christians" are willing to believe that there was once a great teacher (rabbi) named Jesus, but do not accept his divine status.

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The title page addresses the world in a specific order. First Moroni address the Lamanites who are a remnant of the house of Israel(Joseph). Then the Jews(Judah), and then to the Gentiles(the rest of the world).

Everyone knows about shaken faith syndrome, but I think I've discovered broken record syndrome.

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