Harman Patil (Editor)

Book of Mormon

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Covid-19
Originally published  March 1830
Genre  Religious text
Original language  English
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Adaptations  The Book of Mormon Movie (2003)
Similar  Jesus books, Religious Texts, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints books

The new world book of mormon documentary


The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement, which adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.

Contents

According to Smith's account and the book's narrative, the Book of Mormon was originally written in otherwise unknown characters referred to as "reformed Egyptian" engraved on golden plates. Smith said that the last prophet to contribute to the book, a man named Moroni, buried it in Cumorah Hill in present-day New York, then returned to earth in 1827 as an angel, revealing the location of the plates to Smith, and instructing him to translate it into English for use in the restoration of Christ's true church in the latter days. Critics claim that it was fabricated by Smith, drawing on material and ideas from contemporary 19th-century works rather than translating an ancient record.

The Book of Mormon has a number of original and distinctive doctrinal discussions on subjects such as the fall of Adam and Eve, the nature of the Atonement, eschatology, redemption from physical and spiritual death, and the organization of the latter-day church. The pivotal event of the book is an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas shortly after his resurrection.

The Book of Mormon is the earliest of the unique writings of the Latter Day Saint movement, the denominations of which typically regard the text primarily as scripture, and secondarily as a historical record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. The Book of Mormon is divided into smaller books, titled after the individuals named as primary authors and, in most versions, divided into chapters and verses. It is written in English very similar to the Early Modern English linguistic style of the King James Version of the Bible, and has since been fully or partially translated into 108 languages. As of 2011, more than 150 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been published.

Nephite language book of mormon evidence


Origin

According to Joseph Smith, he was seventeen years of age when an angel of God named Moroni appeared to him and said that a collection of ancient writings was buried in a nearby hill in present-day Wayne County, New York, engraved on golden plates by ancient prophets. The writings were said to describe a people whom God had led from Jerusalem to the Western hemisphere 600 years before Jesus' birth. According to the narrative, Moroni was the last prophet among these people and had buried the record, which God had promised to bring forth in the latter days. Smith stated that this vision occurred on the evening of September 21, 1823 and that on the following day, via divine guidance, he located the burial location of the plates on this hill; was instructed by Moroni to meet him at the same hill on September 22 of the following year to receive further instructions; and that, in four years from this date, the time would arrive for "bringing them forth", i.e., translating them. Smith's description of these events recounts that he was allowed to take the plates on September 22, 1827, exactly four years from that date, and was directed to translate them into English.

Accounts vary of the way in which Smith dictated the Book of Mormon. Smith himself implied that he read the plates directly using spectacles prepared for the purpose of translating. Other accounts variously state that he used one or more seer stones placed in a top hat. Both the special spectacles and the seer stone were at times referred to as the "Urim and Thummim". During the translating process itself, Smith sometimes separated himself from his scribe with a blanket between them. Additionally, the plates were not always present during the translating process and, when present, they were always covered up.

Smith's first published description of the plates said that the plates "had the appearance of gold". They were described by Martin Harris, one of Smith's early scribes, as "fastened together in the shape of a book by wires." Smith called the engraved writing on the plates "reformed Egyptian". A portion of the text on the plates was also "sealed" according to his account, so its content was not included in the Book of Mormon.

In addition to Smith's account regarding the plates, eleven others stated that they saw the golden plates and, in some cases, handled them. Their written testimonies are known as the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses. These statements have been published in most editions of the Book of Mormon.

Smith enlisted his neighbor Martin Harris as a scribe during his initial work on the text. (Harris later mortgaged his farm to underwrite the printing of the Book of Mormon.) In 1828, Harris, prompted by his wife Lucy Harris, repeatedly requested that Smith lend him the current pages that had been translated. Smith reluctantly acceded to Harris's requests. Lucy Harris is thought to have stolen the first 116 pages. After the loss, Smith recorded that he had lost the ability to translate, and that Moroni had taken back the plates to be returned only after Smith repented. Smith later stated that God allowed him to resume translation, but directed that he begin translating another part of the plates (in what is now called the Book of Mosiah). In 1829, work resumed on the Book of Mormon, with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery, and was completed in a short period (April–June 1829). Smith said that he then returned the plates to Moroni upon the publication of the book. The Book of Mormon went on sale at the bookstore of E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York on March 26, 1830. Today, the building in which the Book of Mormon was first published and sold is known as the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site.

Since its first publication and distribution, critics of the Book of Mormon have claimed that it was fabricated by Smith and that he drew material and ideas from various sources rather than translating an ancient record. Works that have been suggested as sources include the King James Bible, The Wonders of Nature, View of the Hebrews, and an unpublished manuscript written by Solomon Spalding. FairMormon maintains that all of these theories have been disproved and discredited, arguing that both Mormon and non-Mormon historians have found serious flaws in their research The position of most adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement and the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is that the book is an accurate historical record.

Title

Smith stated that the title page, and presumably the actual title of the 1830 edition, came from the translation of "the very last leaf" of the golden plates, and was written by the prophet-historian Moroni. The title page states that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is "to [show] unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; ... and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

Organization

The Book of Mormon is organized as a compilation of smaller books, each named after its main named narrator or a prominent leader, beginning with the First Book of Nephi (1 Nephi) and ending with the Book of Moroni.

The book's sequence is primarily chronological based on the narrative content of the book. Exceptions include the Words of Mormon and the Book of Ether. The Words of Mormon contains editorial commentary by Mormon. The Book of Ether is presented as the narrative of an earlier group of people who had come to America before the immigration described in 1 Nephi. First Nephi through Omni are written in first-person narrative, as are Mormon and Moroni. The remainder of the Book of Mormon is written in third-person historical narrative, said to be compiled and abridged by Mormon (with Moroni abridging the Book of Ether).

Most modern editions of the book have been divided into chapters and verses. Most editions of the book also contain supplementary material, including the "Testimony of Three Witnesses" and the "Testimony of Eight Witnesses".

Chronology

The books from First Nephi to Omni are described as being from "the small plates of Nephi". This account begins in ancient Jerusalem around 600 BC. It tells the story of a man named Lehi, his family, and several others as they are led by God from Jerusalem shortly before the fall of that city to the Babylonians in 586 BC. The book describes their journey across the Arabian peninsula, and then to the promised land, the Americas, by ship. These books recount the group's dealings from approximately 600 BC to about 130 BC, during which time the community grew and split into two main groups, which are called the Nephites and the Lamanites, that frequently warred with each other.

Following this section is the Words of Mormon. This small book, said to be written in AD 385 by Mormon, is a short introduction to the books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Third Nephi, and Fourth Nephi. These books are described as being abridged from a large quantity of existing records called "the large plates of Nephi" that detailed the people's history from the time of Omni to Mormon's own life. The Book of Third Nephi is of particular importance within the Book of Mormon because it contains an account of a visit by Jesus from heaven to the Americas sometime after his resurrection and ascension. The text says that during this American visit, he repeated much of the same doctrine and instruction given in the Gospels of the Bible and he established an enlightened, peaceful society which endured for several generations, but which eventually broke into warring factions again.

The portion of the greater Book of Mormon called the Book of Mormon is an account of the events during Mormon's life. Mormon is said to have received the charge of taking care of the records that had been hidden, once he was old enough. The book includes an account of the wars, Mormon's leading of portions of the Nephite army, and his retrieving and caring for the records. Mormon is eventually killed after having handed down the records to his son Moroni.

According to the text, Moroni then made an abridgment (called the Book of Ether) of a record from a previous people called the Jaredites. The account describes a group of families led from the Tower of Babel to the Americas, headed by a man named Jared and his brother. The Jaredite civilization is presented as existing on the American continent beginning about 2500 BC,—long before Lehi's family arrived shortly after 600 BC—and as being much larger and more developed.

The Book of Moroni then details the final destruction of the Nephites and the idolatrous state of the remaining society. It also includes significant doctrinal teachings and closes with Moroni's testimony and an invitation to pray to God for a confirmation of the truthfulness of the account.

Doctrinal and philosophical teachings

The Book of Mormon contains doctrinal and philosophical teachings on a wide range of topics, from basic themes of Christianity and Judaism to political and ideological teachings. Jesus is mentioned every 1.7 verses and is referred to by one hundred different names.

Jesus

Stated on the title page, the Book of Mormon's central purpose is for the "convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

The book describes Jesus, prior to his birth, as a spirit "without flesh and blood", although with a spirit "body" that looked similar to how Jesus would appear during his physical life. Jesus is described as "the Father and the Son". He is said to be: "God himself [who] shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people ... [b]eing the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." Other parts of the book portray the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as "one." As a result, beliefs among the churches of the Latter Day Saint movement encompass nontrinitarianism (in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to trinitarianism (particularly among the Community of Christ). See Godhead (Latter Day Saints).

In furtherance of its theme of reconciling Jews and Gentiles to Jesus, the book describes a variety of visions or visitations to some early inhabitants in the Americas involving Jesus. Most notable among these is a described visit of Jesus to a group of early inhabitants shortly after his resurrection. Many of the book's contributors described other visions of Jesus, including one by the Brother of Jared who, according to the book, lived before Jesus, and saw the "body" of Jesus' spirit thousands of years prior to his birth. According to the book, a narrator named Nephi described a vision of the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, including a prophecy of Jesus' name, said to have taken place nearly 600 years prior to Jesus' birth.

In the narrative, at the time of King Benjamin (about 130 BC), the Nephite believers were called "the children of Christ". At another place, the faithful members of the church at the time of Captain Moroni (73 BC) were called "Christians" by their enemies, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. The book also states that for nearly 200 years after Jesus' appearance at the temple in the Americas the land was filled with peace and prosperity because of the people's obedience to his commandments. Later, the prophet Mormon worked to convince the faithless people of his time (AD 360) of Christ. Many other prophets in the book write of the reality of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, Jesus spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem of "other sheep" who would hear his voice. The Book of Mormon claims this meant that the Nephites and other remnants of the lost tribes of Israel throughout the world were to be visited by Jesus after his resurrection.

Other distinctive religious teachings

On most religious issues, Book of Mormon doctrines are similar to those found in the Bible and among other Christian denominations. Among its somewhat distinctive theological interpretations are the following:

  • When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of voices that would "whisper out of the dust," he was referring to the publication of the Book of Mormon.
  • The fall of man is a prerequisite for procreation, and a necessary requirement for the return to God: "Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy."
  • The church should be named after Christ.
  • The atonement of Christ saves unbaptized people who die without a knowledge of the gospel, including children who die without baptism.
  • Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, all humanity ("both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous") will be resurrected with an immortal physical body sometime after their death.
  • During Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion, blood literally came from his every pore; the description of Jesus' sweat in Luke 22:44 is therefore not figurative.
  • Teachings about political theology

    The book delves into political theology within a Christian or Jewish context. Among these themes are American exceptionalism. According to the book, the Americas are portrayed as a "land of promise", the world's most exceptional land of the time. The book states that any righteous society possessing the land would be protected, whereas if they became wicked they would be destroyed and replaced with a more righteous civilization.

    On the issue of war and violence, the book teaches that war is justified for people to "defend themselves against their enemies". However, they were never to "give an offense," or to "raise their sword ... except it were to preserve their lives." The book praises the faith of a group of former warriors who took an oath of complete pacifism, refusing to take arms even to defend themselves and their people. However, 2,000 of their descendants, who had not taken the oath of their parents not to take up arms against their enemies, chose to go to battle against the Lamanites, and it states that in their battles the 2,000 men were protected by God through their faith and, though many were injured, none of them died.

    The book recommends monarchy as an ideal form of government, but only when the monarch is righteous. The book warns of the evil that occurs when the king is wicked, and therefore suggests that it is not generally good to have a king. The book further records the decision of the people to be ruled no longer by kings, choosing instead a form of democracy led by elected judges. When citizens referred to as "king-men" attempted to overthrow a democratically elected government and establish an unrighteous king, the book praises a military commander who executed pro-monarchy citizens who had vowed to destroy the church of God and were unwilling to defend their country from hostile invading forces. The book also speaks favorably of a particular instance of what appears to be a peaceful Christ-centered theocracy, which lasted approximately 194 years before contentions began again.

    The book supports notions of economic justice, achieved through voluntary donation of "substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor." In one case, all the citizens held their property in common. When individuals within a society began to disdain and ignore the poor, to "wear costly apparel", and otherwise engage in wickedness for personal gain, such societies are repeatedly portrayed in the book as being ripe for destruction.

    Joseph Smith

    Joseph Smith characterized the Book of Mormon as the "keystone" of Mormonism, and claimed that it was "the most correct of any book on earth". Smith produced a written revelation in 1832 that condemned the "whole church" for treating the Book of Mormon lightly.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

    The Book of Mormon is one of four sacred texts or standard works of the LDS Church. Church leaders have frequently restated Smith's claims of the book's significance to the faith. Church members believe that the Book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible because the Bible was the result of a multiple-generation translation process and the Book of Mormon was not.

    For most of the history of the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon was not used as much as other books of scripture such as the New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants. This changed in the 1980s when efforts were made to reemphasize the Book of Mormon. As part of this effort, a new edition was printed with the added subtitle "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".

    The importance of the Book of Mormon was a focus of Ezra Taft Benson, the church's thirteenth president. Benson stated that the church was still under condemnation for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. In an August 2005 message, LDS Church president Gordon B. Hinckley challenged each member of the church to re-read the Book of Mormon before the year's end. The book's importance is commonly stressed at the twice-yearly general conference, at special devotionals by general authorities, and in the church's teaching publications. Since the late 1980s, church members have been encouraged to read from the Book of Mormon daily.

    The LDS Church encourages discovery of the book's truth by following the suggestion in its final chapter to study, ponder, and pray to God concerning its veracity. This passage is sometimes referred to as "Moroni's Promise".

    As of April 2011, the LDS Church has published more than 150 million copies of the Book of Mormon.

    Community of Christ

    The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, views the Book of Mormon as an additional witness of Jesus Christ and publishes two versions of the book through its official publishing arm, Herald House. The Authorized Edition is based on the original printer's manuscript and the 1837 Second Edition (or "Kirtland Edition") of the Book of Mormon. Its content is similar to the Book of Mormon published by the LDS Church, but the versification is different. The Community of Christ also publishes a 1966 "Revised Authorized Edition", which attempts to modernize some language.

    In 2001, Community of Christ President W. Grant McMurray reflected on increasing questions about the Book of Mormon: "The proper use of The Book of Mormon as sacred scripture has been under wide discussion in the 1970s and beyond, in part because of long-standing questions about its historical authenticity and in part because of perceived theological inadequacies, including matters of race and ethnicity."

    At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, President Stephen M. Veazey ruled out-of-order a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record." He stated that "while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church."

    Greater Latter Day Saint movement

    There are a number of other churches that are part of the Latter Day Saint movement. Most of these churches were created as a result of issues ranging from differing doctrinal interpretations and acceptance of the movement's scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, to disagreements as to who was the divinely chosen successor to Joseph Smith. These groups all have in common the acceptance of the Book of Mormon as scripture. It is this acceptance which distinguishes the churches of the Latter Day Saint movement from other Christian denominations. Separate editions of the Book of Mormon have been published by a number of churches in the Latter Day Saint movement, along with private individuals and foundations not endorsed by any specific denomination.

    Historical authenticity

    The archaeological, historical and scientific communities are generally skeptical of the claims that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record of actual historical events. This skepticism tends to focus on four main areas:

  • The lack of correlation between locations described in the Book of Mormon and known, intact American archaeological sites.
  • References to animals, plants, metals and technologies in the Book of Mormon that archaeological or scientific studies have found no evidence of in post-Pleistocene, pre-Columbian America, frequently referred to as anachronisms. Items typically listed include cattle, horses, asses, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheat, steel, brass, chains, iron, scimitars, and chariots.
  • The lack of linguistic connection between any Native American languages and Near Eastern languages.
  • The lack of DNA evidence linking any Native American group to the ancient Near East.
  • Most adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement consider the Book of Mormon to generally be a historically accurate account. Within the Latter Day Saint movement there are several apologetic groups that disagree with the skeptics and seek to reconcile the discrepancies in diverse ways. Among these apologetic groups, much work has been published by Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), defending the Book of Mormon as a literal history, countering arguments critical of its historical authenticity, or reconciling historical and scientific evidence with the text. One of the more common recent arguments is the limited geography model, which states that the people of the Book of Mormon covered only a limited geographical region in either Mesoamerica, South America, or the Great Lakes area. The LDS Church has published material indicating that science will support the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

    Manuscripts

    The Book of Mormon was dictated by Joseph Smith to several scribes over a period of 13 months, resulting in three manuscripts.

    The 116 lost pages contained the first portion of the Book of Lehi; it was lost after Smith loaned the original, uncopied manuscript to Martin Harris.

    The first completed manuscript, called the original manuscript, was completed using a variety of scribes. Portions of the original manuscript were also used for typesetting. In October 1841, the entire original manuscript was placed into the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, and sealed up until nearly forty years later when the cornerstone was reopened. It was then discovered that much of the original manuscript had been destroyed by water seepage and mold. Surviving manuscript pages were handed out to various families and individuals in the 1880s. Only 28 percent of the original manuscript now survives, including a remarkable find of fragments from 58 pages in 1991. The majority of what remains of the original manuscript is now kept in the LDS Church's Archives.

    The second completed manuscript, called the printer's manuscript was a copy of the original manuscript produced by Oliver Cowdery and two other scribes. It is at this point that initial copyediting of the Book of Mormon was completed. Observations of the original manuscript show little evidence of corrections to the text. The printer's manuscript is now the earliest surviving complete copy of the Book of Mormon, being nearly 100 percent extant; it is owned by the Community of Christ. The manuscript was imaged in 1923 and was recently made available for viewing online.

    Critical comparisons between surviving portions of the manuscripts show an average of two to three changes per page from the original manuscript to the printer's manuscript, with most changes being corrections of scribal errors such as misspellings or the correction, or standardization, of grammar inconsequential to the meaning of the text. The printer's manuscript was further edited, adding paragraphing and punctuation to the first third of the text.

    The printer's manuscript was not used fully in the typesetting of the 1830 version of Book of Mormon; portions of the original manuscript were also used for typesetting. The original manuscript was used by Smith to further correct errors printed in the 1830 and 1837 versions of the Book of Mormon for the 1840 printing of the book.

    Chapter and verse notation systems

    The original 1830 publication did not have verse markers, though the individual books were divided into relatively long chapters. Just as the Bible's present chapter and verse notation system is a later addition of Bible publishers to books that were originally solid blocks of undivided text, the chapter and verse markers within the books of the Book of Mormon are conventions, not part of the original text.

    Publishers from different factions of the Latter Day Saint movement have published different chapter and verse notation systems. The two most significant are the LDS system, introduced in 1879, and the RLDS system, which is based on the original 1830 chapter divisions.

    The RLDS 1908 edition, RLDS 1966 edition, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) edition, and Restored Covenant editions use the RLDS system while most other current editions use the LDS system.

    Current

    The Book of Mormon is currently printed by the following publishers:

    Historic

    The following non-current editions marked major developments in the text or reader's helps printed in the Book of Mormon.

    Non-print editions

    The following versions are published online:

    Textual criticism

    In 1989, scholars at Brigham Young University began work on a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon. Volumes 1 and 2, published in 2001, contain transcriptions of all the text variants of the English editions of the Book of Mormon, from the original manuscript to the newest editions. Volume 4, which is being published in parts, is a critical analysis of all the text variants. Volume 3, which is not yet published, will describe the history of all the English-language texts from Joseph Smith to today.

    Differences between the original and printer's manuscript, the 1830 printed version, and modern versions of the Book of Mormon have led some critics to claim that evidence has been systematically removed that could have proven that Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon, or are attempts to hide embarrassing aspects of the church's past.

    Non-English translations

    The LDS version of the Book of Mormon has been translated into 83 languages and selections have been translated into an additional 25 languages. In 2001, the LDS Church reported that all or part of the Book of Mormon was available in the native language of 99 percent of Latter-day Saints and 87 percent of the world's total population.

    Translations into languages without a tradition of writing (e.g., Kaqchikel, Tzotzil) are available on audio cassette. Translations into American Sign Language are available on videocassette and DVD.

    Typically, translators are members of the LDS Church who are employed by the church and translate the text from the original English. Each manuscript is reviewed several times before it is approved and published.

    In 1998, the LDS Church stopped translating selections from the Book of Mormon, and instead announced that each new translation it approves will be a full edition.

    Representations in media

    Events of the Book of Mormon are the focus of several LDS Church films, including The Life of Nephi (1915), How Rare a Possession (1987) and The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd (2000). Such films in LDS cinema (i.e., films not officially commissioned by the LDS Church) include The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey (2003) and Passage to Zarahemla (2007).

    Second Nephi 9:20–27 from the Book of Mormon is quoted in a funeral service in Alfred Hitchcock's film Family Plot.

    In 2003, a South Park episode titled "All About Mormons" parodied the origins of the Book of Mormon.

    In 2011, a long-running religious satire musical titled The Book of Mormon, by the South Park creators, premiered on Broadway, winning 9 Tony Awards, including best musical. Its London production won the Olivier Award for best musical.

    Distribution

    The LDS Church, which distributes free copies of the Book of Mormon, reported in 2011 that 150 million copies of the book have been printed since its initial publication.

    The initial printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830 produced 5000 copies. The 50 millionth copy was printed in 1990, with the 100 millionth following in 2000 and reaching 150 million in 2011.

    References

    Book of Mormon Wikipedia


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