Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Book of Mormon


As far back as I can remember, I was taught how the characters in the Book of Mormon were the ancestors to the Inca and Mayan Indians.  Also, the forefathers to the Native American Indians.  These people came over to the Americas way back in the 500's BCE, when a family from Jerusalem migrated over at the direction of God.

Jesus visits America
The Book of Mormon is filled with tales of good versus evil, the dark skinned versus the light skinned, the God fearing versus the heathens.  It tells of a family that sailed to the Promised Land (America) and set up a colony that would split and grow exponentially over the ensuing 1000 years.  Always fighting with each other, and endlessly attempting to convert the other side to Christianity.  Jesus himself pays a visit to this people after his crucifixion and brings them into his fold, and establishes his Church among them, and choosing 12 disciples much the way he did in the New Testament.  The peace established at the coming of Jesus was short lived, and eventually the heathens would appear again and fight the righteous to complete extinction.

Mormon's are taught from a very young age of the last living remnant of this righteous people named Moroni, who was the steward of a set of Golden Plates, handed down by his Father, Mormon.  These are the plates the ancient American prophets used in detailing their journey, teachings, wars and dealings in the Americas.  Moroni was commissioned to hide these plates away from his enemy so they would be protected and unscathed for when they would be brought forth unto a new generation.

1300 years after Moroni buried these Golden Plates in a hill called Cumorah in New York, Joseph Smith was given, by way of angelic revelation (from Moroni), the whereabouts of said artifact.  Joseph unearthed these plates and took them into his possession and would later translate it's "reformed Egyptian" engravings into English, and publish it as The Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith translating the Gold Plates
As a child brought up in the Mormon church, and even up until I went on my mission, I always had the understanding Joseph translated this record by traditional methods.  I fully understood Joseph was unable to use his own knowledge to translate the language, but that he relied on God's power to translate the plates.  Even though he was given the power by God, Joseph still read the engravings on the plates, and subsequently dictated its translation to a scribe from behind a curtain.  Joseph had more than one scribe over the course of translation.  I was taught Martin Harris was his first scribe, and when he screwed up, Joseph began using Oliver Cowdery.

All this was taught over and over and over as a young Mormon and on.  It wasn't until my mission I discovered Joseph actually used an alternate method to translate the Gold Plates.  In reality, what happened was Joseph had two stones, he called seer stones, and he would drop the rocks into a top hat and bury his face into the hat so it was completely dark.  Joseph would then see words in the bottom of the hat and would speak these words for his scribe to write.  This method seemed a little more bizarre, but I thought whatever, it was still true.
How Joseph actually translated the Gold Plates

It really didn't matter to me the method in which the Book of Mormon was translated, but rather the product itself.  Since I had prayed about the Book of Mormon several times, and received an answer from the Holy Ghost that it was true, then that's all that mattered.  What did matter, now that I was questioning the foundational claims, was the translation method, on top of the content of the Book of Mormon itself, that was either anachronistic, or just historically inaccurate all together.  The Book of Mormon is known to Mormons as "the most correct book" on earth.  So, with this status, one should expect the book to be historically accurate in it's details.  This, along with the story how the book was buried in order to preserve it's content from alteration, and Joseph translating the Plates with the power of God himself, brings one to understand the book to be flawless.  I certainly believed this my self growing up a Mormon.

Instead of my thoughtful study into the Book of Mormon bringing me closer to the Mormon church, it pulled me farther away.  Because as I studied the content of the Book of Mormon, from a more neutral perspective, I saw just what I had hoped I wouldn't.  The Book of Mormon was not True.

3 comments:

  1. In my studies of religion, I looked at Mormonism and Scientology as recent religions and saw, as an outsider, how they were human constructs. It was a small leap to the conclusion that all religions were made by humans.

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    1. It's difficult for Mormons inside the faith bubble to look in from the outside and see it that way. Much like most christians regarding their own faith. They are logical and skeptical towards all other religions but their own. Thanks for reading.

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  2. What you describe reminds me in some ways of unraveling a knitted item such as a sweater. One starts pulling on a single thread (i.e., questioning one claim), and so much of it unravels that large holes become clearly visible and impossible to ignore. I suppose the key for the believers is to prevent the initial questioning as long as they can.

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