...the book, not the musical.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've long been fascinated by Mormon history and culture, particularly the Book of Mormon itself. In fact, in addition to my Bible collection, I have an interesting little collection of Mormon literature: several different copies of the Book of Mormon, some historical/doctrinal publications by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and even a few publications by other non-LDS Mormon sects. I've always found Mormons themselves to be friendly, genuinely nice people, and I've had a few nice little chats with Mormon missionaries.
All that being said, I still just don't get it. I've studied the Book of Mormon quite a bit over the years (and I've been on a bit of a BoM kick lately). I know this is a book that millions of faithful Mormons view as scripture, on the same level with the Holy Bible. But every time I've attempted to read various parts of the book, I'm immediately struck by how completely inauthentic it is. It tries so hard to read like the Bible; there are all kinds of "and it came to pass" and other King James-like phrases and words. The narrative is obviously inspired by biblical style. However, it overplays its hand all over the place. I mean, here we have a book that was purportedly written over hundreds of years, from several centuries before Christ to a few centuries after Christ. In much of the narrative that takes place before Christ, though, there are all kinds of references to Jesus Christ, the Messiah to come. And I'm not talking about the kinds of references Christians have found in the Hebrew Scriptures, like the Immanuel passage in Isaiah 7:14. I'm talking direct references to Jesus by name! Like this passage from the Book of Jacob:
For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us. (Jacob 4:4)
This was supposedly written about five centuries before Christ, and there are many, many more references just like it. The prophets in the Book of Mormon are always talking about Jesus, the Son of God, and encouraging their listeners (or readers) to believe in Him...long before He was born!
And should the reader begin getting too skeptical, and object to this biblical sequel, the Book of Mormon provides a preemptive argument in 2 Nephi 29 (this always makes me smile);
And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. (2 Nephi 29:3)
So there you have it! Don't try to complain about another Bible, because the Prophet Nephi knew that you would, hundreds of years before you even knew about the Book of Mormon!
I won't even get into the fact that, despite some Mormon apologists' beliefs to the contrary, there doesn't seem to be even a single scrap of reputable archaeological evidence for any of the civilizations described in the Book of Mormon. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Book of Mormon is completely fictional...sort of Bible "fanfiction." And yet, millions of devout Mormons read it wholeheartedly as Scripture. It's a fascinating phenomenon, but so confusing to me.
Meanwhile, why am I so interested in this book that I don't see in the same light as those who believe in it? Well, Mormon history is incredibly intriguing: Mormonism is easily the most successful American-grown religion. Mormons as a community have made innumerable contributions to American history. And Mormons whom I have known personally are absolutely delightful people. So I continue to be interested in what is, to me, one of the most interesting sects that has ever existed. Although I have absolutely zero interest in joining such a community, I do hope to understand it more fully.
Thanks for reading.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)