Monday, October 2, 2017

What's the Big Deal About the Book of Mormon?

All of you know I'm a Mormon.

But when you think about it, that's weird. It's weird because the actual name of my church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which you'll notice   if you're shrewdly observant   doesn't even contain the word "Mormon" or anything like it.

It's worse than Charles being called Chuck or Margaret being called Peggy. (Sorry, Chucks and Peggys. You're still lovely people.)

However, there is at least a little logic to it, unlike Jack as a nickname for 'John.'

"Mormon" is a nickname for people who believe in a book of scriptures alongside the Bible called the Book of Mormon.

For many years I didn't grasp the real value of the Book of Mormon. And it goes beyond just having a cool name.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The best-looking copy I could find in the house. At least it has all the pages.

Brief summary: the Book of Mormon is a record of God's interactions with the people in ancient North and South America. Things were written down on metal plates and passed down, until the last person in the line  a prophet named Mormon  abridged it all and buried it around 400 A.D.

Fast-forward a thousand years, and we believe that God called a new prophet to reorganize his church in the 1800s. This was going to restore religious truths that had been lost or misunderstood for centuries. So yeah, it was a big deal.

His name was Joseph Smith, and God instructed him to dig up and translate the buried plates into English. The result was (you guessed it) the Book of Mormon.

At first we called each other "saints" or "latter-day saints" like it says in the name of the church, but people who didn't like us called us "Mormons" to mock our belief in the Book of Mormon.

We showed them, though, by appropriating the slur and using it with pride.

For many years I didn't grasp the real value of the Book of Mormon. And it goes beyond just having a cool name.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Why, yes I am Mormon, thanks for asking!

But I digress.

The point is, the Book of Mormon has been a defining feature of my church from the very beginning.

Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon is "the most correct of any book on this Earth." Obviously not from a grammatical standpoint (when he translated the book, his scribes wrote down the entire thing without any punctuation and it was added at the printer's later,) but from a doctrinal one.

Early church leader Parley P. Pratt was a convert. He describes hearing talk about "a strange book" (his words, not mine.) When he got his hands on a copy of the Book of Mormon, he stayed up all night reading the entire thing in one sitting and was baptized the next day.

Today, leaders and prophets in my church continue to say the same thing: that a serious study of the Book of Mormon will transform your life, that it can answer your most important questions, and that nothing else can help you become closer to God than reading it every day. They go so far as to call the Book of Mormon "the keystone of our religion."

At General Conference over the weekend, I really liked this talk by Elder Nelson:

Elder Nelson says "when I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word, 'power.'"

However, I have to admit something to you: I didn't use to get all the fuss over the Book of Mormon.

Of course I believed it was the word of God, and I recognized that it was useful because it expanded and clarified concepts that were kind of murky in the Bible (like infant baptism.)

But the Book of Mormon seemed to be a simple collection of fairly straightforward stories, and to be perfectly honest I was more likely to turn to the words Jesus said in the New Testament for real inspiration than the Book of Mormon.

And then 2009 arrived.

In 2009, I had a 4-year-old who still desperately needed naps but wouldn't take them unless I was sitting in her bedroom.

People say when life hands you lemons you should make lemonade, and I needed to jump-start my scripture study habits anyway, so I guess you could say this was an opportunity in disguise. I would literally be a captive audience for the scriptures, sitting in my daughter's room waiting for her to go to sleep every afternoon.

I decided to re-read the Book of Mormon.

I've heard people say before to read it through twice from cover to cover. The first time, you read just to grasp the basic plot points of who, where, and when. The second time, you read while paying special attention to any references to Jesus Christ.

I figured I'd already gotten the plot since I'd read it many times before, so I decided to start at the beginning and take notes every time I saw a reference to Christ.

For many years I didn't grasp the real value of the Book of Mormon. And it goes beyond just having a cool name.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Frankly, it was like I was reading a different book. I guess I didn't notice until I paid special attention how the Book of Mormon shows so clearly how Jesus is woven in, around, and through the entire gospel narrative.

(I guess that should've been fairly obvious, given that the full title is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, but sometimes I can be pretty dense.)

In short, Jesus is the gospel, and he is God's plan. Reading the Book of Mormon helps me see the whole picture more clearly, with Jesus Christ right in the center of it.

And that to me, is the value of the Book of Mormon.

If you're interested in getting a copy of the Book of Mormon (or watching a cute animated video that sums up what it's about in 60 seconds) you can click this link and Mormon missionaries will deliver one to you.

Or if that sounds totally scary and you don't want to talk to a real human (I get it) you can read it online in its entirety right here.

I love the Bible and I love the Book of Mormon. On the surface it doesn't make sense that the Book of Mormon could change my life, but I guess everything the prophets say about it is true. It does.

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Jennifer Humphries said...

Oh how that book has changed my life too. Love it.

Marilyn said...

Amen sister! I'm going to try specifically reading it for references to Jesus Christ. I've never tried that!

AnneMarie said...

I had wondered how y'all came to be called "Mormon." That's so interesting!
Also, I'm curious-you mention the Book of Mormon clarifying concepts that are "murky" in the Bible; do y'all also look to early church history to clarify things? I personally find it really helpful that there are both Christian and non-Christian primary sources from the 100s and 200s A.D. that talk about how Biblical truths were put into practice in the lives of the early Christians.

Jenny Evans said...

Aside from the New Testament in the Bible, not really. This is probably because we believe that the president of our church today is a prophet of God, and one of the great things about having a living prophet is that God is giving us the doctrinal clarification and instruction we need in real time. That's especially helpful when we're trying to figure out how to live the gospel when we're dealing with things that didn't even exist a thousand years ago (social media, pornography, credit cards, the Internet in general, etc.)

But actually, I personally have thought it would be interesting to read about what happened with the Christian world at that time period. Do you have any good recommendations? I once started a book called Christianity: the First 3,000 Years, but when it became apparent that it was going to take me 3,000 years to finish I gave up. I thought the writer was too invested in telling me what to think about the history than just letting me read it and come to my own conclusions, anyway.

Jenny Evans said...

You won't be sorry.