“The Keystone of Our Religion”
What is your relationship with the Book of Mormon? Be honest. Start where you are. How can you improve it?
This episode encourages class members to honestly discuss the Book of Mormon, explains the importance of this Book of Scripture, and covers additional topics such as truth, inspiration, and the nature of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon.
Class Member Reading: 1 Nephi 13:38–41; 19:23; 2 Nephi 25:21–22; 27:22; 29:6–9; Mormon 8:26–41; Ether 5:2–4; Moroni 1:4; 10:3–5; Doctrine and Covenants 10:45–46; 20:8–12; 84:54–58; title page, the introduction, the Testimony of Three Witnesses, the Testimony of Eight Witnesses, and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Additional Reading: The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4–7; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 3–7).
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You can access the Annotated Reading here.
You can access the Lesson Notes here.
“Benjamin the Scribe’s” Overview of Lesson 1 including helpful links
Book of Mormon Lesson 1, Mormon Women Project: Our Cooperative Ministry
Evaluating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, Steven Harper
Thanks to Devin Roth for the bumper music.
Mark Crego says:
You ask what my relationship is with the Book of Mormon.
In faith, I accept the Book of Mormon as revealed scripture through Joseph Smith. I have set aside any expectation that there is any historicity in the book.
The title page states, “Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and revelation”. This statement gets to the heart of scripture-making. Prophets write scripture by the call to prophesy: the spirit impels them to express what their Lord reveals to their mind and heart. Joseph Smith’s understanding of this process is made clear in D&C 8:1-3 where he speaks of the voice of revelation coming through the mind and heart of the prophet.
We need to challenge our personal perceptions of the nature of scriptural revelation in this light. Neither the writing of scripture, nor the translation and transmission are infallible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by *inspiration* of god, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
This says nothing about history. Scripture may relate a story about history, but the purpose is to provide a narrative framework for teaching (the literal meaning of doctrine is “what is taught”), reproof, correction, and instruction in moral values — righteousness.
As well, the term “inspiration” should give us insight. The term “θεόπνευστος”/“theopneustos”/“god-inspired” is unique in this verse, and those who tend toward biblical literalism tend to translate this verse “God-breathed”, as if god recited each verse. Yet we recognize that the spirit is often much more nuanced – our confirmation of the Lord’s will comes more through our feelings than through our cognition – yet in revelation, according to Joseph Smith – both the mind and heart are involved. Our ideas become sanctified in revelation and prophecy, but they are not infallible.
So, my working hypothesis of the Book of Mormon is that it is revelation, not translation, of a scriptural narrative account through the mind and heart of Joseph Smith. Whether it actually is historical is beside the point. It may be, it may not be — for whatever reason, if it is historical, then God has not seen fit to allow us to find the actual remnants of the Lamanite culture.
I think there is a reason for this.
When I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I found that I could not do the textual analyses possible from the Bible. Instead, I found I was focusing on the message. Teaching values from the Book of Mormon was more edifying than exploring the history and textual work of the bible. By focusing on the message, the Book of Mormon speaks to faith and the essential tenets of the gospel. The Book witnesses well of Christ.
Some tell me that if the book is not historical, then what value is it? I think this is short sighted. I have found transcendent value in the Book, while accepting that some parts are fallible due to the very nature of “mind and heart” inspiration, there are essential teachings in the book.
As a few gems, I would point to 3Ne 11, where Christ lays out “his doctrine” in amazing clarity, being the first principles of the gospel, and how anything more than that is not his doctrine–how often we forget that.
I would point to Alma 12:9-11, where we come to understand that “what is taught” is the “lesser portion of the word”, and that many of us can come to know, through direct, personal experience, the “mysteries” of god. the term and use of “mystery” speaks to a type of experience beyond the numinous and transendent, and embraces the mystical oneness with god and the immanence of god in all creation.
I would point to Alma 32, where we learn an epistemic method called “faith”–that it is not “perfect knowledge” (certainty), but rather, a hope for things for which there is no proof (not seen) but that are “true” (not demonstrably false). As well Alma 32 deconstructs aggregate inductive fallacies, cautioning the person seeking truth to not assume that just because a specific seed grows, “we are not done” — we need to continue the quest.
I would point to 2Ne 29, where The Lord explains how the writings of all nations are indeed scripture, and we ought to seek truth syncretically into one.
I would point to 3Ne 27:27, where the we are challenged to be the “I AM”.
I would point to Mosiah 18, where the outcasts from the corrupted corporate church gather at the Waters of Mormon to lift each other’s burdens, to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of god in all times and places–and realize how the essence of being “Mormon” is encapsulated in this baptismal covenant.
I would point to the glorious discourse of King Benjamin, who challenges us to recognize how we are all beggars, and are compelled to do something about the poor and needy without judgment.
I would point to the utopian societies at the Waters of Mormon and in 4th Nephi, that if we truly love one another, we can do so much better as we establish Zion in our hearts.
I would point to Alma’s explanation of the Liahona, not as a literal thing, but rather as a “type” – a symbol — of seeking to find the spirit and words of Christ to guide our lives.
I would point to the discussion of how king men and zoramites destroyed nephite society — and realize that the “king men” are not some other guys, but rather, those who insist on authoritarian power rather than seeking the spirit through equality.
I would point to the nonviolence of the ammonites.
I would point to the book not as a history, but as something more like the bhagavad gita – a symbolic narrative where the battles are not between people, but between our gunas — our desires, and seek to liken the scriptures to myself in this glorious journey we call “life”.
Can such be said for the Bible? the Gita? the Qur’an? Lao Tzu? the Buddhist canon? Les Miserables? Star Wars? — absolutely! that’s exactly what 2Ne 29 is saying: scriptures are everywhere!
Excellent Analysis and source material, I’m just finding out about the existence of this resource, hopefully there will be information that is useful in time for this Sunday’s next lesson, this was last weeks lesson.
Great stuff, I regret not finding this out earlier.
Jared Anderson says:
Nice to hear from you! Yes, I am posting Lesson 2 today and hope to post Lesson 3 by Saturday. My goal is to remain two weeks ahead of the schedule but the beginning of the year is always a bit challenging.