When we include the Book of Mormon, we have another witness of Christ and His doctrine, and with two witnesses, we get more clarity and less different interpretations.
When someone is learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the hardest parts to swallow is often the Book of Mormon. If we are a Christian religion, why do we put so much emphasis on the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story? Why can't we stick to the Bible like everyone else? If our religion is true, it should be found solely in the Bible without adding extra scripture, right?
When I am defending my viewpoints, I won't hesitate to use teachings from the Book of Mormon or modern prophets, even if I know my audience may not believe the same as I do. I want to use this post to explain my reasoning behind my methodology. I don't intend to change what I am doing or how I explain myself, and I want my readers to understand why.
The Bible Is A Battleground
I love the Bible. It is God's word and there is so much valuable truth we can gain from it. The Old Testament is full of valuable lessons we are doomed to repeat if we don't follow God. Many of the teachings of the ancient prophets are every bit as applicable to us as they were to ancient Israel. The New Testament contains accounts of Christ's life and ministry and we can gain a lot from studying the Gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament.
So if I love the Bible and thing much can be gained from studying it, why would I call it a battleground?
Have you ever noticed how many churches exist that believe in the Bible? Have you noticed that many of them differ in doctrine, sometimes teaching the exact opposite of each other? Yet all of them have the Bible as their guide, their source of truth. The problem is that with only one point, there are an infinite amount of lines that can be drawn through it, and thus an infinite number of interpretations and understandings that stem from the same source.
Besides the translation into different languages (including different forms of the same language like a more modern form of English), every person sees life through their own paradigm. I think the scripture can be applied differently to us at different points in our lives, but we need to be very careful when trying to decipher doctrine. Many well meaning (and probably a few with poor intentions) pastors and preachers have different interpretations for the same scripture. Just look at how basic points such as baptism, communion, worship services and repentance are viewed in different churches. And every church can use the Bible to back up what they are doing! This often leads to "Bible bashing", where members of different faiths will use the Bible to back up their believes and bash another persons beliefs. It rarely, if ever accomplishes anything other than bringing a spirit of contention and dislike to the gathering.
Not Just Another Christian Religion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian religion. But there are many Christian religions out there, we don't claim to be the same as them, nor do we try to "fit in". In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith taught that:
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life”This church has never claimed to be an easy option that doesn't require any work or effort. We don't try to be like everyone else, because what sets us apart is important.
We believe in modern Prophets. The world is in just as much need for a prophet to lead and guide us now as it was in the days of Moses and Noah. God loves His children that are on the earth now just as much as He loved those before Christ so He continues to send prophets to direct us and lead us to follow our Savior so we can return to live with Him.
We also believe in an open canon. That means that the Bible is not the end of scripture. Believing in new scripture can be hard for people. We honor the dead prophets while killing the living ones. This was one of the points the Jews and Samaritans differed in. The Samaritans believed in the books of Moses, but not some of the later prophets (the rest of the Old Testament). Early Christians and Jews had the same problem. The Christians believed in the teachings of Christ, but the Jews did not want to accept new (and what they perceived as different) teachings. Likewise, many modern Christians have trouble accepting the idea of modern prophets or even ancient scripture other than the Bible.
The Book of Mormon Is True
The Book of Mormon is the record of God's dealings with the people in ancient America. God called prophets to teach them and lead them out of wickedness into a promised land. The crowning event is when Jesus Christ comes to visit and minister to the people after His ministry, death and resurrection in the old world. Christ even told His Biblical disciples of this when he said:
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. " (John 10:16 KJV)He taught them the same truths as He taught in the old world. He even added clarification to some of them, like John 10:16 quoted above (see it here). The Book of Mormon and the Bible contain the fullness of the Gospel. The help to clarify and confirm the truth of each other. The Bible has great information on the Priesthood and how it is used, the Creation and Garden of Eden, resurrection and more than one heaven. The Book of Mormon gives more information on infant baptism, life after death, nature of the Godhead, the plan of happiness, and the Atonement.
The main reason I quote the Book of Mormon freely is because I believe it is true. Why should I hesitate to use a source that is supporting the points I am trying to make just because other people disagree with the source? I will share my sources and then other people can decide what they want to take, and what they want to leave.
You Can Know It Too
One of the coolest parts about the Book of Mormon is that you don't have to take my word for it. Just as you can do research about scientific studies and other sources to determine if they are credible, you can know if the Book of Mormon is true.
The test for determining if a book of scripture is true must needs be a little different than a scientific study, although I think real truth will ring true under many different tests (if the tests are reasonable). The test for the Book of Mormon is included in the book itself:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:3-5)
This is how I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have read it, pondered it and asked God in the name of Christ concerning the truth of it. I received my answer through the power of the Holy Ghost, which Galatians 5:22-23 describes as "... love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...". For me, the best way I can describe it as a feeling of "rightness". I know it is true because God has confirmed it to me through His Holy Spirit. It is a feeling that is different for everyone, but once you learn to recognize it, life makes much more sense.
So if you get a little uneasy when you see quotes from the Book of Mormon, modern prophets or any other source, do the research and decide for yourself what is true and what isn't. We are promised that we can know the truth of ALL things by the power of the Holy Ghost, so this test is great n discerning anything you come across.
How do you recognize truth? What are your feelings about the Book of Mormon and the Bible?