LDS Book of Mormon





The Book of Mormon must be true history

Can you not believe in the literal historical truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and still be a faithful Mormon?

Could the Mormon Church still be true if the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be?

Here's what the church says:

"Let me quote a very powerful comment from President Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church..."

"To hear someone so remarkable say something so tremendously bold, so overwhelming in its implications, that everything in the Church — everything — rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth, can be a little breathtaking. It sounds like a “sudden death” proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward."

"Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who, [1] after seeing the Father and the Son, [2] later beheld the angel Moroni, [3] repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually [4] receiving at his hands a set of ancient gold plates which [5] he then translated according to the gift and power of God—or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of President Benson’s comment, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of those."

"I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically."
- Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” New Era, June 1995, Page 64 (Excerpted from a CES Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.)

Apostle Holland doesn't list actual doctrinal teachings from the Book of Mormon that make it vital to Mormon theology. He's basically saying that it's a matter of credibility. If the book is not what Smith and the church say it is, then Smith is a fraud and the church is a hoax.

So it's not about what the book actually teaches, it's the credibility of the book that counts. If missionaries can get people to accept the book as what the church says it is, then they will accept the rest. They don't even have to read it, just accept it as what the church says it is to convert to Mormonism.

Couldn't the same thing be said for the D&C and the Book of Abraham? If those are not what they claim to be, doesn't Smith fall just as hard as a fraud?

Also, if as Holland says, the Book of Mormon really is "do-or-die" then you can't be a good Mormon and not accept the historical truth of the Book of Mormon. If dedicated, sincere members decide the Book of Mormon is a fraud, then they almost have to leave the church even if they still feel strong social ties. There's hardly any middle ground where you can accept the BoM as unnecessary but still be a happy, active Mormon.

LDS Church Apostle Dallin H. Oaks clearly layed out the church's stand on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and criticized those within the church that do not accept it as an historical record.

Here are some excerpts:

"Some who term themselves believing Latter-day Saints are advocating that Latter-day Saints should abandon claims that the Book of Mormon is a historical record of the ancient peoples of the Americas. They are promoting the feasibility of reading and using the Book of Mormon as nothing more than a pious fiction with some valuable contents. These practitioners of so-called "higher criticism" raise the question of whether the Book of Mormon, which our prophets have put forward as the preeminent scripture of this dispensation, is fact or fable--history or just a story."

"Some Latter-day Saint critics who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon seek to make their proposed approach persuasive to Latter-day Saints by praising or affirming the value of some of the contents of the book. Those who take this approach assume the significant burden of explaining how they can praise the contents of a book they have dismissed as a fable. I have never been able to understand the similar approach in reference to the divinity of the Savior. As we know, some scholars and some ministers proclaim him to be a great teacher and then have to explain how the one who gave such sublime teachings could proclaim himself (falsely they say) to be the Son of God who would be resurrected from the dead."

"The new style critics have the same problem with the Book of Mormon. For example, we might affirm the value of the teachings recorded in the name of a man named Moroni, but if these teachings have value, how do we explain these statements also attributed to this man?"

And if there be faults [in this record] they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mormon 8:17.)

And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? (Moroni 10:27.)

"There is something strange about accepting the moral or religious content of a book while rejecting the truthfulness of its authors' declarations, predictions, and statements. This approach not only rejects the concepts of faith and revelation that the Book of Mormon explains and advocates. This approach is not even good scholarship."

"The Book of Mormon's major significance is its witness of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God the Eternal Father who redeems and saves us from death and sin. If an account stands as a preeminent witness of Jesus Christ, how can it possibly make no difference whether the account is fact or fable--whether the persons really lived who prophesied of Christ and gave eye witnesses of his appearances to them?"

"As Jack Welch and I discussed the topic of my address this evening, he pointed out that this new wave of antihistoricism 'may be a new kid on the block in Salt Lake City, but he has been around in a lot of other Christian neighborhoods for several decades.'"

"Indeed! The argument that it makes no difference whether the Book of Mormon is fact or fable is surely a sibling to the argument that it makes no difference whether Jesus Christ ever lived. As we know, there are many so-called Christian teachers who espouse the teachings and deny the teacher. Beyond that, there are those who even deny the existence or the knowability of God. Their counterparts in Mormondom embrace some of the teachings of the Book of Mormon but deny its historicity."

"Brothers and Sister, how grateful we are--all of us who rely on scholarship, faith, and revelation--for what you are doing. God bless the founders and the supporters and the workers of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. The work that you do is important, it is well-known, and it is appreciated."

"I testify of Jesus Christ, whom we serve, whose Church this is. I invoke his blessings upon you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
- Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, The Historicity of the Book of Mormon, FARMS annual dinner on October 29th, 1993

"This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God... If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions... The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; If false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it... If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of deception, and to be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments - by evidences adduced from scripture and reason..."

"But on the other hand, if investigation should prove the Book of Mormon true ... the American and English nations ... should utterly reject both the Popish and Protestant ministry, together with all the churches which have been built up by them or that have sprung from them, as being entirely destitute of authority."
- Apostle Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Liverpool, 1851, pp. 1-2

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