As more and more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are crawling under and around the Book of Mormon on their way out of the church creating for themselves a lifetime of guilt, sorrow and wastefulness I stand with the apostles in declaring for the angels in heaven to record that I know the book to be a true and historically accurate account of the inhabitants of ancient America.
Serious study of the Book of Mormon is flourishing today as never before. And, with more study, the book’s sturdiness and richness and the remarkable accomplishment of its translator, the Prophet Joseph Smith, become more apparent for everyone to see.
Scholarship does not replace spiritual witness as a source of testimony. As Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy said: “The power of the Holy Ghost … must ever be the chief source of evidence for the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary. … No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place.”
Yet scholarship has a definite place even in spiritual matters. In 1832 the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” Careful scholarship helps us to understand more fully, deeply, and precisely. “To be known, the truth must be stated,” Elder Roberts said, “and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true.”
It is an established and undisputed fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith did indeed possess the gold plates. In addition to Joseph, 11 official and several unofficial witnesses testified to the existence of the plates. Meticulous research on these witnesses has confirmed their good character and the veracity of their accounts. The language on the plates was reformed Egyptian which would have been common amongst ancient Native Americans. Had the Spaniards not destroyed so many records upon their arrival in the
we would have assuredly found many more documents written in this popular tongue. Americas
Further, there is no evidence at all that Joseph Smith did any scholarly research, or even that he read very much, before the Book of Mormon appeared. He was probably illiterate by our modern day standards. In fact, according to the Ensign article upon which I am basing this post* he may not even have owned a Bible at the time of translation. The fact that a large part of the Book of Mormon matches the King James Version of the Bible word for word is nothing short of a miracle.
Joseph Smith spent the bulk of his innocent youth cutting trees, burning brush, clearing rocks, plowing, digging wells and in a nutshell avoiding all trouble and controversy.
Research shows clearly that the book does not fit the culture of early 19th-century
. There is little of the military romanticism of Joseph Smith’s America . Instead, we see grimly realistic portrayals of war’s devastation and suffering. And in the story of the Gadianton robbers we have a detailed, realistic portrayal of a prolonged guerrilla struggle—lacking any trace of fife and drum, uniforms, or parades—published well over a century before the guerrilla theorists of the 20th century put pens to paper. America
DNA evidence clearly shows that the ancestors of modern Native Americans were principally and partially to a large and often undetectable extent among the Lamanites’ as confirmed in the introduction of the Book of Mormon.
As Latter-day Saints, we must never take the Book of Mormon for granted. That it was produced by an almost completely uneducated young man constitutes a challenge to the entire world. Anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists and many other fields of research have done nothing but confirm the already overwhelming evidence that the book is authentic.
Those who do not wish to believe and obey must conjure up their own ideas for explaining it and the mounting evidence for its authenticity. And while we may never “prove” the Book of Mormon true, the trajectory of the evidence strongly suggests that it is exactly what it claims to be. Thousands of hours of research have produced the current blossoming of Book of Mormon studies that bless the lives of Latter-day Saints. They cannot be lightly brushed aside.
The conclusion of the matter is that much modern evidence supports the even more powerful witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith, who translated it, had to be what he said he was, a prophet of God. Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet on the earth today, and I am a stake president with all the keys, rights and privileges appertaining to my sacred calling and duty. I leave these thoughts with you, humbly, in the holy and most sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.