Catalin Negru's Reviews > The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Book of Mormon by Anonymous
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did not like it
bookshelves: apocalypse, christianity, cults, history

Target audience: the entire world; this book was meant to be the true word of God, the last testament of Jesus Christ and a sort of second Bible. It was supposed to revolutionize Christianity.

About the author: If you are a Mormon believer, the author of the book is the angel Mormon (he is explained in the overview). If you are a non-Mormon, the author is Joseph Smith, Jr., an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, Mormon prophet and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith came from an unremarkable New England family. Although privately religious, the Smiths rarely attended church, and after they moved to Palmyra they became involved in magic and treasure-seeking. Religious differences within the family and over religious revivals in the Palmyra area left Smith perplexed about where to find a church. When he was 14, he prayed for help, and, according to his own account, God and Jesus Christ appeared to him (there are various versions regarding the persons in the vision). In answer to his question about which was the right church, they told him that all the churches were wrong. In 1823 he received another revelation: while praying for forgiveness, he later reported, an angel calling himself Moroni appeared in his bedroom and told him about a set of golden plates containing a record of the ancient inhabitants of America. Smith found the plates buried in a stone box not far from his father’s farm. Four years later, the angel permitted him to remove the plates and instructed him to translate the characters engraved on their surfaces with the aid of special stones called “interpreters.” Smith insisted that he did not compose the book but merely “translated” it under divine guidance. Completing the work in less than 90 days, he published it in March 1830 as a 588-page volume called the Book of Mormon.

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Structure of the book: The Book of Mormon is organized as a compilation of smaller books, each named after its main named narrator or a prominent leader, beginning with the First Book of Nephi (1 Nephi) and ending with the Book of Moroni. The book’s sequence is primarily chronological based on the narrative content of the book. Exceptions include the Words of Mormon and the Book of Ether. The Words of Mormon contains editorial commentary by Mormon. The Book of Ether is presented as the narrative of an earlier group of people who had come to America before the immigration described in 1 Nephi. First Nephi through Omni are written in first-person narrative, as are Mormon and Moroni. The remainder of the Book of Mormon is written in third-person historical narrative, said to be compiled and abridged by Mormon (with Moroni abridging the Book of Ether).

Overview: I know I’ll upset many Mormons around here, but, as a non-Mormon (half-atheist actually), I think that the Book of Mormon can be truly understood only if we understand the context that surrounds its appearance. So, I’ll divide my overview in two sections.

Content of the book: According to the information from the plates, when the languages were confounded by God at the Tower of Babel, a group of people known as “Jaredites” migrated on the American continent. Although they managed to build a flourishing empire, centuries later the Jaredites self-destructed in a massive civil war. Almost two million people died in a single battle on the hill Cumorah. While the Jaredites exterminated themselves, in the year 600 BC, just before the Babylonian captivity, a family of Jews from Jerusalem migrated to America. The father of this family was called “Lehi.” Lehi had a wife and several sons and daughters. Nephi, an obedient son of Lehi, was the father of a race of white people known as “Nephites,” while Laman, a rebel son of Lehi, was the father of the “Lamanites,” cursed with dark sin due to their rebellious nature. The two nations (races) were in constant conflict with each other. But in the year 34 AD Jesus Christ descended from heaven (right after his ascension in Jerusalem) in America, visiting the Nephites and the Lamanites. This event brought a total Christianization of the two nations and centuries of peace. Nevertheless, the conflict was reignited, and the hill Cumorah was once again the witness of a huge massacre. The Lamanites destroyed the Nephites, until there was only one left, Moroni. So, the native people of America are in fact the descendants of the Lamanite people, and the stone ruins that are spread across the continent are former cities of the civilizations described in the golden plates. Fourteen centuries after the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites, the Nephite prophet Moroni appeared in the form of an angel to the young Smith and guided him to find the golden plates. Moroni was a Nephite prophet in his mortal life, the son of the prophet Mormon, the compiler of the buried text. From the author of the golden plates, Mormon, Smith named the translation of the texts as the Book of Mormon, and those who adhered to this doctrine have been called “Mormons.”

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Context of the book: To be fair, most Christian leaders have expected their religious works to revolutionize Christianity. First and foremost we have to understand that the Book of Mormon appeared in America at a time of the Second Great Awakening, after the American War of Independence and before the American Civil War. At that time the American nation was virtually a nation without history. And a nation without history is like a man without a soul or without an identity. So, Smith forged a history for the American continent, a history which conveniently conferred divine legitimacy to the new nation and his new cult. He linked and conditioned the eschatological destiny of the world to the eschatological destiny of America, promoting nationalism and American exceptionalism. He stated things that many Americans wanted to hear, even if they were contrary to the truth.
Smith’s strategy was to present a version of the past in order to support a certain scenario of the future. Thus, starting from the sacred history of America contained in the Book of Mormon, together with the subsequent visions and signs, Smith built an apocalyptic scenario that has at its core the glorious destiny of the United States and the Mormon group. According to the Mormon doctrine, between the ascension of Christ and the revelation of Moroni there was the great apostasy – a long period populated by false prophets and false doctrines. The pure Christian teaching was corrupted immediately after the death of the apostles. But God began to restore the truth before Parousia; first through the discovery and the colonization of America, and then through the restoration of the true Church. Jesus’s sermon in America gives hope to the Mormons that the Zion of the latter days would be established in the New World. Smith is (self-proclaimed) the one and true prophet of God after the apostles, while the Book of Mormon is the everlasting gospel revealed to the people in the last days and preached in the entire world according to Revelation 14:6-7. So, the expression “latter day saint” signifies three things: the restoration of the prophecy and priesthood that died in the Hebrew tradition, the imminence of Parousia and the divine authority of the church established by Smith.
Joseph Smith Jr. and all those who have succeeded him to the leadership of the Mormon group, presidents and prophets alike, have claimed that the Book of Mormon is a true description of the history of America. While the Bible is considered to be a historical description of the Old World and of the former Christian Covenant, the Book of Mormon is a historical description of the New World and of the new Millennial Covenant.

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Strong points: Creativity: I personally know how hard it is to write a book, and I’ll say that creativity is a strong point. Even if I do not agree with what he wrote, I have to admit that the author – in my opinion Joseph Smith Jr. only – put a lot of work to imagine it and write it, more than 90 days for sure.

Weak points: Arogance: In the 19th century the Book of Mormon could not be confuted because the history and the geography of the American continent were little known and the mass media was relying only on paper products: books and newspapers. But today, in the light of 21st-century knowledge, the Book of Mormon is nothing but a religious fiction. The introductory line of the Book of Mormon says that it “is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” Mormons say it is infallible, the most accurate book that ever existed: “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 4, ed. Brigham Henry Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1905), 461). The evidence, however, do not support this statement.

Lack of historical support: Historical support is the backbone of any religion because the scenarios of the future become legit only if they rely on scenarios of the past. But, while all the empires of the world left behind proofs of their existence through coins, inscriptions, jewelry, weapons or buildings, there is absolutely no material evidence to support the existence of the three great civilizations described in the Book of Mormon. On the contrary, all the archaeological evidence show the opposite. Likewise, there is not a single evidence that Jesus descended in America or that Christianity existed before the coming of Europeans (Mormon 9:32); there is no evidence about the extensive use of metals; in reality Native Americans mainly used stone and wood.

Factual errors: It wrongly describes the presence in America of horses, goats, donkeys, elephants, cows, sheep, wheat or barley – elements that had been totally absent from the flora and fauna of the continent (1 Nephi 18:28; 2 Nephi 12:7; Mosiah 9:9). In contradiction to the Bible, the Book of Mormon says that Jesus was born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10), and not Bethlehem. Also, Lehi built a temple in America as Solomon did in Jerusalem. But Judaism rejects this scenario because it is forbidden to build a temple in a different location than Mount Moriah.

Lack of originality: The main themes of the book – American exceptionalism, the Lost Tribes of Israel and Parousia – were major concepts of the Second Great Awakening. The Bible seems to have been a source of inspiration as well: Lehi is a copy of Adam and Eve, while Laman and Nephi are a repetition of Cain and Abel. Laman is the rebellious son as Cain, while Nephi is the obedient son similar to Abel. And, as Cain killed Abel, the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites. The Book of Mormon copied even the biblical language, using certain linguistic constructions, expressions, phrases or words meant to create the impression that it was divinely inspired. But in 19th-century England John Turner, the adept of Joanna Southcott, also copied biblical language in his prophetic works about Shiloh (the future Messiah).

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 2, 2016 – Shelved
June 10, 2016 – Shelved as: apocalypse
June 10, 2016 – Shelved as: christianity
June 10, 2016 – Shelved as: cults
June 10, 2016 – Shelved as: history

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Nikki "The Crazie Betty" V. Well said.


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