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Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon

This posting begins what I hope will be the first of many postings associated with the Come Follow Me lessons for 2020. A resource for those wanting more than the lesson manual provides, and a way for me to get criticisms of my thoughts about the Book of Mormon. The is posting relates to the first lesson to be given in the December 30, 2019, through January 5, 2020, time frame.

The Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon

The current editions of the Book of Mormon contain a title page, introduction, testimony of witnesses, including Joseph Smith, and a brief explanation about the book. Of these, only the title page is an actual translation, the rest being added by the Church.

The Title Page.

Joseph Smith records the following in his history about the title page to the Book of Mormon:

I wish to mention here that the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error, which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title-page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the original Book of Mormon as recorded on the plates.1

The prophet then writes out the title page as it appears in the 1981 version of the Book of Mormon commencing with the title of the book, The Book of Mormon, and continuing through the judgment-seat of Christ; the hyphen between judgment and seat was added later.

The translated portion of the title page is a subscriptio and supports the Book of Mormon as a translation of ancient near-Eastern-type records:

Walter Burkert, in his recent study of the cultural dependence of Greek civilization on the ancient Near East, refers to the transmission of the practice of writing on bronze plates (Semitic root dlt) from the Phoenicians to the Greeks. . . .

Burkert also maintains that “the practice of subscriptio in particular . . . connects the layout of later Greek books with cuneiform practice, the indication of the name of the writer/author and the title of the book right at the end, after the last line of the text; this is a detailed and exclusive correspondence which proves that Greek literary practice is ultimately dependent upon Mesopotamia. It is necessary to postulate that Aramaic leather scrolls formed the connecting link.” Joseph Smith wrote that “the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated.” This idea would have been counter-intuitive in the early nineteenth century when “Title Pages” appeared at the beginning, not the end, of books.

Why, then, did Joseph claim the Book of Mormon practiced subscriptio—writing the name of the author and title at the end of the book? If the existence of the practice of subscriptio among the Greeks represents “a detailed and exclusive correspondence which proves that Greek literary practice is ultimately dependent upon Mesopotamia [via Syria],” as Burkert claims, cannot the same thing be said of the Book of Mormon—that the practice of subscriptio represents “a detailed and exclusive correspondence” which offers proof that the Book of Mormon is “ultimately dependent” on ancient Near East?2

The title page is an important part of the book because it sets forth the purpose or intent of the book. It was probably written by Moroni before he finished his father’s work and hid the plates away. Indeed, the 1840 or third edition of the Book of Mormon added Moroni’s name at the end of the title page. And the cover of the 1840 edition says the book was “Carefully revised by the translator.”

There are notable differences between the third edition and the first edition of the book. Of course, subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon have even more changes, but the desirability of the changes subsequent to the 1841 edition should be carefully considered, because the later changes were not made or supervised by Joseph Smith. There have been hundreds and hundreds of changes to the text of the book.3

The introduction.

Who wrote the introduction is unknown,4 so it is not possible to attribute its faults to a particular person. (There was probably a committee vote, but not a real vote because of the stature of the writer.) One of the faults is the paragraphing. The nine paragraphs, which should probably be ten, will be considered in turn.

Since the 2004 Doubleday edition, the first paragraph has read as follows:

The Book of Mormon 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.

Prior to the 2004 edition, the first paragraph read:

The Book of Mormon 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, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.5

Someone decided to remove the phrase as does the Bible.6 The excision of as does the Bible is unfortunate, because the Book of Mormon is comparable to the Bible in that the Bible contains, as does the Book of Mormon, the fullness of the gospel; why anyone would think otherwise means they do not have a grasp on either what the gospel is or what the Bible says. The gospel is this: the Savior is our redeemer and following Him allows us to return to live with our Father in Heaven. The Bible makes this just as clear as the Book of Mormon. Moreover, the Savior told Joseph Smith that the law that governs His Church is found in the Bible.7

There is another problem with this first paragraph. So much of the Book of Mormon is not about God’s (meaning the Father’s or the Son’s?) dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. But the same can be said of the Bible. Much of the Bible is not about the Savior’s dealings with the people in Palestine and environs. It would be more accurate to say that both books are related to the Savior’s gospel, because they provide a guide for righteous living and enlightenment so one can see the path that returns to the Father.

A parenthetical about the antecedent of the word God in the first paragraph is necessary. The Church and its leaders and its members too often blur the meanings of words. The reality of polytheism is recognized by the Church and its members, and this reality distinguishes the Church from most Christian beliefs. The Church and its members (and the writing committee for the Church) ought to be clear when the word god is used. The Father is involved in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but not as directly as the Savior. God in this first paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon must mean the Savior because the topic of this first paragraph is the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the first paragraph was intended to be a succinct statement about the Savior’s gospel, the topic sentence, “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible,” should be changed to something other than a comparison of the book to the Bible. But the topic sentence is what it is, so the first two sentences of the second paragraph should be part of this first paragraph rather than beginning of the second paragraph. The first two sentences of the second paragraph say why the Book of Mormon is comparable to the Bible.. In other words, the first paragraph of the introduction would be better if it read:

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. Like the Bible, It is a record of the Savior’s influence upon the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel. The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on golden plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon before his death sometime between ad 400 and 421.

The foregoing adjustment flatters the first paragraph by making each sentence true to the topic of the paragraph, a description of the Book of Mormon vis-à-vis the Bible.

Beginning the second paragraph with its topic sentence rather than after the sentences that belong in the first paragraph makes the second paragraph both more readable and consistent with proper paragraphing.

The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 BC and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other civilization came much earlier, when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, whose descendants survive to this day.

This second paragraph is generally accurate, but it has some problems. The book does tell the story of two civilizations who arrived in the Western Hemisphere during different eras. But the Jaredites arrived here after, not when, the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. And there is nothing said about the Mulekites, a third emigration discussed in the Book of Mormon.

Whether the Nephites came from Jerusalem in 600 BC is problematic. The word came denotes a perspective from the Americas, so it could be more accurate to say the Nephites left Jerusalem circa 595 BC according to today’s calendar, and they travel around before they came to or arrived in the Americas.8

One must, also, question the certitude expressed by the statement that the remnant of the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”9 This statement, even with the word among, is probably not correct. Perhaps, it is left in the introduction out of deference to the many members and leaders of the Church who have assumed the American Indians are the descendants of the Lamanites.

The third paragraph is about the appearance of the Savior in the New World following His resurrection. It describes this event in superlative terms:

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

The Savior’s visit to the Nephites following His resurrection is a significant event recorded in the Book of Mormon, but saying the Book of Mormon is about events is, perhaps, a superficial perspective. Saying that it, the antecedent of which must be crowing event, puts forth “the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come” minimizes the effects and purposes of the balance of the book.

The balance of the book may be more important than the record of the Savior’s appearance among the Nephites. The record of the Savior’s teachings are essentially the same as the recorded in the Bible, the often verbatim recitation of those biblical teachings causing problems for some.10 In other words, the essential teachings of the Savior in the New World can be found in the Bible. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is elucidations lost from the Bible. For example, the following scripture describes a plain and precious idea lost from the Bible, polytheism, and this description has little to do with the visit of the Savior.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.11

The plain and precious things take from the Bible are listed in the foregoing scripture is really this one thing: the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father. In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity is false. One blinded by confirmation bias can read the Bible and conclude that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a single, incorporeal entity, but this notion is obliterated by the Book of Mormon.

The visit of the Savior does not really do a lot to obliterate this plain and precious differentiation between the Father and the Son, including the office of the Son. The analysis of Jacob 7, which will be posted later, addresses why this differentiation is so important.

Another thing the crowning event of the Book of Mormon—the Savior’s visit in the Americas—does not do as well as other parts is explain the Savior’s gospel and what one must do to follow the path of salvation. Nephi’s first two books, arguably, do a better job of that, particularly his last writings in 2 Nephi where he explains the doctrine of Christ.12

The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the introduction raise no particular questions, but the sixth paragraph does. It contains a dramatic doctrinal addition not previously given much thought in the Church.

Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on the 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.14Even though it is written in the first person, no part of this manuscript history was written by Joseph Smith,

It [meaning the manuscript history] is in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock and contains 512 pages of primary text, plus 24 pages of addenda. Additional addenda for this volume were created at a later date as a supplementary document and appear in this collection as “History, 1838-1856, volume C-1 Addenda.” Compilers Willard Richards and Thomas Bullock drew heavily from J[oseph] S[mith]’s letters, discourses, and diary entries; meeting minutes; church and other periodicals and journals; and reminiscences, recollections, and letters of church members and other contacts. At J[oseph] S[mith]’s behest, Richards maintained the first-person, chronological-narrative format established in previous volumes, as if J[oseph]S[mith] were the author. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and others reviewed and modified the manuscript prior to its eventual publication in the Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News.15

Thus, although this was written in the first person, it is not the work of Joseph Smith. Moreover, the particular statement attributed to Joseph Smith is an interlineation by someone other than Thomas Bullock. So it is an after-the-fact addition by someone who attributed these statements to Joseph Smith: an unknown person at some unknown time says Joseph Smith said this. This after-the-fact addition by an unknown person is unreliable, and should not be given much if any weight. It would be inadmissible in a courtroom if proffered as the statements of the Joseph Smith. Even if this statement was admissible the court of opinion or a gospel doctrine class, it would be subject to a brutal cross-examination, because Joseph Smith NEVER used the Book of Mormon in any of his sermons.16

The fact that this language was interlineated by someone after the manuscript history was written makes it suspicious. The following image is from the Church’s website, The Joseph Smith Papers;17 it shows the interlineation in the otherwise carefully written, uniformly spaced lines of text between the marginal numbers twenty-eight and twenty-nine.

The Joseph Smith Papers website–it is a Church website–transcribes this part of manuscript history. The transcription indicates the interlineations or insertions within the text by greater-than and less-than symbols. The question marks within these symbols indicate an unknown penmanship, and, of course, the date of the interlineations is unknown.

<?28?> Sunday 28. I spent the day in Council with the Twelve <?Apostles?> at the house of President [Brigham] Young <?conversing with them upon a variety of subjects. Bro Joseph Fielding was present, having been absent 4 years on a mission to England. I told the brethren that the book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the key stone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.?>18

The draft of the manuscript history of the Church in Willard Richard’s handwriting is abbreviated to, “Sunday 28. I attended a council of the Twelve at the house of President Young. when the principle of the thing was investiged19

The interlineated language in the final version of the manuscript history seems to have originated from the diary of Wilford Woodruff, which is that rather awkward printing in Woodruff’s hand.20

The BYU Religion Department published a video of a roundtable discussion about the most-correct-book sentence in the Book of Mormon on December 23, 2019.  This roundtable among four religion professors is worth watching because of what it is said between the words of these four professors about this problematic sentence.21  It must be remembered that these are BYU professors who get their paychecks from the Church, so they are mindful of how they say what they say without saying it. I present their between-the-lines statements in both a chiastic format with an inclusio:

Nick Frederick. Nick Frederick’s between-the-lines rationalization was simple. The most-correct-book sentence cannot be rationalized unless one does what Nick Frederick does at the conclusion, apply it to himself, personally. Nick Frederick’s human-element-speaking-to-me “makes it most correct for me.” He says he cannot get this speaking-to-me from any other book (at least, any other book he has read). Perhaps, this is a good way to look at this nonsensical, most-correct-book statement, but Frederick does not really believe it is the most correct book; indeed, he comments, accurately, that the Book of Mormon has been wrongly elevated above the Bible in the Church. The Book of Mormon is not a most-correct book vis-à-vis the Bible.

Joseph Spender. Joseph Spender recognizes that Joseph Smith considered the Book of Mormon text “a bit plastic” so that changes to get the correct message across are okay, so Spender does not think it is the most correct book, either, witness the thousands of changes—719 significant changes—made to it since its 1830 publication. I appreciated his cautious objectivity (he gets his paycheck from BYU) as he discussed textual and doctrinal changes to the Book of Mormon.

Tyler Griffin. Tyler Griffin correctly observes the vanity of higher criticism rather than a focus on the things being taught. Anachronisms in the 1830 edition rectified in subsequent editions should be understood as well intentioned in his view. I thought he thoughtfully side-stepped the truth of this sentence. I little bit of cross-examination by a skilled lawyer would highlight that.

Gaye Strathem. Gaye Strathem makes an observation that deserves reflection. She adverts to Thucydides’ history, The Peloponnesian War, bk. 1, par. 22. Thucydides quoted both those he had heard those and those he did not hear speak, but justified his quotations by saying (I have underlined this in my copy of Thucydides), “I got [these quotes] from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one’s memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said.” (My wife does not always understand that this is my standard for quoting people; hers is the word-for-word standard.) But the important point is this. The Book of Mormon is not about what happened; after all, as with all scripture the events are the vehicles for what is important, the messages.

Nick Frederick. So Nick Frederick’s human-element-speaking-to-me “makes it most correct for me” at the conclusion of this roundtable is all right. After all, he says he cannot get speaking-to-me from any other book (at least, any other book he has read) Perhaps, this is a good way to look at this nonsensical, most-correct-book statement.

This roundtable can be watched here:

There are other problems with this most-correct-book language. The first paragraph of the 1981 introduction says the Bible and the Book of Mormon both contain the fullness of the everlasting gospel. (Subsequent editions omit the characterization of the Bible as containing the fullness of the gospel.) If so, it is illogical to say the Book of Mormon provides a better means of drawing closer to God (adhering to the gospel of Jesus Christ) than the Bible. After all, even the Book of Mormon gives a definition of the gospel that embraces what the Bible teaches.22

The mean of fullness of the gospel, perhaps, can be put another way if one wants to expand the meaning beyond what the Lord said to the Nephites. What does the Book of Mormon teach that the Bible does not in terms of getting nearer to God?23

While the Book of Mormon provides more elucidation of certain topics and is, therefore, very valuable, there is a lot in the Bible available to the astute reader that is just not present in the Book of Mormon. For example, the book of Hebrews explains with more clarity the nature of the atonement and the difference between the Lord’s and the Father’s endowments to us. 24

What faith means is explained by Paul’s exhortation to faithfulness, and there is nothing like this in the Book of Mormon.25

Similarly, there is nothing in the Book of Mormon that explains the term charity, but the exposition of this term is very complete in the Bible, a term related to how one can make one’s calling and election made sure.26 Charity is used several times in the Book of Mormon27

Likewise, the book of Ezekiel is the best place to find an exposition about individual responsibility for sin and the judgment.28 Nor does the Book of Mormon address the temple endowment and saving ordinances for the dead. The Bible does. And while the Holy Ghost is mentioned by name many times in the Book of Mormon, more useful insights about the Holy Ghost can be found by the astute reader in the Bible, information not available in the Book of Mormon. Lots of eschatology in the Bible, none in the Book of Mormon.

A larger problem for the reader of the Book of Mormon is the reality that it cannot be understood at more than a superficial level without an understanding of the Bible. The use of metaphors and allusions in the first chapter of 1 Nephi are a good demonstration of this.29

Another problem with this sixth paragraph is the word God. To whom does this refer? The Father? The scriptures teach that the Savior is the one with whom one must be close to be saved. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that matters. It is the Savior’s example that is to be followed. The ultimate goal, of course, is to return to live with the Father, but one does that by being nearer to the Savior. So why is God used in this paragraph?

In sum, the sixth paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon does not belong in the book. It is misleading. This paragraph was probably added by Bruce R. McConkie, and he probably added it based on the History of the Church without any review of the manuscript history or any thought.30There is no doubt, of course, that the Book of Mormon is a conversion tool and, as such, allows individuals to get closer to the Lord and His gospel. But it is not accurate to say the Book of Mormon does this better than any other book unless one is talking about it as a conversion tool. And it certainly makes no sense to say the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth”; the statement is something like the doctrine of the Trinity among many Protestant religions, you really have to want to believe this illogical statement to make sense of it, because it is nonsense.31 Every book ever published would require a lot of comparisons to find the most correct among all the books, but here is a simple reality. Every book is the most correct of that book.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the seventh paragraph in the introduction. It states simple facts that bear little comment. But the eighth paragraph bears comment. It reads as follows:

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)

This paragraph inaccurately paraphrases a pericope from one of the most misunderstood and, consequently, abused scriptures in the Church, an exhortation by Moroni. The paraphrase is of this:

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. 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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.32

Understanding why the eighth paragraph is an inaccurate paraphrase of Moroni’s exhortation is aided by breaking the Moroni’s exhortation down. The first part enjoins the reader to recall and weigh in one’s mind the mercies of the Lord since the time of Adam:

I . . . exhort you [to] remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, [since] the creation of Adam . . . and ponder33 it in your hearts.

The antecedent of it is the whole of the mercies of the Lord to the children of men since Adam. Thus, one must understand the Bible if one is to follow Moroni’s plea. Moroni understood that the Nephite record would be consistent with the teachings of the Bible, an irrefragable witness of the record’s truth because of its consistency with what the Lord does.

The eighth paragraph of the introduction pretermits the necessity of pondering on the Lord’s mercies since Adam by substituting the message of the Book of Mormon as the object of one’s thoughts. And while the eight paragraph employs the same metaphor as Moroni, heart, the use of the word today is misleading because the tenor of this vehicle has changed from the mind to emotions or feelings.

The next part of Moroni’s exhortation asks the reader of the Book of Mormon to pray about the Book of Mormon, which appears to be the antecedent of these things, because these things is at the beginning of Moroni’s exhortation, “I . . . exhort you that when ye shall read these things,” meaning the Book of Mormon. So Moroni uses these things to refer to the Book of Mormon, so receive these things in the following pericope must have the same meaning as these things.

And when ye shall receive these things, . . . ask God . . . 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.34

Moroni’s declaration at first glance does not seem to be grammatically parallel, because  Moroni uses it at the end of this sentence in place of these things. It is singular while these things is plural. The antecedents of these two words, therefore, must be different, one plural and the other singular. Perhaps, then, the meaning embraces more than merely the truth of the Book of Mormon. It may refer to an implicit hendiadys, the joinder of the Book of Mormon and the Bible.35 If so, the truthfulness of it—the hendiadys composed of the Bible and the Book of Mormon—makes this declaration consistent with Nephi’s declaration that the Book of Mormon will establish the truthfulness of the Bible:

These last records [the Book of Mormon] shall establish the truth of the first [the Bible] and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.36

Moroni’s injunction, therefore, promises that God will confirm the truthfulness of the Bible and Book of Mormon together, using the word it, not the truthfulness of just the Book of Mormon.37 After all, Moroni asks the reader to consider things that are contained only in the Bible before he comments on the Nephite record. As a result, Moroni’s promise that the prayer of the faithful will manifest the truth of it is different than the statement in the eighth paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon; the introduction uses it to refer to the message of the Book of Mormon exclusive of the Bible, a misreading of Moroni’s exhortation. Reformatting the eight paragraph highlights the difference between Moroni’s exhortation and the introduction where the antecedent of both it and its is just the Book of Mormon rather than the hendiadys that makes the Bible with the Book or Mormon the antecedent of it. Here is how the introduction incorrectly paraphrases Moroni:

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon,

to ponder in their hearts the message it [the Book of Mormon] contains,

and then to ask God . . . if the book [of Mormon] is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its [the Book of Mormon’s] truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Moroni wanted his descendants to use the Book of Mormon as a witness of the divinity of the Bible so they would believe the Bible is true. And, then, they would have to believe the Church with this Book of Mormon is the right one with the right ordinances for salvation. Thus, they would have two options because of these two witnesses of Christ: discipleship or damnation. The introduction to the Book of Mormon pretermits what Moroni enjoined by giving Moroni’s injunction an altogether different meaning.38

Endnotes

  1. Times and Seasons, vol. III, no. 24 (Nauvoo: Oct. 15, 1842) https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-15-october-1842/1
  2. F.A.R.M.S. Update No. 95, “Metal Plates and the Book of Mormon,” July, 1994, quoting Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age.
  3. Royal Skousen, Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, 3 vols. (Provo, UT, Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1984, 1986, 1987).
  4. There is an article published in the Deseret News, “Debate Renewed with Change in the Book of Mormon Introduction,” http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695226008/Debate-renewed-with-change-in-Book-of-Mormon-introduction.html?pg=all (November 8, 2007), that has two comments about the authorship of the introduction. The author of the article asked the Church who wrote the introduction, but had to report, “The church declined comment on who wrote [the original] version of the page [introduction].” Later in the article, John L. Sorensen is quoted as saying, “The assumptions may have been and may be in the minds of some that the previous phrasing had substance to it. As a matter of fact, it was a sheer accident of someone—probably (Elder) Bruce McConkie—regarding ‘principal ancestors.’ No one checked it or questioned it, so it was put in the introduction.”

    Scott C. Esplin, then an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU attributes this introduction to McConkie, “A complete revision from earlier introductory pages to the Book of Mormon, the text was apparently drafted by Elder McConkie, a member of the Scriptures Publications Committee. [Footnote here reads, “Robert J. Matthews, interview with the author, January 8, 2007.”] As shown, Elder McConkie was an advocate of Joseph Smith’s statement [the quote about the Book of Mormon being the most correct book on earth] and thus was instrumental in including it for the first time in the book’s introduction.”

  5. Bolding added.
  6. Removing this phrase removed an inconsistency between the first paragraph and the sixth, but a better change would have been the deletion of paragraph six, which was added in 1981.
  7. “Thou shalt take teh things which thou hast received, which have been given unto thee in my scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church.”D&C 42:59. The word scriptures in this and all other verses of the Doctrine and Covenants refers exclusively to the Bible. When the Book of Mormon is referenced in the Doctrine & Covenants it is always by the name of the book. For example, “And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction,” D&C 33:16. “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.” D&C 42:12. Speaking about the Book of Mormon, the Lord says they wo;; have an effect on people who read it, “Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true,” D&C 20:28. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were  commanded to to teach the church by “expounding all scriptures unto the church.” D&C 24:5, but Joseph Smith never quoted the Book of Mormon in any of his sermons, ever, only the Bible. Gerald E. Smith, Schooling the Prophet, How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU, 2015) at 1. A review of this book can be read at https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/schooling-prophet-how-book-mormon-influenced-joseph-smith-and-early-restoration. After completing his translation of the Book of Mormon, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith, “[L]et your time be devoted to studying the Scriptures,” D&C 26:1, and that is what he did: he bought a Bible and began his editing, which eventually lead to the Inspired Version of he Bible. Indeed, the Lord later commands Joseph, [I]t is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures.” D&C 93:53. Accord, D&C 94:10.
  8. The use of precise dates is problematic. The calender in use today is not the same as the various calendars in use at the time of Lehi, and it is notable that Ezekiel dates his work from the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. Ezekiel 1:2. King Jehoichin was succeed by King Zedekiah, whom Nephi uses for the date reference in 1 Nephi 1:4. Presumably, Zedekiah’s installation as king by Nebuchadneazar was the same year as Jehoiachin’s captivity, see 2 Kings 24:8–18, but it is not clear. Close, for sure, but there is no exact date. Moreover, there are those who so want the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem to be 600 years before Christ—who was born circa 5/4 bc—that they go to great lengths fussing over what happened when during the last years of Jerusalem’s independence as a state. See, e.g., Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Dating the Departure of Lehi from Jerusalem, BYU Studies Quarterly, vol. 57, no. 2 (Provo, UT, Brigham Young University, 2018)(Chadwick places the first year of Zedekiah’s reign at 608/7 BC, which would make the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry circa 602 BC.) Chadwick’s article, which seems to try too hard, may be found at https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/dating-departure-lehi-from-jerusalem
  9. ”There is an article published in the Deseret News, “Debate Renewed with Change in the Book of Mormon Introduction,” http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695226008/Debate-renewed-with-change-in-Book-of-Mormon-introduction.html?pg=all (November 8, 2007), that reports on the change in the wording of the introduction starting with the 2006 edition of the Book of Mormon published by Doubleday. The change was one word: former editions said the American Indians are the principal descendants of the Lamanites, and since 2006 the word used is among. The following comments quoted in the Deseret News explains the change:

    It “eliminates a certain minor embarrassment in the use of language, that’s all,” said John L. Sorensen, professor emeritus of anthropology at Brigham Young University, adding it has no impact on the substance of the book itself.

    Sorensen’s book, An Ancient American setting for the Book of Mormon, outlines the “limited geography” theory and has become the definitive work to date on the topic among scholars. Its premise is that the book’s characters lived within a fairly small region of Central America, rather than populating the entirety of North and South America, as some have speculated. He said several LDS scholars have noted for decades that the assumption about “principal ancestors” was inaccurate.

    John Sorenson’s book, perhaps, is not the definitive work. I prefer the book by Joseph L. Allen, Ph.D., Exploring The Lands of The Book of Mormon (Orem, UT: S. A. Publishers, 1989).

  10. The King James version of biblical scriptures parroted in the Book of Mormon is a problem for those who have not considered the nature of the translation done by Joseph Smith. The nature of the translation is addressed in an essay, “Operations of the Spirit,” by Daryl M. Williams, which has been posted on this blog.
  11. The King James version of biblical scriptures parroted in the Book of Mormon is a problem for those who have not considered the nature of the translation done by Joseph Smith. The nature of the translation is addressed in an essay, “Operations of the Spirit,” by Daryl M. Williams, which has been posted on his blog, www.studyitout.com
  12. Lehi explains redemption through Christ. 2 Nephi 2. Nephi conclusion, which is about the Savior and the Holy Ghost, defines the gospel as the doctrine of Christ. 2 Nephi 31–ch. 33.
  13. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974) at 461. This comment is said to have occurred at a meeting with the twelve at the home Brigham Young on November 28, 1841[./efn_note]

    This quote is from the History of the Church by B. H. Roberts. Roberts copied from the Manuscript History of the Church. The Manuscript History is published on the internet.13This part of the manuscript history can been seen here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/427

  14. Source note, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/427,
  15. Gerald E. Smith, Schooling the Prophet, How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU, 2015) at 1. A review of this book can be read at https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/schooling-prophet-how-book-mormon-influenced-joseph-smith-and-early-restoration.
  16. https://josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/427
  17. Id.
  18. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-draft-1-january-31-december-1841/20
  19. https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=28b53d73-2ba2-418b-8ef7-dafcc935bee3&crate=0&index=120
  20. A good book about reading between the lines is by Arthur M. Melzer, Philosophy Between the Lines, The History of Esoteric Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).
  21. This definition is found in 3 Nephi 27:13–21a. These verses in 3 Nephi form an inclusio. Moreover, the Lord says in D&C 20:11 that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to prove the truth of the Bible. (The word scriptures as used in the D&C never denotes the Book of Mormon, just the Bible.)
  22. What follows is different than the talk given by Russell M. Nelson in the October 2017 general conference, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be without It?” The talk can be found at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/the-book-of-mormon-what-would-your-life-be-like-without-it?lang=eng. Nelson’s talk reaches far beyond how the Lord defines fullness of the gospel as it discusses what the Book of Mormon “affirms what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies and what it reveals.” (Emphasis in original.) The talk was highlighted in the introductory lesson of Come Follow Me for 2020. Affirming and clarifying are important benefits of the Book of Mormon, but what Nelson says about refutations and revelations may be a little hyperbolic. Indeed, some of what he says is affected by Mormon traditions that are not accurate. For example, he equates the Ezekiel’s two-sticks demonstration in Ezekiel 37 with the Bible and the Book of Mormon; he speaks of the gift of the Holy Ghost as though she is conferred on an individual as opposed to her being, as the Book of Mormon describes, a gift from the Father; he says there is a clarification about the eternal nature of the priesthood, which really is not discussed in the Book of Mormon; indeed, the priesthood in the Book of Mormon seems to be nothing like today’s priesthood in terms of things like line of authority as opposed to assumption or designation by the king or leader and a higher or lower priesthood; pre-Christ baptisms are a fact known notwithstanding the Book of Mormon; he equates Light of Christ with something other than what it is, a synonym for the Holy Ghost; he says the Book of Mormon reveals previously unknown information about agency and accountablity, which Ezekiel 14–18 forcefully describes in an arguably better way. Nelson’s approach was to talk about what is in the Book of Mormon that is not in the Bible, while what follows addresses what is in the Bible that is not in the Book of Mormon.
  23. The promise that the faithful before Christ had not received is translated in Hebrews from the word ἐπαγγελία or epangelia, which means the promise of eternal life given by the Father. Paul wanted the hearers of his epistle to understand that the faithful forefathers needed and anxiously awaited the blessings of the temple that only they, Christ’s professors, could complete for them, meaning vicarious temple work; Paul describes the followers of Christ with the Greek term ομολογιας. This term is found in 2 Corinthians 9:13 (“your professed subjection unto the gospel”), Hebrews 3:1 (“consider the . . .High Priest of our profession”), and Hebrews 4:14 (“let us hold fast our profession”). The last-will-and-testament gift by the Savior—his atonement—is described by Paul as the Lord’s covenant or promise, διαθηκη or diathke, associated with the death of the Savior.
  24. The exhortation to faithfulness found in Hebrews ch. 11–13:6 is the central exhortation concluding Hebrews. It is comprised of two distinct parts that are (1) historical examples of faithful followers of Christ, which is followed by Paul (2) telling his audience to toughen up. The first part presents six and twelve concrete examples of faithful ancestors. The first six, Hebrews 11:1–12:1, “all died in faith, not having received the promises.” Hebrews 11:13. Likewise, the twelve exemplars “received not the promise.” Hebrews 11:39. These faithful were unrequited because they were suffering from helplessness. The promise they had not received is translated from the word ἐπαγγελία or epangelia, which means the covenant of eternal life by the Father. This promise of eternal life was only attainable through the endowment or covenant or promise or gift of Christ as a result of His death.The word associated with this endowment or promise of the Savior is translated from διαθηκη (diathke), which denotes a particular kind of bequest, the sort associated with a last-will-and-testament.

    The second part of Paul’s exhortation to faithfulness is Hebrews 12:2–13:6. It involves practical application of what should be learned from the exemplars of faith, the six and twelve examples Paul had just listed. Paul addresses the suffering the professors of Christ can expect and must overcome, comparing theirs to the suffering of the Lord to strengthen them. Paul, in essence, tells the saints to toughen up and circle the wagons against the temporal world so that they can be faithful. They have the example of the Savior, and they are told that their lot in life—their chastening—is not yet as severe as His was, so they are to stop complaining, which is reminiscent of the exhortation given to Joseph Smith in D&C 122. Then they are reminded of the blessings of the temple they enjoy, blessings not afforded their forefathers and because of which the forefathers will be afforded the promise, ἐπαγγελία (epangelia), of the Father, the rewards of which so overshadow temporal afflictions as to make them insignificant. This part of the epistle is a why-and-how-to-be-faithful exhortation.

  25. The term charity is a translation from a neologism developed by Paul during the course of his preaching. Its development can be traced from his earliest to his latest epistles. Paul eventually uses his neologism to describe what becomes a person when they are perfect and at peace. Colossians 3:14; cf. D&C 88:125. And Paul defines the term in an example essay, as well. 1 Corinthians 13. Even Peter adopted charity to describe  a condition attained through the progression toward perfection and having one’s calling and election made sure. 2 Peter 1:1–11.
  26. 2 Nephi 26 (which says we must have it if we are not to perish), 2 Nephi 33 (where Nephi says he has it), Alma 7 (where Alma uses it with faith and hope). Either 12 (where the term is used six times), and, of course the thirteen times Moroni uses the term in Moroni 7, 8 and 10. But it is NOT defined in the Book of Mormon, so it remains a mystery to most members of the Church. Take three words from the typical member’s vocabulary, pure, love and Christ, and the member will likely not be able to define charity, which means that member does not really understand it beyond the repetition by rote of the hollow words.
  27. The Book of Mormon does not do what Ezekiel 14–18 does.
  28. Nephi’s use of the pillar-of-fire metaphor on a rock, another metaphor, in 1 Nephi 1:6 is discussed in the post previous to this one, https://studyitout.com/overview-of-first-and-second-nephi/, which gives an overview of 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. These metaphors can only be understood by someone familiar with the Bible. Otherwise, the reader is left to think the vehicles for these metaphors are literal events, missing the tenor of metaphors, which is how these metaphors are portrayed, unfortunately and as discussed the previous post, by the 2019 videos produced by the Church.
  29. McConkie could be intolerant and doctrinaire to the point jingoism, a subject, perhaps, of another or someone else’s blog. See, e.g.http://www.eugeneengland.org/a-professor-and-apostle-correspond-eugene-england-and-bruce-r-mcconkie-on-the-nature-of-god.
  30. This most-correct-book statement attributed to the prophet has been the subject of a great deal of writing. For example, Esplin, Scott C., “Getting ‘Nearer to God’: A History of Joseph Smith’s Statement,” in Living the Book of Mormon: Abiding by Its Precepts, ed. Gaye Strathearn and Charles Swift (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2007), 41–54. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/living-book-mormon/getting-nearer-god-history-joseph-smiths-statement. Millet, Robert L. “‘The Most Correct Book’: Joseph Smith’s Appraisal,” in Living the Book of Mormon: Abiding by Its Precepts, ed. Gaye Strathearn and Charles Swift (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2007), 55–71. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/living-book-mormon/most-correct-book-joseph-smiths-appraisal Nyman, Monte, “The Most Correct Book,” Ensign (Salt Lake: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, June 1984). https://www.lds.org/ensign/1984/06/the-most-correct-book?lang=eng.
  31. Moroni 10:3–7.
  32. The verb ponder has the following definitions: 1: to weigh in the mind; 2: to deliberate over: think out; 3: to think about: muse over. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary,Unabridged, s.v. ponder (accessed December 06, 2019) http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com..
  33. Emphasis added.
  34. An hendiadys must be considered as a single word.
  35. 1 Nephi 13:40b.
  36. Notably, the talk given by Russell M. Nelson linked to the Come Follow Me lesson begins with the conversion story of a man who was very acquainted with the Bible and, therefore, immediately saw the truth of the Bible and Book of Mormon together. Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be without It?” (General Conference, October 2017). The talk can be found at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/the-book-of-mormon-what-would-your-life-be-like-without-it?lang=eng.
  37. The Doctrine and Covenants does not support the distortion in the introduction either:

    God [the Father] ministered unto him [Joseph Smith] by an holy angel . . . and gave him power . . .to translate the Book of Mormon . . . Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true and that God [the Father] does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old . . . .

    D&C 20:6–12 (Note the use of the word scriptures as a reference to the Bible in these verses. The word scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants refers exclusively to the Bible.)

4 thoughts on “Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon

    • Author gravatar

      I appreciated Nick Frederick’s comments about not elevating the Book of Mormon above the Bible. I think perhaps a bit of contextualization is important, in that at the time, the Book of Mormon was not well known beyond the (relatively) small community of Saints. Perhaps part of the ‘most correct’ statement was to help bring the Book of Mormon to the level of the Bible in the minds of the Saints. Years later, the pendulum may have swing too far the other direction, and Nick Frederick reminds us that they’re equal. A good reminder.

      • Author gravatar

        I, too, liked Frederick’s comments about the sad elevation of the Book of Mormon above the Bible. But I am not sure the Bible and the Book of Mormon are equal. The Book of Mormon supports the Bible, not the other way around. Support is given to the greater thing. A careful parsing of Moroni’s injunction in Moroni 10 leads to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon’s second witness of the Bible will make believers of those who have not believed the Bible. It is the Bible that is supported by the Book of Mormon. Moreover, D&C 42:59 says the scriptures–meaning the Bible–is where the law of the Church us found. (The word scriptures in the D&C refers exclusively to the Bible. There is not space in this short reply to expound on the meaning of law in D&C 42.) One cannot fully understand what the Book of Mormon is saying if one does not understand the Bible. But one does not need the Book of Mormon to understand the Bible. The Book of Mormon militates in favor of believing the Bible, not the other way around. This support of the Bible is why the Book of Mormon is such a conversion tool.

        Your statement, “Perhaps part of the “most correct” statement [etc.],” implies that you think Joseph Smith really said this. Do you really think that? Why? What is the basis for accepting this hearsay statement? I am interested. Neither Frederick nor the other panel members bought into this. Why are you? Why didn’t Joseph Smith ever quote from the Book of Mormon in any of his sermons if he was trying, as you say, “to help bring the Book of Mormon to the level of the Bible in the minds of the Saints”?

    • Author gravatar

      Just a bit of musing that is more of a question than an assertion. It seems that the eighth Article of Faith (Wentworth Letter) might have been a good place for Joseph to clarify the connection between the Bible and Book of Mormon and the supporting role of the latter to the former. As it stands the eighth Article has played a role, intended or not, in planting in the minds of generations of Primary children the thought that the Bible, while good, is also deficient and and even untrustworthy, while the Book of Mormon is perfect. It has also upset a fair number of fellow Christians (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

      It’s unfair to think that Joseph should have foreseen the letter going to every corner of the earth and the Articles being drilled into millions of Latter Day Saint children, but I wonder if he might have stated the eighth a bit differently with a do-over? Or in the Church and world reality of 1842 was it stated perfectly? I would be interested to know, if given the task of writing a brief, memorizable statement to replace the eighth Article of Faith, what you would write.

      • Author gravatar

        I will blog someday on the Articles of Faith. I, generally speaking, agree with the tone of your observations. Suffice it to say, I think the Bible is more important than the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is support for the Bible, not the other way around. But most in today’s Church will think my thoughts are heretical. But I can articulate why I think this. And I will. Later.

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