The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture used by Mormons, a nickname sometimes applies to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in addition to the Bible. It is considered to be the word of God and a second testament of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon refers to Jesus and his mission in a little over half its verses, which is more often than the Bible does.
Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is made up of a combination of stories and doctrine. The stories have a religious purpose. Unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon was created in an organize fashion and kept intact. While the Bible was compiled by sorting through many different records and then choosing which ones to include (and not all churches agreed on what should constitute an authentic record), the Book of Mormon was created by one of the early prophets of the civilization covered in the book. When he died, the record was handed down to the next prophet. This continued until the final two prophets received it. Mormon, for whom the book is named, began to condense the record into a more manageable form. He was killed and his teenage son, Moroni, completed the task. When the record was finished, Moroni hid the record in a hill until modern times, when God sent him to reveal its location to the first modern-day prophet.
The book begins with the family of Lehi, a prophet in Jerusalem just prior to the fall. When his life was endangered due to his prophecies, he was commanded by God to take his family and just the necessities and flee into the wilderness. After a few weeks, God sent the sons back to obtain the religious records available at that time (probably the records found in the Torah) and the family’s genealogy. Then they were sent back to bring another family with them, a family that provided wives for the sons. Eventually, they were led across the ocean to what is now the New World.
The two oldest sons were rebellious and became more and more wicked. Eventually they became evil and murderous. The younger of the four original sons (two more were born in the wilderness) had been named the future prophet by God. This didn’t set well with the two oldest boys, although the third son, a righteous young man, accepted it without question. When the parents died the older sons, unwilling to take leadership direction from a younger brother, tried to kill him, as they had done previously. This son, Nephi, was forced to take his large family and others who supported him and move away. The two groups formed new civilizations, with the wicked known as Lamanites after the oldest son, and the righteous called Nephites, after Nephi. Throughout the book, we witness their battles and the attempts of the Nephites to regain their family through conversion.
The highlight of the book occurs after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we read:
“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).
The people of the Book of Mormon knew of Jesus Christ through their prophets. They knew from signs He had been born and they also knew through terrible natural disasters that He had been crucified. Soon He came to them and spent several days teaching them and helping them to organize their church. The record of this visit is a powerful and moving testimony of the gospel. When one reads the Book of Mormon, there can be no question of His divinity—how could He have appeared to these people were He not divine? There can also be no question that He loves all his “sheep” and that His atoning sacrifice was for all people, not just the small number who saw Him in His lifetime. His gospel is universal.
It is interesting to note that while a person can believe the Bible and not believe in the Book of Mormon, despite a number of references to the book in the Bible, but it is impossible to believe in the Book of Mormon and not believe in the Bible. The Book of Mormon specifically testifies that a Bible will come to be created (remember that it was not created during Christ’s lifetime) and that it is the word of God. People an ocean away took with them this Bible and taught from it. The Book of Mormon contains quotes from the Biblical record, particularly Isaiah, which Nephi especially loved, and thus people far separated by time and space knew of the Bible. Therefore, the Book of Mormon serves not just as a second witness of Jesus Christ, but also of the Bible.
Mormons use the King James translation of the Bible in English. Other languages have approved translations as well. Mormons believe the Bible to be correct as far as the translation is correct. They believe it was perfect as it came from the original writers, but errors made by scribes over time and errors in translation have sometimes rendered it less than perfect. There are many different translations and they all translate the words in different ways. The Book of Mormon was translated only once and then by a prophet, rendering its translation more accurate.
The original plates on which the Book of Mormon were written were taken by Moroni and are not available. Of course, the original scrolls on which the Bible was written are also gone. No translation today is based on those original scrolls, but we still believe they exist or existed at one time. In the same way, Mormons also accept the reality of the plates of the Book of Mormon, even though we’ve never seen them.
Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon makes clear some teachings that are fuzzy in the Bible. While the Bible sometimes contradicts itself, the Book of Mormon often clarifies these teachings. You can read this book free online.
Read the Book of Mormon.