Patheos answers the question:
What is the Book of Mormon?
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that there are four official sacred texts, one of which is the Book of Mormon. The other three are the Bible, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon contains the origins and history of the Church. Its proper title is The Book of Mormon, an Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nehi.

LDS founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have found a set of gold plates with a mysterious text near his home in New York. He was inspired by God to translate this text, which he called “reformed Egyptian,” into English, and he published the book in 1830. An angel called Moroni showed him where the texts were and how to translate them with the use of “seer stones.” After translating the material, Smith returned the plates to Moroni. The account of Smith’s encounter with Moroni and the discovery of the texts is included in the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith referred to the book as “the keystone of our religion.”

The book is composed of fifteen books, each divided into chapters and verses just as the Bible is. The text includes the account of an ancient prophet called Mormon who gathered, recorded, and edited the material found in the book (Mormon 6.6); Moroni was his son (Mormon 6.11) who, after death, became an angel. The Book of Mormon tells the stories of certain individuals who left the Mesopotamian and Middle Eastern regions and traveled to the western hemisphere. The Jaredites were the first to leave; they left shortly after the Tower of Babel experience (as told in the Bible, Genesis 11) and, directed by God, sailed to “the promised land” (Ether 6), which is understood to be the American continents.

Mulek, a son of King Zedekiah of Judah, the last king before the Exile and the destruction of Jerusalem, escaped the slaughter of his family (as told in the Bible, 2 Kings 25.1-7) and fled to the western hemisphere (Helaman 8.21). Another, Lehi, and his family (descendants of Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel; 1 Nephi 5.14) left Jerusalem around 600 B.C.; after years of living in the wilderness, his family sailed to the American continent as well (1 Nephi 17). This family grew and eventually split into two clans, the Nephites and the Lamanites, who often warred against each other. Several of the books relate the history of these two tribes and their encounters with one another. Latter-day Saints have understood these people to be ancestors of native Americans.

The Book of Mormon claims that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Lehi’s descendants (3 Nephi 11-27) after his ascension into heaven (told in the Bible, Acts 1). Jesus appointed twelve disciples from the Nephites, and they were given authority to baptize, to confer the Holy Ghost on believers (3 Nephi 18), and to build the church (3 Nephi 27). Then he returned into heaven (3 Nephi 18.39).

Latter-day Saints are often referred to as Mormons based on their adherence to this book. While Mormonism and Mormons are commonly used terms, the Latter-day Saint church leaders have recently rejected these as inappropriate nicknames.

Read more about the Book of Mormon here.


3/23/2021 6:32:41 PM
About Kathleen Mulhern, PH.D.
Kathleen Mulhern is a writer, editor, historian, speaker, and professor. She teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Colorado School of Mines and Regis University, and is currently an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary in the areas of Church History and Spiritual Formation. Kathleen graduated with a B.A. from Wheaton College, earned an M.A. in French Literature from the University of Denver, an M.A. degree in Church History from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Colorado.