This week we received a few questions that centered on gaining a testimony, with one person specifically asking why the Book of Mormon is true. We love to discuss and teach about this question; simply because we feel so strongly that the Book of Mormon is true.
President Benson called the Book of Mormon the “keystone of testimony.” That means that if we can gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon it will be the key to obtaining the rest of our testimony. If we know the Book of Mormon is true, then we will know that Jesus is the Christ, for it testifies of his divinity. If we gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, then we’ll have a testimony of Joseph Smith—because he translated it—and a testimony of the Church he founded, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Having a testimony of the Book of Mormon helps everything else fall into place.
That is one of the reasons why we have the Book of Mormon. Have you ever had people say to you something like: “We’ll, I want proof that there is a God” or “Show me some real evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet, then I’ll believe” Have you ever wished that there was some sort of proof, some sort of real, touchable, thing that could prove that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph did see God, that he was a prophet? Oh, wait, God already gave us something. President Benson said: “I testify that through the Book of Mormon God has provided for our day tangible evidence that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is His prophet” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, November 1988, p. 86).
Can you imagine how happy Joseph Smith was when he learned about the Book of Mormon? After his first vision, Joseph was probably a little bit like Moses and thought, “They won’t believe me. How will anyone possibly believe me or listen to me? They will think I’m a fake, a fraud. Anyone can stand up and claim they saw God. How will I ever convince people that I really have been called as a prophet?” Then one day Moroni appears, and says, “God has prepared a tool to help people know…let me tell you about it…”
So, we have the tangible evidence sitting in front of us, and it is either true or it isn’t. The book is either divine or it is a deception. But we can’t ignore it. How can anyone stick their head in the sand upon learning about the Book of Mormon and just pretend it doesn’t exist! That cannot be done with a book of such magnitude and magnificence. Those who claim that the Book of Mormon is not true are by default claiming that the book was made up—fabricated by Joseph Smith, his friends, or someone else and pulled off as one of the great hoaxes of this world. Here is roughly what it would take to make up the Book of Mormon:
- Write the religious, social, and political history of some ancient people, like the Mongols or people from Greenland
- You must write the book off the top of your head, using no reference material (no Google in Joseph’s day! And no library nearby either. Emma repeatedly testified that Joseph had no outside reference books or previous manuscript he was working from, see Emma Smith, as quoted by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (Lord, Increase Our Faith , p.68 or see Last Testimony of Sister Emma, Saints Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, p.289
- You must have only between 2-3 years of formal schooling (Joseph’s wife Emma said that Joseph couldn’t compose a “well-worded letter” at the time of the translation of the Book of Mormon, let alone make up a whole book (Emma Smith (Preston Nibley, The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1968, p. 28.)
- You must complete the whole book in 65-75 working days. Joseph sometimes would produce 8 pages a day of finished text. Eight pages! Anyone who has written anything knows how difficult that would be. In comparison, modern translators who are working on translating the Book of Mormon consider 1 completed page of translation per day to be productive, and they are working from earlier translations with an entire team of help and modern technology to assist! (see (“How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon?” Ensign, January 1988, 47 and Elder Maxwell, comparison to modern day Book of Mormon translations into other languages (Ensign, January 1997, p. 39.)
- Your book must be full of evidence that science will discover many years after you publish your book that verify your work is authentic. A great example of this in the Book of Mormon was the last art of Hebrew poetry “chiasmus,” unknown to Joseph Smith and learned America but later re-discovered in the 20th century in the Bible. And lo and behold, the Book of Mormon is full of chiasmus. Lucky guess Joseph! Nothing like a backwoods farm boy who knows lost Hebrew poetry. Them type of boys are all over the place. Read Alma 36 to see a really cool one (compare the main message of verse 1 to verse 30, verse 2 to verses 28-29, verse 3 to verse 27 and so on).
- You must invent over 280 new names the world hasn’t heard, many of which properly derive from your ancient people’s language (a language which you don’t know. Have fun with that one.)
- Your book must include the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including sermons that are so inspiring that people willingly read them again and again and again. However, your book must also teach “new” truths unknown to common society that make unknown passages in the Bible clear.
- Your book must teach more about Jesus Christ than the New Testament does. The Book of Mormon mentions Jesus on average of every 1.7 verses compared to 2.3 in the New Testament. Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Um, yeah. (See Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ through the Book of Mormon , 16-18).
- Your book must be over 500 pages long and 300,000 words
- Your first draft must stand forever (other than very minor grammatical changes)
- You must have three honest members of your community bear testimony to the truthfulness of the book throughout their whole lives, even when you are no longer friends.
- You must be willing to give your life, and the life of a family member, for the book you write
- Last, the Holy Ghost must bear witness to millions of people the world over that your book is indeed the very word of God.
Note: Some of this list is summarized from “Brother Joseph” by Kay Briggs. Bookcraft, 1994, pp. 13-15
Our testimony to the world is that the Book of Mormon is not a fabrication. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s grandfather George Cannon said, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” (as cited by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Safety for the Soul, Ensign November 2009, p. 89). Logic tells most rational people the book is true, but the Spirit proves an even more powerful witness: The book is of God.
(Note: We would highly recommend that anyone watch or re-watch Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s testimony to the world of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon—in our lowly opinion perhaps the most powerful talk on the Book of Mormon since the days of President Benson. Here is a link: http://broadcast.lds.org/genconf/2009/10/50/GC_2009_10_503_HollandJR___eng_.wmv )