Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Book of Mormon, If True, Means the Church May Be True, Not Must Be True

One person recently complained of his LDS father who wouldn't consider anti-LDS arguments because of his testimony of the Book of Mormon. His belief in the divine origins of the Book of Mormon gave him a mindset based on the "absolute assumption that the church is true." It's fair to recognize, however, that a true Book of Mormon does not necessarily mean that modern Church is 100% true, nor that all actions of the Church and its leaders are correct.

Indeed, our RLDS friends and several other groups derived from Mormonism, as well as the occasional non-LDS minister, have concluded that the Book of Mormon is true without recognizing the LDS Church is necessarily true. But a world in which a real Angel Moroni and real gold plates were translated miraculously by the power of God offers quite a different lens for interpreting the subsequent actions of Joseph Smith and the later journey of the Church than does a world in which Joseph was a con-man collaborating with other remarkably loyal con-men who were prepared to go to their graves loyal to their scheme. A true Book of Mormon does not mean that the Church must be true, but that it may be. A divinely inspired Book of Mormon opens the possibility that those who interpret apparent errors and even obvious shortcomings of Joseph Smith with the assumption that he was a fraud may be making an mistake and missing the possibility of other more gentle interpretations of events, witnesses, and records.

Just a simple thought to keep in mind.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, interesting read. I remember once, it being said that we should always remember that the gospel is true and not necessarily people etc. Same thing?

Tom Rod said...

Fruit of labor and all that?

Anonymous said...

As I tell my kids to remember when they see someone in our ward doing or saying something that may not be 100% right: "The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints."

Jeremy said...

So, could we safely conclude that if the BofM is true, then Joseph Smith must be a true prophet of God?

Clean Cut said...

"It's fair to recognize, however, that a true Book of Mormon does not necessarily mean that modern Church is 100% true, nor that all actions of the Church and its leaders are correct."

Yep.

Jeremy, while one can conclude that Joseph was a true prophet (if they conclude that Book of Mormon is true), one cannot logically conclude that therefore all of the subsequent decisions Joseph made were correct.

Tony said...

Typo:
A true Book of Mormon does "not" mean that the Church must be true, but that it may be.

:)

Other than that, interesting post. I guess it all comes down to what you define "the church is true" means.

If you are talking about the doctrines of the Gospel, I would say that based on the Book of Mormon you can get a witness that at least the first principles are true, and by experiencing things like the the temple, you can gain a testimony as well, and thus begin to see that the true authority is held in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

That, and Joseph Smith was called as a prophet if the Book of Mormon is true, because it says so itself in the Book of Mormon.

yamanin said...

My catch phrase has always been: "The Church is not 'true.' A church cannot be true or false. The Church is an organization that helps people live the Gospel. It's the Gospel that is true."

Paul said...

Jeff,

Interesting thoughts. We are more complex than we seem, indeed.

Paul
www.alatterdayvoice.blogspot.com

Jared said...

I think the Latter-Day-Saints have drifted far enough away from where we should be in relationship to what we've been given, that the fulfillment of two scriptures is a possibility.

By the way, I don't think there fulfillment will be due to uninspired General Authories.

24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.

Moroni 10:24
-----------------------------------

24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

(Doctrine and Covenants | Section 112:24 - 26)

Spektator said...

From my perspective, one cannot extend a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to the church. I would suggest that the Book of Mormon speaks specifically of what the church must do in order to be called His church. In 3 Nephi, chapter 27, we find that the church of Christ must be called by His Name, be based on His gospel, and show forth the works of God rather than the works of man. I find the church lacking in at least the last requirement and likely the second.

Also, Moroni 6:4 tells us that membership in His church occurs only after we have been sanctified by the Holy Ghost; this being the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which delivers a remission of sins. I sincerely doubt that there are many members who actually meet this criterion.

The tenth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 67 and 68 define His church as those who come unto Him, nothing more, nothing less. So what does it mean to really come unto Christ?

In summary, it is by the Book of Momon that we can measure the church.

Bookslinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bookslinger said...

When I hear "the church is true", I think of it as being God's official church, or authorized church.

Other churches can be nice in as much as they teach correct things and do good. But they are not God's official or authorized church.

Once one has obtained a testimony of the Book of Mormon being true, one can determine whether or not the Salt Lake-city based LDS church is God's official church (or whether it be the RLDS/CoC, or others) by the same test that was applied to the Book of Mormon: Pray about it can seek a testimony.

I had a brief period of logical questioning shortly after I was baptized. My testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's first vision could have still been accurate even if it was the RLDS church which was true and official. But shortly thereafter I received a witness of the Spirit that settled the issue for me.

If someone wants to seek revelation about which church is God's official one, they can use the same pattern of study, pondering, praying, and seeking the guidance of the Spirit, as they do for other questions.

Some things to consider: The other Book-of-Mormon-believing churches don't do proxy temple ordinances, a thing which Joseph Smith placed great emphasis on. And they don't place anywhere near as much emphasis on missionary work as Joseph Smith did. Another point is that all but two of the Apostles (William Smith and Lyman Wight) sided with Brigham Young on Joseph Smith's death.

So to the other Book-of-Mormon-believing churches I would ask: "Where are your temples? Where are your missionaries? What have you done since 1844?"

Granted, perhaps none of those things are slam-dunk proof that Brigham Young was God's authorized leader after Joseph Smith. But they can be used as focal points to study the history and seeks one's own testimony of the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Consider this point. If the Book of Mormon weren't true, what would happen to the LDS church? Wouldn't it fall apart?

What if even one prophet in the entire succession were false? What would have happened to the LDS church?

What if the 3 witnesses to the BOM lied? What if Joseph Smith did?

In the Mormon church, there are so many foundational issues. I mean things, that, if false, would cause the whole church to fall apart. There are so many little rocks they're building their church on, they apear to have become shifting sand.

Fortunately Jesus warned us that A. Wise men build their houses upon rock.
B. Upon this rock you shall build your church.

Jesus Christ should be your one and only foundation if you want to claim you're a Christian Church. At my church, the only foundation we have is Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Bookslinger said...

Anon at 8:13 AM, December 20, 2009:

If all you believe in is Jesus and _His_ teachings, then you must disregard all books of the Bible except Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and a few lines from Acts and Revelation.

If you accept Paul's teachings as coming from Christ, then you accept him (Paul) as an Apostle, though he was not one of the original 12, nor was he the replacement for Judas.

If you accept Paul teachings, then you have to accept the idea of _additional_ apostles after the first 12 (or 13).

And if you accept the idea of _additional_ or continuing apostles, then you have to accept either the Catholic Pope or someone else as a continuing apostle.

Does your church have any living apostles? If not, who said you don't need live apostles any more? And if your church has someone who says you don't need living apostles, then you're adhering to someone's teaching that is not from the Bible.

R. Gary said...

I'm not sure what's going on here. What I'm hearing in certain comments is that God and His Prophets are wrong when they say the Church and Book of Mormon stand together.

"If the Book of Mormon is true, the Church is true" and several other things are true also (according to Gordon B. Hinckley).

Take 'em head on, boys. Walk right up to the front door. Don't just tiptoe around the fence line throwing rocks at the windows of truth.

Tony said...

Just as an aside, I don't see spektator as being able to dictate just who has been cleansed by the Holy Spirit (he should be directed to Matthew 7:3-5).

Also, I would contend that the Church is based upon Christ's Gospel, ie. is what it preaches. If you are referring to the members individually as to your third point, then keep in mind that we all are lacking in that regard as we are not perfect. The Church is to help us achieve that perfection, though it is not to happen in this life. It's not a church of perfectly righteous individuals. It is a hospital of sinners, as someone on here pointed out.

Also, the book of Mormon and other scriptures make it clear that by following the Gospel, we come unto Christ until we are perfected in Him.

Paul said...

I can't speak for others, only myself. Learning that the Book of Mormon was true for myself opened a gateway through which I learned other truths -- some taught by the Book of Mormon itself, and some that were adjacent to it.

The Book of Mormon (its translation, anyway) was a fruit of the prophet Joseph Smith, and so the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon became one (of many) pillars in my testimony of the Prophet Joseph. The restored church (including priesthood, organization, teachings, ordinances) was another product of the Prophet Joseph's work, and I have a testimony of the truthfulness of that work, as well.

While the two are related for me, one did not naturally flow from the other without additional study and searching and pondering and prayer on my part.

I do believe "the church" can be true, if by the church we mean its inspired organization, leadership and ordinances (the ordinances being key; see D&C 84:20-21).

My own experience.

Paul

Anonymous said...

Mormonism if put under scrutiny can't defend it's self.

The theology of the mormon church is so alein to christianity as the 2 will never have common ground, let alone agreement.

Anonymous said...

Anonomous of 9:17 PM:

With best regards, it appears that your spelling and grammar are in fact what is indefensible :)

As a starting point for your self-scrutiny, may I please suggest for your review the following concepts:

"alien" v. "alein"

"itself" v. "it's self"

"to" v. 2

Tony said...

Anon, might we say that certain doctrines of early Christianity are so very alien to traditional and contemporary Christian doctrine?

Take theosis, or the pre-existence for example. How odd that those Christians who were alive closest to the times of Christ and the apostles would hold such strange Mormon-sounding doctrines.

Huston said...

Well, Jeff, you had to know you were opening a weird door with this one...

I agree with a few of the more recent comments that others here are splitting hairs. Only on the most shallow surface could you accept the Book of Mormon without accepting the LDS Church. The book's teachings--and those of Joseph Smith on the subject of the Church--clearly show that it is divinely appointed and led. This doesn't mean that its leaders are infallible, but it does mean that it's basic structure and work are ordained of God, and that we can trust in it.

Perhaps we'd benefit from being reminded of this great essay by Eugene England, "Why The Church Is As True As The Gospel:" http://ldsfocuschrist.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-church-as-true-as-gospel-eugene.html

Mike said...

Personally I've been waiting for someone of the born again faiths to start doing baptisms for the dead!!! I would also like to hear their teaching about the third heaven and to also teach me about why Christ went to teach the spirits in prison from Noah's days!!! All Biblical doctrines over looked by other Christians. When ever I've struggle with faith I can always go back to these core doctrines that should be taught in other churches but are not.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets to his servants the prophets.

Shawn said...

Mike...

Amen to that brother! I have been waiting too. Before joining the Church, I could never understand how God could condemn the majority of the earths inhabitants because they were not born into a Christ centered culture.

-Shawn

John said...

Mike,
Your comments remind me of all the biblical evidences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I look at the things referred to in the Bible and how they are found no where else but in the Church of Jesus Christ. Once, as I thought on this, I thought how during the Savior's life, when many of his disciples turned from Him, he asked the Twelve if they, too, would turn from Him. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Simon Peter replied. "Thou hast the words of eternal life." So it is today, if we are looking for a true church, a church that fits the Bible, we have no place to turn to except the Church of Jesus Christ. A conference highlight for me was when Elder Tad R. Callister applied Simon Peter's quote in this very same way, applying it to the Restored gospel.

Patrick said...

Recognizing that our church leaders are infallible, are any of you prepared to start listing their mistakes? What is the danger in doing this? Is there a benefit to being a team player and not focusing on the errors?

Patrick said...

Of course I meant to say fallible.

ptollero said...

When my brother passed away and I prayed to our Father in heaven to send him to me in my dream and He did, I conversed with my brother's spirit and I asked him if the The Church of Jesus Christ Of L.D.S. is the true church? His reply was "not all" and I was shocked by his answer.Then I realized that there are many branch or wards in the church that are not being run properly.A story came to mind about a ward in Mexico that allows girls to pass the sacrament and they were reported to the higher authority and was corrected immediately. Now, I believe that Joseph Smith Jr. is a prophet of God and anything connected with him is of God if it has to do with the church that he restored.That includes the Book Of Mormon.

jackg said...

It's amazing how Mormons have backpedaled regarding the belief that if the BOM is true THEN the Church MUST be true. I mean, the reasoning usually goes like this: if the BOM is true, then JS was a prophet of God, and if JS was a prophet of God, then the Church MUST be true. At least, that's how I was taught when I was a Mormon--and it's what I taught as a missionary. When did things change? Are modern-day Mormons rejecting in some degree the faith of their fathers?

I used to think that the LDS Church was the vehicle through which God saved mankind--but now I believe that it's not about an organization, but about Jesus Christ Himself. You see, He is the Way. Baptism isn't the way. Church membership isn't the way. A temple recommend isn't the way. Jesus is the Way. Jesus Christ doesn't call us to a church or to a denomination, He calls us to Himself. The salvation equation is "faith in Jesus Christ equals salvation" NOT "faith in Jesus plus something else plus something else equals salvation." The issue isn't whether one belongs to a "true" church, but whether one is in relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.

Peace and Grace!

Anonymous said...

Well put jackg.
Of course LDS will start telling you that you MUST have been offended by some Church member so you left. Or, You were just not good enough to keep the commandments so you left the Church.
They can't get beyond their brainwashing to think that someone might have left as it is NOT the way to Christ.

Matthew said...

@ john,
I really don't get where you are coming from when you say that the bible describes the LDS church and no other. You do understand that this is the way all the various creed and religions that are Judeo/Christan see the bible right? Talk to any evangelical minister about your relgion and he will take you to task on all the ways he sees the bible as being directly in condemnation of the BoM.

To this you will say, well you're reading it wrong. They mean this, or they mean that. The problem is that very little in the bible is straightforward and obvious, so it can be seen from just about any sort of angle. How else would so many religions (many of which are greatly contradictory) see the Bible as the correct word of God?

The LDS church may very well have the restored gospel, but the bible doesn't point to it as being the 'correct' church unless you're reading it the way an LDS member tends to read it. The same is the case for all the rest of the religions.

Anonymous said...

After 25 years in the Church, including a mission, I still don't know what it means when someone says "I know the Book of Mormon is true." When there are obviously things in the Book that are not true. For instance, a person's skin color does not change based on their behavior, (Dark people are evil, white people are good.) The Book presents us a world where good people are rewarded with wealth and prosperity, and bad things only happen to bad people. Life just isn't like that. Christ said that the Father sends rain on the just and the unjust, the sun shines on the good and the bad. That is reality, that is truth. The Father loves everyone equally, regardless of our behavior, and He doesn't care about what color our skin is. Those are the main issues that I have with the Book, and why it will never be true for me. I believe that there are good things in it that help bring me closer to God, but I can't say that the whole Book is true.

Mormanity said...

Anon on Jan. 24, you refer to some things that aren't necessarily so. Popular interpretations of the text are sometimes based on inadequate study of the text itself. For example, plenty of bad things happen to the good guys. Abinadi, for example, and many others. I suggest digging into the book before abandoning it.