What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

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dande48
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What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by dande48 » 05 Apr 2019, 06:36

Serious question here guys. I've been mulling over this the past few days. Maybe I've been in a lesser-state of activity too long to remember. But what doctrines does the Book of Mormon actually teach that can't be found more explicitly elsewhere? What is the doctrinal point of the Book of Mormon?

It's supposedly the "Keystone of our Religion", and one of the surest signs of the revelation, but for the life of me I can't find any unique insights or doctrines taught by it. The D&C has all sorts of new revelations, concerning the afterlife, the kingdoms of glory, polygamy, work for the dead, temples, eternal families... But it feels like the BoM, doctrinally, doesn't really have anything to offer. To me, it feels like it's there for its own sake, to prove as a "sign" that the Church is true. But that's about it.

Here are the doctrines I can think of:
  • Infant baptism is an abomination. This isn't really a hard selling point for me, as infant baptism is equated to baby blessings in our Church, at least to me. It's definitely not a unique doctrine to us. Plus, the actual age of accountability and all the details are found in the D&C.
  • Sacrament and baptismal prayers. Also found in the D&C, and since revised.
  • A man should only have one wife and no concubines (whoops).
  • Christ as a universal God and Savior. But all of Christendom believes this.
  • God is a God of miracles. But most of Christendom believes this.
Quite literally, if we took away the Book of Mormon, nothing doctrinal in the Church would change. Instead I feel it is solely used as a "sign" the Church is true, but that's where the value ends. Other than that, is it anything more than an "inspiring story"? Does it serve any other purpose?
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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On Own Now
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by On Own Now » 05 Apr 2019, 07:28

dande,

It's certainly a fair question. In defense of the BofM, though, I'll ask the question another way. What doctrines are in the Bible that are not found in the other books of LDS scripture? Why do we need the Bible? I don't mean this to pit one against the other, but rather to say that the LDS view is that all these works combine into one set "stick of Judah, stick of Joseph". I haven't heard the term for a few years, but when I was young, we even used the slang term "sticks" for the complete set of scriptures (Bible and Triple :-). For example, "Hey, have you seen my sticks? I left them under the Sacrament Table after blessing the Sacrament in Junior Sunday School this morning."

Also, I think it depends on how any one individual views the scriptures as a whole. For me, I don't look for them to enumerate specific points of doctrine. I mean, they'd be a really inefficient way to do that. If that was their purpose, we'd start with the AofF, add about 50 more, and done. Prophet tells you to read the whole Book of Doctrine this year? Great, do it in one sitting - maybe during commercial breaks of football games. Rather, I look at the scriptures as the Gospel in abstract. Snippets, concepts, allegories, metaphors, similes. In them, I find my own truths. Because it's somewhat abstract, each person can hear in them what they need or want to hear... people can find what resonates with them. It's pretty frequent on this site alone, that I hear someone else's explanation of how they view the meaning of something in the Gospel, and I realize that people get different messages from the same source material. Not wrong or right, just viewed through a different lens. That's something I love about the scriptures: they adapt to the personal view of the reader.

For me, I like the NT and get the most from it. After that, sure, there's some good stuff in the OT, but that work is mostly a desert, with an occasional oasis. The D&C, the BofM, the PofGP... for me, they don't really do anything, but I also can find inspirational texts there if I try. But for others, it can be the opposite. A recent conversation at Church revealed that some people prefer the BofM and would rather ONLY read that and not have to study the NT as well. That boggles my mind, but my love of the NT over the BofM would seem just as weird to them.

From a historical viewpoint, I believe the BofM's key role in the foundation of the Church was to demonstrate that God is alive, that he's active, that he has a work in the latter days, that he is the God of the whole earth, that Israel is still the chosen people, but that those of that house are sprinkled all over the earth, that there is much that God has revealed before, that he is at it again, and that it will continue... that knowledge of God is at your fingertips and will continue to unfold if you seek it.
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Holy Cow
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by Holy Cow » 05 Apr 2019, 08:07

dande48 wrote:
05 Apr 2019, 06:36
Quite literally, if we took away the Book of Mormon, nothing doctrinal in the Church would change. Instead I feel it is solely used as a "sign" the Church is true, but that's where the value ends. Other than that, is it anything more than an "inspiring story"? Does it serve any other purpose?
The only doctrines that I can think of that are unique to the Book of Mormon (correct me if I'm wrong):

Children/Infants do not need baptism (Moroni 8)
Gave specific wording for the sacrament prayers

Personally, I think the Book of Mormon doesn't add a lot of doctrinal differences from the Bible, but was more of an answer to many of the 19th century doctrinal arguments that were floating around at the time. It's more of a "here's where we stand on these biblical debate issues" in story form. Just my opinion.
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 05 Apr 2019, 08:14

I think the primary teaching is that the Bible is not the only, perfect word of God - that it isn't sola scripture and all the word of God we need. That alone is a major teaching.

Also, at two points in the BofM it says one of the core purposes of the BofM is to convince people of the importance of the Bible - what it actually says, not the claims and interpretations that had developed over centuries. In other words, the idea is that people who read the BofM and accept it can read the Bible differently and more accurately. There is a lot of power in that, and I personally believe it can be true. Many Mormons still misinterpret the Bible, but it still is a powerful concept
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dande48
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by dande48 » 05 Apr 2019, 09:07

Curt Sunshine wrote:
05 Apr 2019, 08:14
I think the primary teaching is that the Bible is not the only, perfect word of God - that it isn't sole scripture and all the word of God we need. That alone is a major teaching.

Also, at two points in the BofM it says one of the core purposes of the BofM is to convince people of the importance of the Bible - what it actually says, not the claims and interpretations that had developed over centuries. In other words, the idea is that people who read the BofM and accept it can read the Bible differently and more accurately. There is a lot of power in that, and I personally believe it can be true. Many Mormons still misinterpret the Bible, but it still is a powerful concept
For the first point, that is true. But it also, in effect, makes both the Bible and the BoM out of date, and in many respects irrelevant. God speaks to modern day prophets. Doctrinally, why do we need the rest? If any modern prophet declares something that goes explicitly against the BoM, or the Bible, it gets trumped. For example, the Book of Mormon expressly forbid polygamy, stating it was only a rare exception if ever. Later JS amd BY declared polygamy the default, and a celestial requirement.
Ezra Taft Benson wrote:The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works... The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
I'd say both books get read in order to support what one already believes, and not to change what we believe to reflect what is read. I also wouldn't say we're reading it "more accurately". We're reading it with a different paradigm. Heck, we have very early manuscripts of the NT, and have them translated. And you know what? Nobody uses them, because they contradict what they already believe. Heck, even Deseret Book has come up with a "New Testament: A Translation for Latter-Day Saints", opting for a further removed version of the bible, rather than turning to earlier manuscripts.

All scripture we pick and choose what supports our beliefs, and either ignore or re-interpret the rest.
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by SilentDawning » 05 Apr 2019, 12:38

To me, it's like scripture in general. AT the risk of being irreverent, to me, scriptures have a lot in common with Monty Python's John Cleese's statement that he would "fart in your general direction".

The scriptures, in my view, point you in a general direction -- be kind, charitable, serve others, seek inspiration, be obedient, persist in trials, expect miracles etcetera. But they don't tell you how to solve specific problems. For those things you need professional self-help books, training courses, and up to date knowledge in many cases. And the irony of all that is that we often shun "the philosophies of men" or 'the knowledge of man". I think there was a kind of angst toward the educated person back in the time of JS's day -- few had the luxury of going to school, and those that did were likely somewhat arrogant about it. JS certainly didn't have much good to say about learned men.

The Book of Mormon provides some unique doctrines not found in the Bible. I think Dande mentioned most of them -- but for me, it's real value is in presenting an additional book of scripture supposedly revealed by divinity. This is the foundation of most new religions that are work on a different paradigm. Islam, Christianity, and now, Mormonism. For any ground-breaking religions, there is normally someone who claims divine access and who also produces or spawns a book of scripture. That is what the Book of Mormon did for Mormonism and represents its major contribution.

Yes, there are a few doctrinal clarifications, but most consider the BoM a synthesis of 19th centrual biblical debate and thought. I now believe the book is a product of the 19th century . I don't believe its necessarily a record of the ancients who supposedly wrote it. But I also have great faith in my own ignorance and am happy to be proven wrong.

But I still consider it as credible as the bible in terms of content.
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by SamBee » 07 Apr 2019, 05:19

The BoM is unusual in that it claims to be the record of an entire civilisation from beginning to end - at least three perhaps... Nephites, Lamanites and Jaredites.

* Adam fell that men might be.
" The role of living prophecy.
* The role of America.
* That God has been revealed throughout the world's peoples.
* That there are cycles of humility and pride in nations and in people.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by SamBee » 07 Apr 2019, 05:22

dande48 wrote:
05 Apr 2019, 06:36
[*]Christ as a universal God and Savior. But all of Christendom believes this.
You'd be surprised. There are some churches which are implicitly racist and don't take that line (and when I say racist, I mean deeper than our priesthood ban).
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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dande48
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by dande48 » 07 Apr 2019, 07:52

SamBee wrote:
07 Apr 2019, 05:22
You'd be surprised. There are some churches which are implicitly racist and don't take that line (and when I say racist, I mean deeper than our priesthood ban).
FWIW, you can still be racist, while believing Jesus is still God over the "inferior races".
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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Re: What does the Book of Mormon actually teach?

Post by SamBee » 07 Apr 2019, 08:45

dande48 wrote:
07 Apr 2019, 07:52
SamBee wrote:
07 Apr 2019, 05:22
You'd be surprised. There are some churches which are implicitly racist and don't take that line (and when I say racist, I mean deeper than our priesthood ban).
FWIW, you can still be racist, while believing Jesus is still God over the "inferior races".
Not even that. Some of these groups believe they are incapable of salvation at all.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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