Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon:
The Challenge of the Book of Mormon
"The evidence for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God...
"It is here. It must be explained. It can be explained only as the translator himself explained its origin. Hand in hand with the Bible, whose companion volume it is, it stands as another witness to a doubting generation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is an unassailable cornerstone of our faith."
-- President Gordon B. Hinckley, November 1984
If one scoffs at the explanation of the Book of Mormon, he is in so many words claiming it to be false: that it is a deceiving fraud formulated through the efforts and talents of a common man. Occasionally you hear someone say, "I could believe your Mormon Doctrine if I just didn't have to swallow the story about Joseph Smith being a man of God and that he translated the Book of Mormon from some golden plates with he claimed he found on a hillside." It is even possible that you, yourself, have doubted the story.
What can be or is produced by one man, can always be duplicated by another man. The challenge the Book of Mormon makes to the world is that of duplication. Well, let us consider some facts or conditions that must be complied with in order for you or any one else to produce a similar record under comparable conditions. Because the book complies with everyone of the following conditions, and in order for you to produce a similar record, you must comply with the same conditions:
- Write a history of ancient Tibet covering a period from 2200 BC to 400 AD. Why ancient Tibet? Because it is likely that you know no more about ancient Tibet than Joseph Smith (or anyone else) knew about ancient America.
- You're 21 years of age.
- You cannot be a college graduate. In fact you have had no more than three years of formal school education, and have spent your life in backwoods farming communities.
- Your history must be written on the basis of what you now know. There was no library that held information for Joseph Smith. You must use none. There is to be no research of any kind.
- Your book must be long, containing 522 pages with over 150 words per page and over 300,000 words from start to finish. It must contain 239 chapters. You must include in your book 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies, and remember, when you begin to write visions and prophecies you must have your record agree meticulously with the Bible. You must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, you must check every statement with the scriptures or yours will be proven to be fraud. You must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Jesus Christ, and everything you claim He said and did and every testimony you write in your book about Him must agree absolutely with the New Testament.
- Other than a few grammatical corrections, you must have no changes in the text. The first edition as you dictate it to your secretary must stand forever.
- You must not write it yourself, you must dictate it to a scribe. You must sit on opposite sides of a curtain and never see each other as you speak and he or she writes.
- After pauses for sleep and food, if you are dictating to a stenographer, you must never ask to have the last paragraph or last sentence read back to you.
- This record is to contain the history of two distinct and separate nations, along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
- You must describe their religious, economic, political, and social cultures and institutions. Cover every phase of their society, including the names of their coins. Your description of the cultures in the civilizations of which you will write about cannot be known about when you publish your manuscript.
- Change your style of writing many times. Many ancient authors contributed to the Book of Mormon each with his own style.
- Weave into your history the religion of Jesus Christ and the Pattern of Christian Living.
- You must claim or announce that your "smooth narrative" is not fiction with moral value, but is true and sacred history.
- Many of the facts, claims, ideas, and statements given as absolutely true in your writings must be entirely inconsistent with the prevailing beliefs of the world. Some of these worldly beliefs must prove to be a direct opposite of your claims.
- Included in your narration will be authentic modes of travel; whether or not those ancient people used fire; descriptions of their clothing, crops, mourning customs, and types of government. You must invent about 280 new names (William Shakespeare in all his writings added approximately 30) that will stand up under scrutiny through the years as to their proper application and derivation.
- You will have to use, properly, figures of speech, similes, metaphors, narration, exposition, description, oratory, epic lyric, and parables.
- You must invite the ablest scholars and experts to examine the text with care, and you must strive diligently to see that your book gets into the hands of those eager to prove it a forgery, and who are most competent to expose every flaw in it.
- Thorough investigation, scientific and historical evidence, and archaeological discovery for the next 125 years must verify its claims and prove detail after detail to be true, for many of the details you put in your history are still buried beneath the soil of Tibet.
- You must publish it to every nation, kindred, tongue and people declaring it to be the word of God and another witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The book must not contain any absurd, impossible, or contradictory statements. Your history must not contain any statement that will contradict any other statement elsewhere in the volume.
- Many theories and ideas as to its origin must arise, and after discovering and examining the facts, they must fall. You have claimed that your knowledge had come from a divine origin, and this claim continues to stand as the only possible explanation. The strength of this explanation must not decrease as time passes, but actually increases to the point where it becomes the only logical explanation.
- Your record is to fulfil many Bible prophecies, even in the exact manner in which it shall come forth, to whom it will be delivered, it's purposes, it's accomplishments.
- Call down an angel from heaven in the middle of the day and have him bear testimony to three honest, dignified citizens of your community that the record is the word of God. These witnesses must bear the angel's testimony to the world, even to their death beds. You must put that testimony to the test by becoming an enemy to these men.
- You must call out of heaven the voice of the Redeemer, to declare to the three witnesses that your record is true and that it is their responsibility to bear their testimonies to the world, and they must do so.
- Eight other witnesses must testify to the world that they saw the ancient records in broad daylight and they handled them and felt the engravings thereon.
- The first three and the second eight must bear their testimonies not for profit, not for gain, but under great personal sacrifice and severe persecution, even to their deaths.
- Thousands of great men, intellectual giants, national and international personalities, and scholars for 125 years must accept your history and its teachings even to the point of laying down their lives rather than deny their testimony of it.
- You must include within your record this strange but wonderful promise; "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
- Millions must bear record to the world for the next 125 years that they know the record to be true because they put the promise to the test and round it to be true. The truth of it was manifested to them by the power of the Holy Ghost.
- Over 80,000 competent salesmen must be so sold on your book that they gladly give up two years of their lives to take it to all parts of the world for distribution. They not only pay their own way during these years, but return bearing testimony that the time spent will remain as one of the highlights of their lives. They receive nothing in return for their efforts but the joy of having shared your book with others.
- Your book must not only raise the standards of millions of people but do it in such a way that they become one of the great moral, ethical and dynamic marvels of the day. They must become world renowned for this.
- For the next 20 years you must watch those that follow you, your family, and the dearest of your loved ones persecuted, driven time after time from their homes, beaten, tortured, starved, frozen, and killed. Tens of thousands must undergo the most extreme hardships in your presence just because they believe your claims concerning the origin and content of what you have written on ancient Tibet.
- You must gain no wealth from your work, but many times lose all that you have. Like those that believe you, you must submit yourself to the most vile persecution. And finally after 20 years of this, give your own life in a very savage and brutal manner, for you testimony concerning your book. This must be done willingly on your part.
- Start right now and produce this record which covers 2,600 years of history, doing it, not in the peaceful atmosphere of your community, but under the most trying of circumstances which includes being driven from your home several times, and receiving constant threats upon your life. Please have your book completed, talk a friend into mortgaging his farm to raise money to have it printed with the understanding that neither he nor yourself will ever receive monetary enumeration from it. You must sell the book at cost or less.
- Do this all in 60 days!!
If no one can comply exactly to this criteria: There Is Only One Answer:
THE BOOK OF MORMON IS A DIVINE RECORD
If not, its origin must be stated and its claims must be explained by the critic. It isn't enough to merely discard it as false and forget about it.
The first thing to do in examining any ancient text is to consider it in the light
of the origin and background that is claimed for it. If it fits into that background
there is no need to look farther, since historical forgery, of previously unknown,
events is virtually impossible.