Why Do We Need the Book of Mormon?

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This one comes from my friend Andy.

I’ve recently become hooked on the Book of Mormon musical. Have you listened to it? It’s certainly offensive, given the writers, but in a fairly general sense. It didn’t really come off to me as Mormon bashing. I think you might like it… or at least the first half of it.

Anyway, having listened to this so many times I’ve become a bit more intrigued and somewhat confused by LDS theology. I figured you can fill in the gaps – but please don’t send missionaries to my house. :-)

I’m mainly trying to understand what is insufficient about the gospel as presented in the Bible that necessitates the Book of Mormon at all? And why would Jesus need to come here to teach the gospel if he left his Apostles to do that job with the Great Commission?

Even the LDS website seems primarily focused on the Bible and the death and resurrection of Christ – so what do people need the Book of Mormon for? I tried reading more about it from their website, but that sort of information seems kind of buried… or I just might not be looking hard enough.

I’ve found some answers elsewhere, but they seem to primarily be from ex-Mormons or on fundamentalist Christian websites – so I’d be interested to hear an opinion from someone on the pro-Mormon side.

Do I get a prize for the longest question?

Good Essay Question! Clearly this question is too in depth for me to answer here on the blog, so I’ve sent some missionaries over to your house to tell you all about it.  They’ll be there Thursday at 4:00. I told them you’d feed them dinner.

JOKE! Ha! Just kidding.

So.. why do people need the Book of Mormon? I thought I’d bring in a little help to answer this one, so I asked my friend John how he would answer. Here’s part of his answer:

From an LDS perspective, it isn’t the teachings or message of either the Bible or Book of Mormon that make salvation possible.  It is our covenant with a living God, embodied in priesthood, in ordinances, and in the gifts of the Spirit.

For Mormons, the Book of Mormon — and other texts in the LDS canon! — embodies the principle of continuous revelation.  Mormons believe that where we find a “true church,” we will also find God actively communicating with human beings.  […]  For Mormons, the primary value of the Book of Mormon is it’s witness to this fundamental principle.  Most Mormons would also insist that the Biblical witness is made stronger if it is confirmed by other witnesses — such as the witness of the Book of Mormon and of living, modern-day prophets.  […]

John confirmed exactly what I was thinking. The content and teachings of the Book of Mormon aren’t nearly as remarkable as the fact that it exists at all. Believing specifically in the Book of Mormon or its teachings is secondary to a belief in a God that still can and does reveal things to us, be it through modern prophets or through ancient texts. Note, for example, that the temple recommend questions (more or less a litmus test for orthodoxy) don’t mention the Book of Mormon (or Bible) at all.

As to the Bible being insufficient… I’d use the word incomplete instead. With the LDS emphasis on allowing our understanding of God and His gospel to grow and be continuously evolving, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or any other text will, by definition, be incomplete. That’s not to say that new revelations can’t be gleaned through the study of old texts, but the new revelations  are much more important in Mormonism than static texts. Much the same way Mormons believe that the gospel taught by Joseph Smith or [insert your favorite LDS President here] was also incomplete. In fact, it means the current gospel, as taught in our churches every Sunday is incomplete.

Oh, and I’ve only heard portions of the Musical (which I enjoyed), but haven’t gotten around to listening to all of it yet.

Any More Questions?

Ask Me Anything!!!

11 comments to Why Do We Need the Book of Mormon?

  • Ren

    I never thought of the BoM as a gap filler to the Bible. Mormon theology clarifies the gospel but that comes in via the Pearl of Great Price.

    The phrasing of the question seems to imply repetition of theology is unnecessary. Were that so, much of the books that comprise the Bible would not have been included as they are repeats of the same stories and philosophies. Jesus was said to have summarized everything in 2 statements (paraphrasing) – love God and the Golden Rule to do unto others as you’d have done to you, everything hinges on these 2 things. That’s succinct.

    Even with all we do have by way of scriptures (throw in the Apocrypha, Nag Hammadi Scriptures aka Dead Sea Scrolls, and assorted books tossed out because they were considered non-canonical), there are plenty of unanswered questions, esoteric and otherwise.

  • @Ren – for the sake of brevity in the original post, I decided not to talk about how a lot of Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon teaches ‘plain and precious truths that have been lost from the Bible’. Certainly, there are many members of the church who believe this… but I’ve never really put much stock in this idea.

    Plus, who really wants to believe everything in the bible anyway??? IMO, any good Christian will have serious concerns about the Prophets portrayed in the Old Testament (and, as a side note, in the BOM as well).

  • Scott

    Here is a more official and complete answer:

    http://mormon.org/book-of-mormon/

  • @Scott – did you mean a more boring answer?

  • Scott

    Well, yes, probably. But you have to admit that since you don’t exactly agree with the Mormon church and openly advise people to do things that go against church doctrine, you might not be the best spokesman.

    I certainly don’t consider myself to be that either, hence the link to other people who would do a better job than me.

  • @Scott – I am definitely not a good spokesman for the church in any official sense. I make no claim that I represent the church (or orthodoxy) at all, although I hold more beliefs in common with the Church than not.

  • Peter

    Just a couple of comments by one who is familiar with the Book of Mormon:

    1. The Book of Mormon is considered the keystone (not to be confused with cornerstone)of our religion. The reason is that once a person becomes familiar with and gains a knowledge through the spirit that it is true, then they have no choice but to also declare that Joseph Smith really is a prophet and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints must be Gods church on the earth. This provides a sure direction for the truth seeker. They can then confidently follow the words of living apostles.

    2. Since the Book of Mormon is a continuous religious history of over a thousand years, we are able to clearly learn and understand from past successes and mistakes. We can become aware of the importance of keeping the commandments, having good government, etc. The bible has no such continuity but is a smattering of many somewhat unrelated records.

    3. The bible provides a wonderful record of the life of Christ and the atonement. The Book of Mormon provides in depth teachings on what the atonement is and why we need it. The Book of Mormon also teaches such things as why Christ needed to be baptized, the need for opposition, the fall of Adam, how to know truth, the meaning of faith, how to be directed by God, what the baptismal covenant is and why children do not need it, the importance of freedom to choose, and many, many more things. In fact you can take just about any major teaching that is in the bible and find much more clear and in depth information about it in the Book of Mormon.

  • It does occur to me that a lot of Mormon energy has been expended over the years in Book of Mormon apologetics… Essentially, Mormons trying to justify to the rest of the Christian world why they seem to feel they need the Book of Mormon.

    Still, I guess the Mormon question to the rest of the Christian world would be: “Why do you feel God would stop speaking to humanity? If he spoke so frequently in ancient times, why would he fall silent now? And why do you insist that he spoke to us only through these particular books, rather than through all these other sacred texts, some of which we still have, and some of which we don’t any more because they were suppressed and destroyed?”

    Though, truth be told, if Mormons took this question seriously themselves, it could blow the lid off our own understanding of God and how God works… I think over time we have become sort of set in our ways, and have lost a certain kind of openness that characterized the early Church. :-)

  • Sean

    Nice answer, reuben. To anyone who liked the musical, I highly suggest you read the real Book of Mormon. As always the book is much much better 😀

  • Sean

    Nice answer, reuben. To anyone who liked the musical, I highly suggest you read the real Book of Mormon. As always the book is much better 😀

  • Scott

    So the million dollar question is “Is the sufficiency of Christ and His gospels good enough for a more abundant life and eternal life?” and “Are these new revelations somehow detrimental to my eternity if I choose to believe in the original teachings of my Savior Jesus Christ?” I would assume they believe that the words of Jesus are sufficient for ultimate salvation, and that God would convey all that is held within His (the Savior’s) teaching. Anyone have any input on these matters?

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