This first step towards reform is to actually read The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon. Here, we recognize the pioneers of that first step.
- 1 D&C 84
- 2 CHC – 1832
- 3 Jackson County
- 4 W. W. Phelps – 1833
- 5 William E. McLellin – 1834
- 6 John Nicholson – 1888
- 7 George Reynolds – 1888
- 8 B. H. Roberts – 1903
- 9 German E. Ellsworth – 1908
- 10 Alton D. Merrill – 1940
- 11 Francis Kirkman – 1937
- 12 Marion G. Romney – 1949
- 13 Ezra Taft Benson – 1975
- 14 Grant Underwood – 1983
- 15 Richard G. Scott – 1988
- 16 Dallin H. Oaks – 1993
- 17 Robert L. Millet 1994
- 18 Noel B. Reynolds – 1999
- 19 LDS – 2012
The following revelation (if it was a true revelation) was the first call to reform and has since given all generations of Mormons reason to return to The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon:
[Revelation through Joseph Smith, Kirtland, Ohio, September 22 and 23, 1832. History of the Church 1:286-95.]
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D&C 84)
CHC – 1832
The following provides some background and context for the revelation of condemnation found in D&C 84. Unlike the view of Elder Ezra Taft Benson that six lowly elders brought the whole church under condemnation, it only says that six elders were present when it was received:
Some of the early missionaries, on returning home, were reproved by the Lord in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants because they had treated lightly the Book of Mormon. As a result, their minds had been darkened. The Lord said that this kind of treatment of the Book of Mormon brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all of the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon." (D&C 84:54–57.) (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May, 1975)
B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930, vol. 1 p. 290.
The saints were sharply reproved, and more especially those living in Zion—Missouri. “And your minds,” said the Lord, addressing the Prophet and the six elders in whose presence the revelation was received—
“Your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received; which vanity, and unbelief hath brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all; and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom, otherwise there remaineth a scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion: for shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily I say unto you, Nay.”
The cause of the problems of Jackson County, Missouri were pawned off onto The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon.
THE EXPULSION OF THE SAINTS FROM JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI—FOREWARNINGS OF DANGER—CHARGES OF THE OLD SETTLERS AGAINST THE SAINTS—REFUTATION OF THE CHARGES
These reflections are pertinent at the opening of a chapter in this History that is to deal with the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Jackson county, Missouri, since their failure to meet perfectly the high requirements of the law of God given to them in their land of promise is, in large part, responsible for what befell them. (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930, vol 1, p. 314.; B. H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions, 1900, p. 64)
SHALL “THE CHILDREN” POLLUTE THE INHERITANCE?
The letter from the conference of high priests alludes to past difficulties; also to a revelation of September 22nd and 23rd in which it was said that the minds of the saints in times past had been darkened because of unbelief, and because they had treated lightly the things they had received, which vanity and unbelief had brought the whole church under condemnation, “and this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion [having reference to the saints in Missouri] even all: And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth fruit mete for their Father’s kingdom, otherwise there remaineth a scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion: For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.” (pp. 316-317)
The result as prophesied in the revelation was that the saints were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri. But was their neglect of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon the true cause? If you go back to when Joseph started his church perhaps. The first of the real reasons however was a false revelation by Joseph – he was to blame, not The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon. In it, he says that the Saints would have that land “by purchase or by blood.”
Wherefore, the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you. (D&C 63:29)
(See also: http://whitmercollege.com/prophesied)
W. W. Phelps – 1833
KNOWING that truth, goodness and glory are eternal, and desiring that the through disciples may obtain one by the aid of the other till they come to the third through diligence, patience, long-suffering and faith to the end, we select a paragraph or two from the teachings of Mormon. Notwithstanding some may suppose that they can read the same things in the book of Mormon, still, to stir up the pure minds, by way of remembrance, that they may be mindful of the words of the prophets, and of the commandments, is pleasing in the sight of God, and needful to keep them growing in grace. When the extract that we are about to make has been read once, read it again, and so on till the Lord grants you a portion of his Spirit sufficient to write as well as Mormon.
The inhabitants of Zion are brought under condemnation for neglecting the book of Mormon, from which they not only received the new covenant, but the fulness of the gospel. Has this been done for the sake of hunting mysteries in the prophecies? or has it come to pass by carelessness? O brethren, walk circumspectly before the Lord and bring fruits meet for repentance, that you pollute not the heritage of God. You cannot serve God and mammon; be good, for the just shall live by faith. [W. W. Phelps, ed. “Some of Mormon’s Teachings,” Evening and Morning Star, Vol. I, No. 8, January, 1833, p 60]
William E. McLellin – 1834
William E. McLellin is also listed on the Historical Background page. He was Semi-Reformed before he was Reformed.”William E. McLellin (1806-1883) was an early Mormon apostle who later left the church. In his later years he questioned the authority of founder Joseph Smith, but he always said he believed that the Book of Mormon was truly the word of God. In 1871 he wrote a notebook in which he recorded his contacts with men who had filled special roles as Book of Mormon witnesses in 1829. McLellin described his 1833 interview of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, his circa-1850 visit with Martin Harris, his 1869 visit with John Whitmer, and a report of an 1833 event involving Hiram Page. Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Harris steadfastly reaffirmed that they had handled the Book of Mormon plates and were visited by an angel. John Whitmer and Page reaffirmed that they had handled the plates. All continually testified that they believed the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (Description from BYU Studies)
From The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, BYU Studies, 1994, ed. Jan Shipps and John Welch.
These very early Latter-day Saint journals yield new information about William E. McLellin, one of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve and long-time mystery to Mormon historians. Never before have we been able to know so much about the dynamic faith and Christian worship of rank-and file Latter-day Saints in the first six years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Amazon Book Description)
McLellin was remarkably constant during his early missionary years with respect to his main themes and primary religious interests. By far the most frequent in his sermons was the Book of Mormon, evidences in its behalf, prophecies about its coming forth, testimonies of its identity, and validations of its worth in opening the glories of the latter days. (p. 19; Noel B. Reynolds, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century,” BYU Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, p. 9.)
Although his views about many of these subjects changed over time, McLellin retained throughout his lifetime an interest in many of these topics, especially the Book of Mormon. (p. 19)
In his initial year the new convert was single-minded in his proclamation of the Book of Mormon as ushering in the coming of Christ and the establishment of Zion – key elements in McLellin’s own conversion. (p. 20)
McLellin commented on November 14, 1834, that Boynton had delivered ‘a fine discourse but he never mentioned the Book of Mormon once.’ This is an important disclosure that, at least in McLellin’s mind, no Mormon sermon was complete without at least one reference to the Book of Mormon. (p. 22; Reynolds, p. 8)
“Fri. eve, we[a]ther was inclement, cold and rainy, only a few turned out – Bro. J. preached to them from Gal 1.6-10 about an hour. It was a fine discourse but he never mentioned the book of mormon once.” (p. 148)
Larry C. Porter, “William E. McLellan’s Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, 1970, pp. 1-3.
In 1880 James T. Cobb, a graduate of Dartmouth and Amherst colleges and a resident of Salt Lake City, was making an attempt to establish the falsity of the Book of Mormon through an extensive examination of its origins. Among those to whom he directed letters of inquiry was William E. McLellan, whose close association with Joseph Smith and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon in the early years of the Church made him an appropriate subject for correstpondence. William E. McLellan joined the Church in 1831. Although he became an early critic of Joseph Smith and other Church leaders, he nevertheless progressed to top leadership positions and on February 15, 1835, he was ordained as one of the original members of thd Quorum of the Twelve. Yet due to his criticism of Church leadership he was excommunicated in 1838. The testimony reproduced in this article, written in reply to James T. Cobb’s inquiry, is significant because despite McLellan’s disillusionment with Joseph Smith, he nevertheless was unable to deny his conviction that the Book of Mormon was what it claimed to be. (Larry C. Porter, “William E. McLellan’s Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, 1970, pp. 1-3)
John Nicholson – 1888
Discourse on the Book of Mormon by Elder John Nicholson,The Church of Christ Organized Anciently on This Continent—Prophecy Fulfilled and Fulfilling—Preparatory Work for the Gathering of All Israel Commenced—Present Condition of the Nations Foretold—Exhortation to Righteousness and the Avoidance of Hypocrisy and Idolatry. Delivered in the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, Sunday Afternoon, February 6th, 1881.(Reported by John Irvine.)
Why, my brethren and sisters, are we not more familiar with the contents of this book? No Latter-day Saint can intelligently comprehend the signs of the times unless he is informed in regard to the teachings of this record. In the early rise of the Church the Lord manifested his displeasure with the Saints because they did not pay sufficient attention to the revelations contained in the Book of Mormon, and that book itself promises and the revelations through the Prophet Joseph promise, that, in the due time of the Lord, when the people are sufficiently advanced to receive them, other records of momentous importance shall be brought forth for the consideration of the Saints; but I do not think we will receive anything additional to what we have already obtained in this form until we have manifested a suitable appreciation of that which has already been given to us. This record and the revelations of Jesus Christ generally have been given for the perusal of the people, that they may reflect upon them, upon the principles that they make manifest, upon the law of God, that the law may be written in their hearts, and that they may be men and women of understanding. It must be pleasing, however, to every person who is interested in this great work, to see that there is a fresh impetus in this direction. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 24 – 25)
Elder Nicholson succinctly connected two points not realized by Mormons. 1. They are cursed for not following the teachings of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon. 2. They did not receive the additional promised records. The second point was to have been realized during the lifetime of Joseph and Oliver.
George Reynolds – 1888
George Reynolds provided the first reference materials for The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon including a Concordance, Dictionary, and Commentary. Such endeavors should have been undertaken in the days of Joseph and Oliver fifty years before. Part of Joseph fulfilling his call was to “convince” the world. Speaking about and writing upon should have occupied his time like it did Reynolds, who spent twenty years alone on his Concordance.
Bruce A. Van Orden, “Every City, Hill, River, Valley, and Person,” FARMS Review: vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 51-60;
A review of “Book of Mormon Dictionary” by George Reynolds, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1996
George Reynolds is fondly remembered for his pioneering studies and publications on the Book of Mormon. Not only did Reynolds compile the classic A Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, he also published 109 articles on Book of Mormon topics, 55 of these appearing in the biweekly magazine for the Deseret Sunday School Union, the Juvenile Instructor. These articles provided the grist for two other noteworthy books: The Story of the Book of Mormon and A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon. The second of these was published anew as Book of Mormon Dictionary in 1988 by Stemmons Publishing Company of Salt Lake City. The 1988 publication is 8 1/2 x 11 inches and punched with three holes in order to fit into a gospel student’s binder. My purpose in this review is to assess George Reynolds’s contributions to Book of Mormon scholarship, particularly through his Book of Mormon Dictionary. And since the seven-volume work, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, allegedly coauthored by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, is still on the market, I will also comment on those volumes.
George Reynolds was not just a Book of Mormon scholar, of course. He served as a secretary to the First Presidency from shortly after his arrival in Utah as a British immigrant in 1865 until his death in 1909. In 1890 he was called to the First Council of Seventy, or as one of the first seven presidents of the Seventy, as the calling was commonly designated then. He was twice a missionary in England, an emigration agent in the European Mission, an assistant editor for the Deseret News and the Juvenile Instructor, a member of the board of directors for numerous Church businesses, a Salt Lake City councilman, a college lecturer, and a general administrator in the Deseret Sunday School Union. He is most remembered as the “test case” in which he was the first Mormon tried and convicted for polygamy and the first to go to prison for this “crime.” Reynolds v. the United States (1879) is considered a landmark Supreme Court decision.
While in the Utah Territorial Penitentiary from 1879 to 1881 George began his awesome contribution to Book of Mormon commentary. He was thrilled with the new 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon—arranged into chapters and verses by Elder Orson Pratt. Since he had virtually nothing else to do, Reynolds decided to use his time in intensive study of all the scriptures. After a few weeks the idea hit him that he could provide some explanation of Book of Mormon life and times to young readers, even as he had done many times with Bible stories over the previous several years. So he started sending his copy to the Juvenile Instructor office for publication every two weeks. The articles sported such titles as “The Laws of the Nephites,” “Personal Appearance of the Nephites,” “The Art of War among the Nephites,” “Nephite Proper Names,” “Agriculture among the Nephites,” and “The Lands of the Nephites.” The last, a series of five articles, was the first serious attempt by a Mormon author to identify Book of Mormon sites with western hemispheric cities, mountains, rivers, isthmuses, and continents. Thus the tantalizing study of Book of Mormon geography (shall we also admit “debate”?) was born into the Latter-day Saint Church.
During the summer of 1880, after writing approximately eighty articles in prison for the Juvenile Instructor, most of them about the Book of Mormon, George became deeply depressed over the monotony of prison life. He stopped writing for a month. Then a brainstorm hit him: Church members could use a concordance to the Book of Mormon similar to Alexander Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments. With renewed vigor, Reynolds plunged back into his work, transcribing passages from the Book of Mormon at the rate of as many as 350 per day. By the time of his release in January 1881, George had completed 25,000 entries in his concordance. But his monumental work, delayed again and again by hosts of other duties, would not be published for another twenty years.
After Reynolds was again a free man, his friends urged him to organize his writings on the Book of Mormon into a single volume. George, a thoroughly modest man, resisted this for a few years, but when the federal Anti-Polygamy Crusade hit full stride in 1885 and he had a little extra time when the First Presidency was on the “Underground,” he decided to put together his Story of the Book of Mormon. This volume was a graphic portrayal of the narrative story line in the scripture along with his analyses of Book of Mormon lifestyles, names, geography, and ethnology that he had produced in jail. These sociological studies are remarkable for their detail and clarity. Reynolds was the first Latter-day Saint scholar to undertake such thorough commentary on the Book of Mormon text. All along he pecked away at his concordance project and often with the aid of his older children.
In Story of the Book of Mormon, George investigated a host of names—actually, all the proper names that appear in the Book of Mormon. He provided detailed descriptions of every city, valley, hill, land, and river mentioned in the Book of Mormon, also a first. And he was the first to place a B.C. and A.D. date with every story and event in the book.
His work on dating came in handy when he and his publishers came out with an illustrated Book of Mormon Chronology Chart in 1890. That same year another brainstorm hit George. Why not use all this data to make a dictionary of Book of Mormon terms? He quickly arranged all the proper names of people, hills, valleys, rivers, and cities into alphabetical order, supplementing individual entries as necessary. His publisher friend and neighbor Joseph Hyrum Parry prepared the book quickly for publication, and it went on sale in January 1892. Had he been as blessed as we are with superlative word processing, the diligent George Reynolds would probably have been done several months earlier!
-Throughout his life, George Reynolds wrote eight books and over 400 articles, plus a few poems, for Church periodicals and several newspapers. His books ranged in subject matter from Bible history to geography, from travel to biographies of famous men, from natural science to original stories, and from theology to spirited defense of gospel principles. He was considered by his peers to be one of the most learned men in the Church. He was entirely self taught. George had received no schooling since entering his bookkeeping apprenticeship as a teenager in London. Elder Heber J. Grant remarked that he never asked George a question but that he received an outstanding answer. His close associate in the Seventies, Elder Seymour B. Young, noted, “He was one of the most modest and retiring of men, never officious in his superiority but humble and quiet.” Perhaps it can be said that throughout his long and tiring labors, George Reynolds did more than any other person in the nineteenth century to train the youth of the Church in the teachings of the Book of Mormon.
Found many years after his death among his papers was a note in Reynolds’s handwriting: “If you find a customer undecided between the Story and the Dictionary, push the Dictionary.” He probably believed that the dictionary’s format was more conducive as a study aid to the Book of Mormon than his book The Story of the Book of Mormon; experience probably taught him that the latter was usually read alone, without the student delving into the Book of Mormon itself.
- “George Reynolds: Loyal Friend of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign (August 1986): 48-51;
- “George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl on Book of Mormon Geography,” Thetean (1982): 60-79;
- Prisoner for Conscience’ Sake: The Life of George Reynolds, Deseret Book, 1992, 108, 133, 135, 151-55, 163-66.
- George Reynolds, The Story of the Book of Mormon, 1888.
For many years we have taken great pleasure in perusing its sacred pages and studying its truths. The more we read it the more we found it contained. Like other inspired records, every time it was opened we discovered new and ofttimes unexpected testimonies of its divinity. From reading it we turned to writing of it; and much that this volume contains has been penned at various intervals, from the days we were in prison for conscience sake, where portions were written, to the present. And now we present it to the reader with the feeling that the work is but commenced; that what remains unsaid is probably as important as what is given, but with the hope that what we have done will not prove ineffectual in spreading the truth, in increasing knowledge concerning God’s dealings with mankind, and aiding in the development of the purposes of Jehovah. If this be accomplished we shall feel that great has been our reward. (Preface).
George Reynolds, A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon Comprising its Biographical, Geographical, and other Proper Names, 1891, 364 pp.
The increasing interest taken in the study of the Book of Mormon and in the history of the peoples whose origin, progress and destruction it narrates, encourages the author of this little work to think that this addition to the literature of the subject will not be like one born out of due time, but will be received as an acceptable aid to the study of its sacred pages.
-We particularly submit this book – the first of its kind – believing it will afford them material help in their investigations of Book of Mormon subjects, and their study of Nephite and Jaredite history.
-This Dictionary contains the name of every person and place mentioned in the Boo of Mormon, with a few other subjects of interest referred to therein. With the hope that it may not be altogether unproductive of good, or of increasing true knowledge with regard to the handworkings of God in the history of the nations of the earth, this little volume is respectfully submitted to all who love the truth. (Preface)
George Reynolds, A Complete Concordance to the Book of Mormon, 1899, 851 pp.
It was while I was in the Utah Penitentiary in 1880, or just twenty years ago, that I commenced work on this Concordance to the Book of Mormon. Had I known the vast amount of labor, patience and care it would take to prepare it I should, undoubtedly, have hesitated before commencing so vast, so tedious and so costly a work. But having commenced, and feeling its necessity as a help to the study of the Divine Work whose name it bears, I have labored early and late on every available opportunity—labored and prayed—until it was prepared for the press.
I do not think there are any, perhaps with the single exception of the very few, who have attempted a work of the same kind, who can conceive of the amount of labor involved in the preparation of such a work. It is said that the compilation of the first Latin Concordance to the Bible (that done under the direction of Cardinal Hugo) occupied the time of 500 Dominican monks for years, from its commencement to its completion. Undoubtedly they must have pursued very elaborate and unbusiness-like methods, or worked very leisurely to occupy so long a period. I therefore claim that my manner of preparation must have been more methodical and expeditious to enable me to attend to the daily duties of my calling and have the work ready for the public in twenty years. In the direct work of arrangement, etc., I have received but little aid from others, though, of course, I have found it a great help to have the copy type-written and have had assistance in the reading of proof and in the comparison of the printed page with the original passages as they appear in the Book of Mormon.For I have deemed it essential to entire correctness to compare every passage as it appeared in the proof sheets with the same passage in the Sacred Record. This alone, my readers will readily perceive, wonderfully increases the labor above that involved in the preparation of an ordinary book.
The expense, too, was a consideration of no little importance. The cost of the electro plates, etc., nearly reached the sum of $3,000. I have but little hope while I live of receiving this amount back through sales of the book, to say nothing of the other expenses such as printing and binding. The circulation will necessarily at first be small. As the Church grows the demand will doubtless increase. But such a book was needed, and I felt that it was very improbable that anyone else would attempt to prepare one, and even if he commenced would carry it on to completion, so I kept on day by day until it was done. (Preface)
B. H. Roberts – 1903
B. H. Roberts was one of the first to investigate the scientific supports for The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon in two of his three volume series New Witnesses for God, 1909. The following background information comes from the Preface of Volume Two:
The following work was begun twenty-two years ago, in England, when the author was in that land on a mission, as assistant editor of the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. It was the author’s design then to make the treatise on the Book of Mormon the first volume under the general title New Witnesses for God; but after some progress in collecting and arranging the materials had been made, the thought occurred to him that the Prophet Joseph Smith in chronological order, if not in importance, preceded the Book of Mormon in the introduction of God’s witnesses in this last and great dispensation. The materials of this work, therefore, so far as they had been collected, were laid aside and work was begun on the treatise of Joseph Smith as a Witness for God; which, however, because of many other demands upon the author’s time, was not published until 1895.
Meantime work was continued from time to time upon the treatise of the Book of Mormon; and in 1903-4-5, the materials were used, substantially as in their present form, as Manuals for the Senior Classes of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Associations. The work has undergone a thorough revision at the hands of the author, and is now to take the place in his writings designed for it so long ago.
While the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is but an incident in God’s great work of the last days, and the book itself subordinate to some other facts in that work, still the incident of its coming forth and the book are facts of such importance that the whole work of God may be said, in a manner, to stand or fall with them. That is to say, if the origin of the Book of Mormon could be proved to be other than that set forth by Joseph Smith; if the book itself could be proved to be other than it claims to be, viz., and chiefly, an abridged history of the ancient inhabitants of America, a volume of scripture containing a message from God to the people to whom it was written—”to the Lamanites [American Indians], who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and revelation”—if, I say, the Book of Mormon could be proved to be other than this, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its message and doctrines, which, in some respects, may be said to have arisen out of the Book of Mormon, must fall; for if that book is other than it claims to be; if its origin is other than that ascribed to it by Joseph Smith, then Joseph Smith says that which is untrue; he is a false prophet of false prophets; and all he taught, and all his claims to inspiration and divine authority, are not only vain but wicked; and all that he did as a religious teacher is not only useless, but mischievous beyond human comprehending.
My treatise is divided into four parts:
I The Value of the Book of Mormon as a Witness for the Authenticity and Integrity of the Bible; and the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
II The Discovery of the Book of Mormon and its Translation, Migrations, Lands, Intercontinental Movements, Civilizations, Governments, and the Religions of its Peoples.
III Evidences of the Truth of the Book of Mormon.
IV Objections to the Book of Mormon Considered.
German E. Ellsworth – 1908
As most of you know, in the past three years, we have turned our attention more to the distributing of the Book of Mormon. We find that the dissemination of the Book of Mormon has more than doubled the distribution of other books and tracts. Three years ago we disposed of 1,000 Books of Mormon in our field, and something like 12,000 small books. In 1906, the Books of Mormon increased to 5,000 and our other books to over 20,000. Last year the Elders increased the Book of Mormon distribution to something like 12,500, and increased the ten-cent books to about 58,000. It has opened the door to the homes of hundreds of people, and our Elders feel that the Lord has been with them and has magnified them in their labors. They feel that in taking the Book of Mormon to the doors of the people that they have something important enough to take to the biggest men of the nation. The Lord, speaking to the Prophet Joseph and some of the Elders, in the eighty-fourth section of the D&C, seems to have chided them because they had neglected the things they had received, and speaks particularly of the Book of Mormon,—beginning with the fifty-fourth verse,
He says: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief hath brought the whole Church under condemnation, and this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all; and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.”
The Book of Mormon has been given to the people of this dispensation to bring them nearer to Christ. It is a witness that the Bible is the word of God, and that God has established His Church in this day and time. There is something remarkable about the Book of Mormon, it is a great missionary book. You can open it any place, and the Spirit of the Lord, which accompanies the book, comes upon the people, and they are at once interested. (Elder German E. Ellsworth, Conference Report, April 1908, Second Day—Morning Session, p. 42)
Shortly after going to the Northern States Mission I received an impression of the Lord concerning the Book of Mormon, of which I would like to bear testimony before the Latter-day Saints. It came to me as strong as if someone of my fellow missionaries had told it to me, that the Book of Mormon had been given of the Lord as a witness to this generation and that if we would remember it, that we would come out from under the condemnation that, as we are told, rested upon Zion; and then I recalled reading in the D&C in the 84th section, beginning with the 54th verse, where-in the Church and some of the early leaders of the Church, because of their unbelief in the Book of Mormon, I take it, were under condemnation and would needs remain so until they repented and remembered the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon. It was not long after that until, with the cooperation of two other missions, we published 10,000 Books of Mormon in Chicago, followed the next year by 12,000, and the following year by 27,000. The interest had so grown that bids were secured from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, London and Japan for a 100,000 edition, with Chicago the lowest bidder. This perhaps is the largest number of that sacred record to be printed at one time. In all, 250,000 Books of Mormon were printed in Chicago before it was taken over by Zion’s Printing & Publishing Co. We have distributed 130,000 Books of Mormon in the Northern States mission, 90,000 of which have been sold, and it is my testimony that every man and woman who has taken to heart the distribution of the Book of Mormon, taken to heart the teaching of the Book of Mormon, and the pointing out of the gems in that record to the people of the earth, have made a more wonderful growth than any other missionaries in the field. I can look back now over the mission and call to mind the young men who have taken hold of it with a vim and gone before the people, bearing witness of it, that the Lord was with and blessed them above all other missionaries.
I remember while standing on the Hill Cumorah, of hearing these words, “Push the distribution of the record that was taken from this hill, for it will help bring the world to Christ;” (German E. Ellsworth, Conference Report, June 1919, pp. 95-96)
The Church also established Zion’s Printing and Publishing Company here [Independence, Jackson County, Missouri]. From this publishing house countless tracts, pamphlets, books, and other religious literature were furnished to the Latter-day Saint missions of North America. This operation continued until the 1940s, when it was consolidated with the Deseret News Press in Salt Lake City. (Richard O. Cowan, The Church in the Twentieth Century, Bookcraft, 1985, pp. 48-49)
A printing plant and publishing company was founded at Independence under the name of “Zion’s Printing and Publishing Company,” which church publishing house has printed and sent out through the various missions of the United States (nine missions in all, the Canadian and Mexican missions not counted) millions of copies of tracts, pamphlets and books. It is reported by the president of the Central States Mission, also in charge and in the management of this publishing establishment, that within the last ten years a quarter of a million of the missionary edition of the Book of Mormon (retailed at the price of fifty cents per copy) have been printed and sold from this publishing house. (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret News Press, 1930, vol. 6 pp. 430 – 431)
There is another thing which has deeply impressed me. Never before has there been such an interest taken in the Book of Mormon as there is now. Think of what President Pond says is going on in his mission. While he is leading in the sale and distribution of copies of the Book of Mormon, the same condition exists more or less throughout all the missions. President Bennion says that they are sending out annually from the Zion’s printing office, and actually selling, something like fifty thousand copies of the Book of Mormon in these United States alone. Fifty thousand sold by this one agency, and in addition to those thus sold, there are many more such books lent and placed with readers. (Elder James H. Moyle, Conference Report, April 1930, Afternoon Meeting, p. 121.)
An outstanding source of good in the mission is the Zion’s Printing and Publishing Company which was incorporated in the state of Missouri in 1907, under the direction of the first Presidency of the Church. At the present time, the missions of the United States and some of the foreign missions are supplied with literature from this institution. An adequate building in which to house the printing plant was erected, and the equipment is of the best. (“The Central States Mission by President Samuel O. Bennion,” Improvement Era, 1928, Vol. Xxxi. May, 1928 No. 7 .)
A new Church publishing venture is described briefly in “New Home of Zion’s Printing and Publishing Company at Independence, Jackson Co., Missouri,” Liahona: The Elders’ Journal 13 (November 2, 1915): 289-91; (James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., rev. and enl., Deseret Book Co., 1992, p. 744.)
Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co. printed The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon by the hundreds of thousands as well as other faith promoting books about The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon such as: Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., 1942, and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Cumorah Where? 1947.
Alton D. Merrill – 1940
The following information comes from Alton D. Merrrill’s master’s thesis of 1940:
Alton D. Merrill, An analysis of the papers and speeches of those who have written or spoken about the Book of Mormon published during the years of 1830 to 1855 and 1915 to 1940 to ascertain the shift in emphasis, master’s thesis, BYU, 1940. [154 pp, 122 of which are Bibliography]
Merrill substantiates the neglect The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon received under the hand of J.Smith, et.al., which neglect partly ended at the turn of the century as Mission Presidents realized it was the best tool for missionaries to proselytize with. (see John Nicholson and Zion’s Printing & Publishing above for the pattern)
Have the writers and speakers been concerned about the same materials, have they treated the same themes, as the years have passed? To ascertain whether or not there has been a shift in emphasis, the following investigation was undertaken. To facilitate this study the time was divided into two periods, namely, an earlier period, 1830 to 1855, and a later period 1915 to 1940.
Points of Emphasis from Table I
1. That in the first periods there are 213 references to the Book of Mormon classified under 23 headings.
2. That in the second period there are 3160 references to the Book of Mormon that are classified under 37 headings.
Points of Emphasis from Table IV
4 That little attention has been devoted to the various writers of the Book of Mormon. (p. 21)
18 That there was but little said about the personalities contained in the Book of Mormon during the first period. (pp. 23-24)
24 That in neither period but slight reference was made to Book of Mormon themes by those who wrote or spoke. (p. 24)
26 That but few references were made concerning the reading and studying of the Book of Mormon. (p. 24)
28 That the speakers and writers were not greatly concerned with effective devices for the teaching of the Book of Mormon. During the second period, however, there is a growing tendency to stress this topic. (p. 26)
It has been the purpose of this study to make an analysis of the published papers and speeches concerning the Book of Mormon, during the periods from 1830 to 1855 and 1915 to 1940 to ascertain the shift in emphasis on the topics considered. (p. 28)
Conclusion 3 There is a tendency to engage in more thorough and meaningful discussions about the Book of Mormon in the later period than in the former, but, in both periods there is a tendency on the part of many speakers and writers to merely mention the Book of Mormon without entering into a meaningful discussion.
Conclusion 4 In both periods the writers and speakers dealing with the Book of Mormon were concerned mainly with relatively few topics. Their treatment of these topics revealed a marked similarity. (pp. 28-29)
Conclusion 7 Speakers and writers gave but little attention to the importance of a study of the Book of Mormon. (p. 29)
Conclusion 10 The sale and distribution of the Book of Mormon did not receive major emphasis, especially in the first period (1830-1855). (p. 30)
Merrill’s research was corroborated by the work of Grant Underwood, “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology” in Dialogue, vol.17, no.3, pp.35-61; and cited by Noel B. Reynolds, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century” in BYU Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 1999. (See Bibliography below for links.)
Improvement Era 1942
Merrill then co-authored an article with Amos N. Merrill in the Improvement Era (vol. 45, no. 9, September 1942, p. 568) called “Changing Thought on the Book of Mormon”:
CHANGING THOUGHT on the Book of Mormon By Dr. AMOS N. MERRILL of Brigham Young University ALTON D. MERRILL Principal, North Emery Seminary
The Book of Mormon was published in the year 1830. Since that time, volumes have been written concerning it and many discourses have been published, the authors of which have either condemned or defended it. It would seem that almost every phase of Book of Mormon controversy should have been elaborated in the meantime, in great detail.
Since its publication, the whole trend of human events has been greatly influenced by the discoveries of science and the dominance of new philosophies. Scholars, speakers and writers—even the so called common people—are not thinking today as they did at the time the Book of Mormon was published.
The desire to ascertain the changes which have taken place in emphasis or in the presentation of new ideas as found in the published discourses of the speakers and writers who have dealt with the Book of Mormon impelled a study of this problem.
In pursuing this study, the authors divided the time element, that is, the time that has elapsed since the Book of Mormon was published, into two periods, namely, from the year 1830 to 1855, and from 1915 to 1940. In all, 1950 articles were examined.
For data concerning the first period, all of the available copies of the following publications were examined:
The Deseret News, Evening and Morning Star, The Millennial Star, Nauvoo Expositor, The Seer, and Times and Seasons.
Data for the second period were gathered from the following publications: Conference Report, The Deseret News, The Millennial Star.
Although the sources of reference were fewer for the second period than for the first, much more data were obtained from the sources of the latter period than from the first.
Other publications in both periods were examined, but since these reveal nothing of importance that was new, it was felt that an adequate amount of data to justify conclusions concerning this problem was found in the publications examined. After examining many articles from both periods, it was observed that thirty-seven topics had engaged the thinking of the authors. When new topics appeared in subsequent articles, these also were listed in their alphabetical order and formed a part of the permanent list. The number of times each topic was discussed, or even mentioned, was recorded on a table, the data from which formed the basis for the conclusions arrived at.
The thirty-seven topics were as follows:
Animals Anthropology Archeology As a history Authorship Biblical corroboration Braille Content Copied from other sources Copyright Doctrine Distribution Divine authority Evidences of truthfulness from literature Geography Mere mention Miscellaneous criticism Origin Origin of nickname Personalities of Pictorial illustrations Plates Printing Prophecies Publications Purposes served Reference to discourses concerning Sale of Study of Style Teaching Testimony and reference to witnesses Testimony concerning Tradition Translation Truthfulness revealed Writing about
Having thus tabulated all the data from the 1,950 articles and having evaluated the articles as to length and significance, the following conclusions seemed to be justified:
1. The speakers and writers of both periods emphasized the materials found in the Book of Mormon as a source of doctrine.
2. The content phase, including story and events, made a large appeal to the writers and speakers of both periods. This was especially noticeable during the latter period.
3. There is a tendency to engage in more thorough and meaningful discussions about the Book of Mormon in the latter period than in the former, but in both periods there is a tendency on the part of many speakers and writers merely to mention the Book of Mormon without entering into the meaningful discussion.
4. In both periods the writers and speakers dealing with the Book of Mormon were concerned mainly with relatively few topics. Their treatment of these topics revealed a marked similarity.
5. The writers and speakers did not make as frequent reference to the prophecies of the Book of Mormon in the latter period as during the former period.
6. The facts concerning the archeological remains as collateral evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon engaged the attention of the writers and speakers less during the second period than during the first.
7. Speakers and writers gave but little attention to the importance of a study of the Book of Mormon.
8. Judging from the number of references to such topics as animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, anthropology, authorship, Braille, copied from other sources, copyright, evidence of truthfulness from literature, geography, miscellaneous criticism and tradition, were of very minor importance. All save one of these, namely miscellaneous criticism, were included only in the latter period.
9. The style in which the Book of Mormon was written engaged the attention of the speakers and writers in both periods. More attention, however, was given to the topic during the first period than during the second period.
10. Judging from the frequency of reference in the literature, the sale and distribution of the Book of Mormon did not receive major emphasis, especially in the first period. In the second period, however, especially in those sources published in the mission fields, both of these topics received considerable emphasis.
[View original here.]
Francis Kirkman – 1937
Francis Kirkman brought forth a two volume set entitled A New Witness for Christ in America (1942), which filled a void of not having the early accounts of how The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon came forth compiled in one place. Prior to his publishing the two volume set he had published Source Material Concerning the Origin of the Book of Mormon (1937).
The following comes from Vol. I:
Fortunately, many contemporary records are available concerning the “coming forth” and the publication of the Book of Mormon for proof of its claims to divine origin.
These are in addition to the records of many witnesses who made personal investigations of the facts after the Church was established.
The study of these events reveals the fact that the “coming forth” and publication of the Book of Mormon continued over a number of years and in several places. As a result many persons were familiar with all the events. If all persons who knew the facts agreed with Joseph Smith regarding the physical events in the production of the book, then the only point of controversy remaining is the supreme one regarding the divine help received by Joseph Smith.
It seemed advisable therefore to copy into this book direct from the original publication the first explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon other than the one by Joseph Smith. It is very significant that this explanation was made at the place of the printing of the book and within a few months after its presentation to the public.
In this study an effort has been made to bring together the important historical data concerning the origin of this remarkable book from both Mormon and anti-Mormon sources.
Using the accepted method of modern research with reference to historical evidence, a brief statement is made of the events connected with the “coming forth” of the book. The historical source material available is also briefly described to indicate the extent and adequacy of the evidence to be presented. This has been done in view of the fact that many writers have misrepresented the events concerning the “coming forth” and publication of this important book. They have denied the possibility of divine aid to Joseph Smith and have invented conditions to make the book human in its origin. It is important to quote these writers in connection with the events they attempt to explain in order that the facts and situations concerning “the coming forth” and the publication of the Book of Mormon may be presented to the reader.
In the chapters that follow, all these data pertaining to each event are taken from the original sources.
The following comes from Vol. II:
My sincere appreciation is extended to President George Albert Smith who invited me to continue my research and prepare the manuscript for this book. His secretary, D. Arthur Haycock, was always considerate and helpful. I also had the privilege of conferring with Dr. John A. Widtsoe. The courtesies by his secretary, Eva Feik, are sincerely appreciated. Harold Lundstrom read the manuscript and used his professional knowledge and experience in the final criticisms. With the assistance of his wife, he has prepared the index and bibliography. Dee Hays Bosen, Carole Swenson, and Myrna Mae Harris assisted in copying quotations and provided other clerical help.
Acknowledgements are extended to Librarians and Assistants of the many libraries of the United States from which quotations have been made; especially to A. William Lund, Assistant Church Historian. President Israel A. Smith of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of Independence, Missouri, has taken special interest in this research and publication. He generously gave to Dale L. Morgan through the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C., important information taken from the Library at Independence, Missouri. In appreciation, Mr. Morgan referred President Smith to a number of newspaper articles he had found in the Library of Congress which have been printed in this book.
Many friends in Utah and elsewhere have given encouragement and help. I am indeed grateful to my wife, Marguerite, for her confidence and assistance.
Since the early books and newspapers and pamphlets are few and widely scattered, President George Albert Smith invited Dr. Kirkham to extend his research in this field and to assemble for publication under one cover the many attempts to prove the Book of Mormon man-made.
This book is then a final answer to those who still harbor the notion that the Latter-day Saints are not acquainted with their own history, pro and anti. The Church from the beginning has sedulously collected anti-Mormon publications. The best place to obtain information for and against the Church is the Library of the Church Historian.
This book tells briefly the divine origin of the Book of Mormon as declared by the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is followed by an analysis of the many attempts to prove the book man-made. Unbelievers in Joseph Smith’s story have not been able to agree on any one explanation. It has even been necessary by some writers to change the explanation they first proposed. This unsuccessful, changing search is of itself an evidence of the truth of the Prophet’s own story. As set forth in this volume, the changing explanations of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon throw light into the dark corners of speculation.
Dr. Francis W. Kirkham, who has undertaken the toil of wide reading and assembling and organizing the material in the book, is peculiarly well trained for this work. His interest in the subject is life long. He has personally visited most of the places of historic Mormon interest. He has examined and read file after file of newspapers and documents, and long shelves of books. He is the foremost scholar in this field, unusually well fitted for the task.
After reading this splendid volume, one finds it difficult to question the truth of the claims of Joseph Smith.
JOHN A. WIDTSOE.
Marion G. Romney – 1949
Elder Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1949, Afternoon Meeting, pp. 35-36.
In 1832, in what is designated a revelation on priesthood, the Lord spoke rather sharply, referring to the whole Church as being under condemnation because of their unbelief and because they had treated lightly the things they had received; and this condemnation he said:
Resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written. (D.&C. 84:56-57.)
-It is about the Book of Mormon I want to talk today. I do so with just one objective in mind: To get you to read it.
I have read it a little, I believe in it, and I love it. I recommend that every person within the sound of my voice read the Book of Mormon.
-For thirty minutes each morning before I began the day’s work I read from the Book of Mormon…and in just a few minutes a day I read the Book of Mormon through, every year, for nine years.
-Now I want to tell you a few reasons why I think you and I should read the Book of Mormon.
-The first reason for reading the Book of Mormon which I want to mention is that it is approved by the highest authority in the universe, the Lord himself.
-Another reason I like the Book of Mormon and want you to read it is that it will sustain you against attacks being made by the modernists against that other great scripture, the Bible. The Book of Mormon is not only a new witness for God; it is also a witness to the truth of the Bible.
-This doctrine that man is not morally responsible for his own acts, which is gaining wide acceptance in the world today, is the doctrine of the evil one. If you will read the Book of Mormon, you will be convinced of that, and you will have a defense against it if you will accept the Book of Mormon.
–It was written in America, by Americans, for Americans. It has peculiar application to America It is not full of foreign ideologies and uninspired interpretations of men. I believe that I am within the mark when I say that between the pages of that great book there is more ultimate truth about the overall history of America than there is in any other book and, I will go so far as to say, more than in all the libraries of the world where there isn’t a Book of Mormon.
–Of the future of America the Book of Mormon gives some wonderful views.
-Now, I like the Book of Mormon, and you will like it, too, for the courage and the strength it inspires in times of discouragement and stress.
-I tell you this book was given to us of God to read and to live by, and it will hold us as close to the Spirit of the Lord as anything I know. Won’t you please read it?
Elder Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1960, Afternoon Meeting, pp. 110-111.
-Last October conference time I was in Vienna. Last week I was in Sydney, Australia. I testify to you that the spirit is on the move in every one of the fifteen missions which I visited. One thing I can say about them all is that in every one of them I heard fervent testimony to the mighty power of the Book of Mormon in bringing souls unto Christ. In my view, the Book of Mormon is the most effective piece of missionary literature we have.
-There are many reasons why we should read the Book of Mormon. To begin with, the Lord has put us under obligation to do so. He said that he sent Moroni to reveal it (D&C 27:5)…that it contains “…the truth and the word of God—” and “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also.” (Ibid., 19:26, 20:9.)
Nephi tells us that its contents “. . . shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand, . . . and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.” (2 Nephi 25:22.)
For me there could be no more impelling reason for reading the Book of Mormon than this statement of the Lord that we shall be judged by what is written in it.
Moroni says that the very reason the book has been given to us is that we may know the “decrees of God” set forth therein and by obedience to them escape the calamities which are to follow disobedience. (Ether 2:11.)
To the early Saints, the Lord spoke rather sharply about remembering the Book of Mormon.
“Your minds in times past,” he said to them, “have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, . . .” (D&C 84:54-57.)
Prior to this he had already told them that “the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction.” (Ibid., 33:16.) On another occasion he had said, “. . . the elders priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon” (Ibid., 42:12.)
It is of course obvious that unless we read, study, and learn the principles which are in the Book of Mormon, we, the elders, priests, and teachers of “this church,” cannot comply with this direction to teach them.
But there is another reason why we should read it: By doing so we will fill and refresh our minds with a constant flow of that “water” which Jesus said would be in us “. . . a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14.) We must obtain a continuing supply of this water if we are to resist evil and retain the blessings of being born again, as we were counseled to do by President McKay.
If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with and call them back to the things of the spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by reading the Book of Mormon.
-I am persuaded, my brethren and sisters, that it is irrational to hope to escape the lusts of the world without substitutingfor them as the subjects of our thoughts the things of the spirit, and I know that the things of the spirit are taught with mighty power in the Book of Mormon.
-From almost every page of the book there will come to them a moving testimony that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God, our Redeemer and Savior. This witness alone will be a sustaining anchor in every storm. In the Book of Mormon, they will find the plainest explanation of Christ’s divine mission and atonement to be found anywhere in sacred writ.
-And so, I counsel you, my beloved brothers and sisters and friends everywhere, to make reading in the Book of Mormon a few minutes each day a lifelong practice. All of us need continuing close contact with the Spirit of the Lord. We need to take the Holy Spirit for our guide that we be not deceived. I am persuaded by my own experience and that of my loved ones, as well as by the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that one can get and keep closer to the Lord by reading the Book of Mormon than by reading any other book. Don’t be content with what someone else says about what is in it. Drink deeply from the divine fountain itself.
I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase, mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to that counsel. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.
That we will seek these blessings through reading the Book of Mormon, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
President Marion G. Romney, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, p. 66.
-I have concluded that as we observe the sesquicentennial anniversary of the organization of his Church, it will be proper for us to review a few Book of Mormon teachings. There are many reasons why we should do so.
-For me there could be no more impelling reason for reading the Book of Mormon than this statement that we who have the Book of Mormon shall be judged by what is written in it.
-To the early Saints the Lord spoke rather sharply about remembering the Book of Mormon’s teachings.
"Your minds in times past," he said to them, "have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— "Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. "And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon" (D&C 84:54–57).
-I am persuaded, my brothers and sisters, that it is irrational to hope to escape the lusts of the world without substituting for them as the subjects of our thoughts the things of the Spirit, and I know that the things of the Spirit are taught with mighty power in the Book of Mormon.
-They will have learned the folly of putting their trust in the learning of men (see 2 Ne. 9:28–30).
-As a matter of fact, there is no fundamental virtue about which they will not be taught, for in the Book of Mormon, as has already been said, is to be found "the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
-That we will seek these blessings through reading the Book of Mormon, I humbly pray and leave my blessings with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Ezra Taft Benson – 1975
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was the 13th president of the LDS Church and is best known for his support of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon.
"I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon." (Conference Report, Oct. 1988, p. 5)
His son Reed identified when his father’s interest in The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon began. It was on his mission that his Father had the opportunity to address some antagonists. He had prepared a message about the apostasy, but when he stood to address them, the Holy Spirit prompted him to speak of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon instead. (Reed Benson Interview by Allison D. Clark, cited in Noel B. Reynolds in “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century,” BYU Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 1999, p. 30)
-The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and his gospel…Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ.
-Now God expects us to use the Book of Mormon…We are to read it ourselves—carefully, prayerfully—and ponder as we read.
-We are to use the Book of Mormon as the basis for our teaching. In section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states: "And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in…the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel." (D&C 42:12.)
As we read and teach, we are to liken the Book of Mormon scriptures unto us "that it might be for our profit and learning." (1 Ne. 19:23.)
Unfortunately Benson also began to misuse The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon in support of his church:
Here, then, is a procedure to handle most objections [to his church] through the use of the Book of Mormon.
First, understand the objection.
Second, give the answer from revelation.
Third, show how the correctness of the answer really depends on whether or not we have modern revelation through modern prophets.
Fourth, explain that whether or not we have modern prophets and revelation really depends on whether the Book of Mormon is true.
Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.
The supposition that if The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon is true then the Mormon Church and prophet are true does not follow. The doctrines and teachings of the Mormon Church, viz. Doctrine and Covenants & Pearl of Great Price, are not supported by The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon.
Special Book of Mormon Witness David Whitmer said he and the other witnesses were only called to bear witness of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon and not Joseph’s later actions.
Benson misinterpreted the cause of the condemnation revelation found in D&C 84 by blaming it on six lowly missionaries rather than church leaders, including Joseph. The true background is given in History of the Church.
-The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use. It shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ and all other things are secondary.
-Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should.
–Some of the early missionaries, on returning home, were reproved by the Lord in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants because they had treated lightly the Book of Mormon. As a result, their minds had been darkened. The Lord said that this kind of treatment of the Book of Mormon brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all of the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon." (See D&C 84:54–57.) (President Ezra Taft Benson [President of the Council of the Twelve], “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May, 1975)
We need to learn the will of the Lord for us and then do it, as President Kimball emphasized. His will is made manifest through the standard works, His anointed servants, and personal revelation.
There is a book we need to study daily, both as individuals and as families, namely the Book of Mormon. I love that book. It is the book that will get a person nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book. President Romney recommended studying it half an hour each day. I commend that practice to you. I’ve always enjoyed reading the scriptures and do so on a daily basis individually and with my beloved wife. (President Ezra Taft Benson, “A Sacred Responsibility,” Ensign, May 1986)
The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of electronic media and mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way. (Ezra Taft Benson, "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon, " Ensign, November 1988, pp. 4–5)
The Book of Mormon was underutilized by most Latter-day Saints until interest in it surged during the second half of the twentieth century. (LDS Professor, Noel B. Reynolds, BYU Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 1999, p. 7)
It proved only a minor interruption in what was building into a crusade—President Benson’s advocacy of the Book of Mormon. Everywhere he went, he talked about the power of that book: at a regional conference in El Paso, to 8,000; in San Antonio, to 6,000; in Salt Lake City, to 6,000; in Laie, Hawaii, to 6,000; on the slopes of the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York, to 8,000; in Provo, to 16,000; in San Bernardino, California, to 12,000. During his first year as president, he delivered some twenty major addresses on the Book of Mormon. In a temple meeting of the General Authorities in early February 1986, President Hinckley told the Brethren that President Benson would become the Church’s greatest proponent of the Book of Mormon.
President Benson’s emphasis on the Book of Mormon was nothing new. For years he had quoted the scripture teaching that the Church was under condemnation for taking that book of scripture lightly. (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-57.) In 1979 the history and religion librarian at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library conducted a study of the scriptures that had been quoted in general conferences from April 1950 to April 1978. The research revealed that of the fifty scriptures quoted most often, only three were from the Book of Mormon. President Benson had quoted the Book of Mormon more frequently than the Bible.
In the 1975 April general conference he had delivered what some religious scholars called the finest address ever given on the Book of Mormon. Titled “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” the address was considered so powerful by the BYU Department of Religious Instruction that tens of thousands of copies have been distributed to Book of Mormon classes on campus. And it was this theme, in the main, that President Benson repeated from one regional conference to the next. Often, as he did at the conference of the Butler and Sandy East regions held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in November 1986,he made no apology for the repetition—”because the Saints need it.” Repeatedly he counseled the Saints to “make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit.”
While perhaps many Latter-day Saints didn’t realize how frequent President Benson’s admonitions on this subject had been, others did. After the funeral of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a son of Elder McConkie’s wrote President Benson to thank him for the eulogy he had delivered, adding, “From one soldier out in the field who thrills every time I hear you testify of the Book of Mormon, an honest and enduring thank you.”
Within the councils of the Church, President Benson had been a persistent advocate of making the Book of Mormon the focal point of proselyting. The Book of Mormon, he taught, was compiled by those who foresaw the latter days and who abridged centuries of records, selecting events, stories, and speeches that would be most helpful to Saints of the latter days. It would bring men to Christ; it would expose the enemies of Christ; it would testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And in a troubled world filled with uncertainty, it bore another witness of the Savior and His mission.
President Benson had been equally emphatic with members of his own family. He often wrote exhorting them to study the Book of Mormon daily in their homes. One letter to a grandson was typical: “Be sure you read the Book of Mormon each day, if you can. Grandma and I have just started reading it together again. We just finished First Nephi this morning. It is a great book for our time. The Prophets saw our day and they gave us the counsel which they felt we would need.” He and Flora set the standard by following their own counsel; in addition, each month they sent dozens of copies of the Book of Mormon, with their photograph and personal testimony, to be used in missionary work.
In a meeting of the General Authorities in March 1986, President Benson explained that he felt moved upon, in the same way President Lorenzo Snow had felt moved upon about tithing, to preach the Book of Mormon. He asked the Brethren to reread the book before April conference.
It was at that April 1986 general conference that President Benson took his Book of Mormon challenge to the entire Church. In his first address to the general membership as president of the Church, he admonished the Saints to cleanse the inner vessel by being morally clean, by conquering pride, and by reading the Book of Mormon. “Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel, beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church,” he counseled. And he proclaimed that the Book of Mormon is a key in doing so. “We can do it,” he reiterated. “I know we can.”
In his second address to the general membership, this one during the Solemn Assembly in which he was sustained the thirteenth president of the Church…Then he put in context his pleadings about the Book of Mormon: “The Lord inspired His servant Lorenzo Snow to reemphasize the principle of tithing to redeem the Church from financial bondage. . . . Now, in our day, the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon.” (Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, 1987, pp. 491-4)
-I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown and we will plead to the Lord that He will begin to lift the condemnation "the scourge and judgment.”
Saints around the world took President Benson’s admonition about the Book of Mormon to heart. Seminary and institute classes made reading the Book of Mormon a project; stake organizations emphasized it in training seminars; bishops inaugurated reading programs in their wards. And, judging from hundreds of letters he received from children and adults alike, many families began reading it regularly at home.
Everywhere he went, President Benson talked about the Book of Mormon at missionary and stake conferences, at regional conferences, in meetings with the Brethren. Imagine the good that would come, he said, if the entire church turned its attention to the Book of Mormon. His message was taken seriously. In the calendar year 1986 over 3 million copies of the Book of Mormon were sold. More copies of the English version (1,693,000) were sold that year than during the years 1982, 1983, and 1984 combined (1,467,000). Nearly 700,000 more English copies of the book were sold in 1986 than the year previous. (pp. 494-5)
-Seminaries and institutes throughout southern California launched a “We Have Met the Challenge” program, referring to President Benson’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon daily. All who met the challenge"some 5,000 young people"were invited to a special fireside with the prophet on February 8, 1987, in the Anaheim Convention Center.
In October 1986 general conference, President Benson again urged members to launch a lifelong study of the Book of Mormon. He promised, “It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that it bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too…There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book.”
The Brethren also began to reflect the prophet’s counsel in their sermons. In April 1987 general conference, one after another of the General Authorities used the Book of Mormon as their text. When Elder L. Tom Perry stood to speak he began, “President, I’m starting to receive the distinct impression that we’ve been listening to you. I, too, will take my text from the Book of Mormon.” (p. 496)
-President Benson not only preached missionary work and the Book of Mormon to others, but he led the way with his individual effort. On a flight to Honolulu, for example, he asked five flight attendants if they would care to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon. All agreed. This was a frequent practice of his. In fact, he sent dozens of copies of the Book of Mormon monthly "to people he met while traveling, to national and world leaders, to literally anyone who came to mind. When a former president of the national Farm Bureau, a nonmember, spoke at a Church fireside in Illinois about his “good friend” Ezra Taft Benson, he admitted having three copies of the Book of Mormon" each a gift from Ezra Taft Benson. (p. 498)
[The following quotes were compiled by Dallin Oaks in Another Testament of Jesus Christ, CES Fireside, June 06, 1993].
-What is the major purpose of the Book of Mormon? To bring men to Christ and to be reconciled to him. [“A New Witness for Christ,” Ensign, November 1984, p. 6]
-The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. . . . It tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. It testifies of His divinity and of the necessity for a Redeemer and the need of our putting trust in Him. [“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, January 1988, p. 3]
–The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use. . . . It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ, and all other things are secondary. The golden question of the Book of Mormon is, “Do you want to learn more of Christ?” [Ensign, January 1988, p. 4]
-No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon. [“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, p. 85]
-Do we understand and are we effective in teaching and preaching the Atonement? What personal meaning does the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary have for each of us? . . .
-Now, what should be the source for teaching the great plan of the Eternal God? The scriptures, of course—particularly the Book of Mormon. [Ensign, May 1987, p. 85]
-Let us read the Book of Mormon and be convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Let us continually reread the Book of Mormon so that we might more fully come to Christ, be committed to Him, centered in Him, and consumed in Him. [Ensign, November 1987, p. 85]
Grant Underwood – 1983
Grant Underwood, “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology,” Dialogue, vol. 17, no. 3, Autumn 1984, pp. 35-74.
GRANT UNDERWOOD is director of the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to California State University, Los Angeles. This paper was originally delivered at the 1983 annual meeting of the Mormon History Association in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1973, Gordon Irving published an article detailing the results of his research into early Mormon use of the Bible (1832-38), but his well-regarded study has yet to be either extended in time or replicated for the other Mormon scriptures. Such research will ultimately issue in full-scale exegetical histories of each of the four volumes in the LDS canon, but it will doubtless require the work of many individuals over many years. As one step in that direction, this article explores Book of Mormon usage in the pre-Utah period (1830-46), and seeks answers to the following questions: Which passages from the Book of Mormon were cited and with what frequency? How were they understood? What does their usage reveal about the content and nature of early LDS theology?
In order to answer these questions with a degree of comprehensiveness, I searched all major Church periodicals published before 1846–The Evening and the Morning Star (1832-34), Messenger and Advocate (1834-37), Elders’ Journal (1837-38), Times and Seasons (1839-46), and Millennial Star (1840-46)–for Book of Mormon citations and commentary. In addition, the study included some seventy Mormon “books”–what would today be called tracts or pamphlets. These sources, hereafter referred to collectively as “the early literature,” plus a handful of journals and other unpublished items checked for comparative purposes, yielded a total of 243 citations.
-All the important elements of Joseph Smith’s mission are present- -the gathering of Israel, the conversion of the Indians, and the connection with the institutional church.
[Editorial: The institutional church was not derived from The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon.]
*As we step back to take a larger look at Book of Mormon usage in early years, we can make a number of general observations. First, compared to the Bible, the Book of Mormon was hardly cited at all. Though this present study examines a greater variety of sources over a longer period of time, Gordon Irving’s earlier analysis of Bible usage during the years 1832-38 makes a precise quantitative comparison possible for at least a six-year span of time. (See Table 5.) To a people who have come to prize the Book of Mormon as “the keystone” of their religion, it may come as a surprise to learn that in the early literature the Bible was cited nearly twenty times more frequently than the Book of Mormon. Such a ratio is corroborated in the unpublished sources as well.
*During his proselyting peregrinations at this period of time, Orson Pratt kept a fairly detailed record of the scriptures used in his sermons. Bible passages were listed ten times more frequently than Book of Mormon ones.49
*Moreover, in the 173 Nauvoo discourses of the prophet Joseph Smith for which contemporary records exist, only two Book of Mormon passages have been cited while dozens of biblical passages were.50
–sharp drop in citations between 1832 and 1834
–Because the number of citations per year is relatively small
–during the pre-Utah period, Book of Mormon usage was random, infrequent, and appears to have been largely a matter of personal preference.
-Were all books of equal perceived value, one would expect Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman, for example, which together constitute approximately half the Book of Mormon, to account for 50 percent of the citations in the early literature. In actuality, they account for only 15 percent. Conversely, 3 Nephi and Ether represent just over 15 percent of the total volume of the book and yet account for nearly 45 percent of the citations. Obviously, this tells us something about the Saints’ perceptions of the relative utility of the various books.
-Passages from just over a third of all Book of Mormon chapters were cited
With the descriptive and quantitative foundation now laid, we may consider several of the larger questions raised by this study. How, for example, do we satisfactorily account for the comparatively few Book of Mormon citations in the early literature?
A plausible answer to the question of why the Book of Mormon was cited so infrequently when compared with the Bible would seem to be that such a move was calculated to avoid Protestant antipathy to the “new scripture.” If the Saints built their case from the Bible, the gentiles would have no ready excuse for rejecting their testimony. Yet no evidence exists for either a formal church directive or even an informal agreement not to use the Book of Mormon in the public ministry. On the contrary, an early revelation positively instructed the elders to “teach the principles of my gospel which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon,” and Orson Pratt, at least, seemed to feel no qualms about publicly quoting from the book when it seemed pertinent to his purposes (see D&C 42:12). Though a boldness to preach revealed truth when desired is more noticeable in the early years than any other particular concern that the source might be dismissed out-of-hand, still the Bible was overwhelmingly invoked. Moreover, the “regard-for-the-gentiles” argument does little to account for the equal lack of Book of Mormon citation within the household of faith.
A fully satisfying answer looks more toward the Saints’ love of the Bible than to an intentional avoidance of the Book of Mormon.
[Editorial: Not. They followed their leaders. If Joseph did not use, why should others?]
-it is small wonder that an early revelation would have to chide the Saints for having “treated lightly the things you have received” and charge them to “remember” the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:54-57).
Nor did the early Saints have any opportunity for formal instruction or catechization in the Book of Mormon. Sunday School and seminary classes did not exist, and if the “Lectures on Faith” prepared for the “school of the Prophets” are any indicator, the Bible monopolized what little organized study they did have. All factors considered, therefore, it seems almost inevitable that it would have taken a generation or more for the Book of Mormon to fully permeate the doctrinal consciousness of the Latter-day Saints.
[Editorial: “Fully permiate”? There was not even the attempt use it by Joseph.]
When W. W. Phelps reflected upon the early “neglect” of the book, he raised a revealing question. “Has this been done,” he asked, “for the sake of hunting mysteries in the prophecies?”
What is amply confirmed from our study, then, is the centrality of millenarianism…broad conceptual sweep of millenarianism…’millennialism is a natural, rational, and sometimes normative force that can exert formative influence over all strata of society’..theological millennialism derived from the Book of Mormon.
[Editorial: That’s a strange ending for a treatise entitled: “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology,” as if to say, The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon was engulfed by “millenarianism” and thereby its negelct justified.]
-In a sense, the Christians Christianized the Old Testament, the early Mormons Mormonized the Bible, and today’s Latter-day Saints modernize the restoration scriptures.
[Editorial: I would not call neglecting The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon “modernizing the restoration scriptures.”]
Grant Underwood, “The Earliest Reference Guides to the Book of Mormon: Windows into the Past,” Journal of Mormon History, 1985, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 69-89.
Grant Underwood is director of the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to California State University, Los Angeles. An earlier version of this paper was given at the twentieth annual meeting of the Mormon History Association, May 2-5, 1985.
“For over a century and a half, students of Mormonism, be they scholar or scribbler, defender or detractor, have shared a simple assumption: the Book of Mormon can be used as evidence of early Mormon belief. While this is true in many respects, it fails to properly account for that crucial mediating link between the written text and the actual life and teaching of the Church – interpretation. Just as the way the Declaration of Independence was understood in the eighteenth century is, as Gary Willas has so effectively shown, distinct from the Declaration of Independence, as modern Americans have used it, so we cannot merely assume that what a modern reader understands by a given passage in the Book of Mormon is what a Saint in the 1830s would have understood by that same passage. ” (p. 69)
[Editorial: “Interpretation” was not the cause for the disconnect between the “written text” of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon and “actual life.” The cause was stated in D&C 84:54-58; it was neglect. Underwood’s lame attempt to explain the disconnect through varying interpretations like “the Declaration of Independence” fails. It’s not that their interpretations of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon varied, it’s that it was ignored. ]
“In the end, for the years studied – 1830-1846 – over a thousand Book of Mormon citations have been discovered. Those drawn from pamphlet and periodical literature have been analyzed and discussed elsewhere.” (fn. Underwood, “Book of Mormon Useage in Early LDS Theology,” Dialogue, vol. 17, no. Autumn 1984, pp. 35-74) The remaining 75 percent come from three small documents that we shall call ‘reference guides’ and that serve as the basis for this article.
[Editorial: The current title by Underwood really only covers from 1835 on, which is a huge distance from when The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon came forth. The Saints were already under condemnation by 1832 for ignoring that most holy record]
Little is known about the origin of References to the Book of Mormon, referred to hereafter as simply References, but bibliographers conclude that the four-page item of unknown authorship was probably printed in Kirtland in 1835. In 1841, as part of the first European edition of the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young and Willard Richards included a six page ‘index’ they had prepared. The following year  in Philadelphia, Robert P. Crawford, about whom virtually nothing is known, published a document entitled an Index or Reference, to the Second and Third Editions of the Book of Mormon.” (p. 70)
“One of the most oft-quoted characterizations of the Book of Mormon is Alexander Campbell’s charge that it ‘decides all the great controversies’ of the day. To be precise, he felt that Joseph Smith had authored it specifically with that objective in mind. Our concern, however, is not with questions of authorship but with matters of perception. Whether early Mormon readers actually understood it to be deciding all the great theological controversies seems to be the more important question, since intents count for little in the face of actual use. On the whole, neither in the reference guides nor in the early literature do we find that the Saints, Joseph Smith included, appear to have been concerned with using the Book of Mormon in this manner. Less than one in ten references can be so construed. With this important perspective in mind, we can proceed to examine some of the few but revealing exceptions that do comment on contemporary theology or culture.” (pp. 75-76)
[Editorial: Underwood identified the core misdirection without realizing it – Thomas & Alexander Campbell! Thomas Campbell, the father of Alexander, was a formally trained Presbyterian minister. He was led by God to leave that fold and “restore” the Bible to a place of pre-eminence. This was called theRestoration Movement, a term stolen (or borrowed) by Rigdon and Joseph Smith. Had Joseph met Thomas Campbell before Sidney Rigdon, they would have taken The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon direction it was meant and THEN Joseph would have used it and spoken of it like Thomas Campbell described!!]
“By the second quarter of the nineteenth century, a majority of Americans found the practice [pedobaptism, i.e. infant baptism], with its implicit stress of inherited status, out of tune with the temper of the times and decided that it was indeed ‘solemn mockery before God.'” The Latter-day Saints agreed, and all three reference guides found in Moroni 8 confirmation of that decision. That they did not make multiple citations, highlighting particular ideas or phrases as they had for other chapters, suggests perhaps that the issue did not concern them as much as other matters. Thus, in this instance, they did not use the Book of Mormon as much to settle as to confirm the majority decision on an issue already settled.” (p. 81)
[Editorial: There is little difference between mandating that all children be baptized when infants or age eight. D&C 68:27 which mandates baptism for all eight year olds – for sin, superseded The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon and that is why they, “in this instance” “did not use the Book of Mormon.”]
“Historian Nathan Hatch finds ‘considerable evidence that a common cultural revolution’ took place in the 1830s to ‘wage a joint battle against what was perceived as King-craft, Priest-craft, Lawyer-craft, and Doctor-craft.’ [fn. Hatch, “Elias Smith,” p. 274.] Did the Saints join in this ‘battle?’ It seems so. Reference guids cite passages cite passages in which kings are forbidden (Mosiah 23), or the promise that there would be ‘no kings upon the land’ (2 Nephi 10). They note the condemnation of priestcraft in 2 Nephi 26 and the interrogation of Amulek by harassing lawyers in Alma 10.” (p. 81)
[Editorial: Actually, The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon forbids kings on ancient Book of Mormon lands and yet Joseph had himself anointed king. Secondly, the New Covenant part of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon has no priesthood, yet Joseph resurrected the Old Testament priesthood framework which developed into a form of priestcraft.]
“Major ‘Antimasonic passages’ such as those found in Alma 37, Helaman 6, and Ether are entirely overlooked. Book of Mormon useage, therefore, would seem to support Bushman’s conclusion that in the early years ‘Masonry was scarcely mentioned among the Mormons’ and that ‘people who knew anti-Masonry and the Book of Mormon in the 1830s made less of the connection than critics today.’ [fn. Bushman, Joseph Smith, p. 131] ” (p. 81)
[Editorial: Another example of how the word of God, i.e. The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon was ignored! It is firmly against secret oaths and yet Joseph was initiating.]
-Slavery was completely ignored. (p. 83)
“By far the most comprehensive set of clues as to how the Saints in Joseph Smith’s day might have understood the Book of Mormon. (p. 88-89)
“In conclusion, let us step away from the window through which we have been peering and briefly review what we have seen.” (p. 89)
[Editorial: It’s not possible for a Mormon to completely be objective about their “reconstructions” of Mormon use of The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon.]
“For only by paying as close attention as possible to how the early Saints expressed their understandings of Mormon scripture can our modern reconstructions of the thought world of early Mormonism carry the ring of historical authenticity.” (p. 89)
Richard G. Scott – 1988
Elder Richard G. Scott, Apostle, “True Friends That Lift,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, pp. 76-77.
[Editorial: One of the most profound talks given on The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon by a Mormon. The circumstance was, Scott had just been sustained as an apostle, Oct. 1. His humility was like Joseph’s was after he lost the first 116 pages. ]
I expressed a feeling to plead in behalf of former prophets who had prepared and protected the sacred records of the Book of Mormon. I sensed that they were saddened as they see us walk from place to place with an unopened Book of Mormon under our arm or see it kept in homes where it gathers dust and is not read, pondered, nor its contents applied.
The Book of Mormon was prepared by divine assignment for the blessing and enlightenment of all those who receive it.
As I spoke, I realized in my heart that all the efforts that I had expended for six years in trying to help those beloved leaders overcome the effects of false traditions and learn to apply the teachings of the Lord would have been better directed had I strongly encouraged them to ponder and apply the teachings of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon contains messages that were divinely placed there to show how to correct the influence of false tradition and how to receive a fulness of life. It teaches how to resolve the problems and challenges that we face today that were foreseen by the Lord. In that book he has provided the way to correct the serious errors of life, but this guidance is of no value if it remains locked in a closed book.
I witnessed that it is not sufficient that we should treasure the Book of Mormon, nor that we testify that it is of God. We must know its truths, incorporate them into our lives, and share them with others. I felt an overwhelming love for the people and an urgent desire that all would comprehend the value of the Book of Mormon.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, invited me to join him in a private room in the temple. He asked me to be seated, drew his chair close to mine, looked penetratingly into my eyes, and with an earnestness that I will never forget, witnessed of his profound conviction that every member of the Church must learn to use the Book of Mormon as the Lord intended.
As he spoke I knew that the Lord had inspired him to have those feelings. I had a witness borne to my heart that he was speaking the will of the Lord.
-I offer you the Book of Mormon, a precious friend provided by a loving Savior. Within its pages is truth that brings comfort, guidance, peace, and yes, the companionship of other true friends. Between its covers you will find the friendship and worthy example of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Benjamin, Alma, Ammon, Helaman, Mormon, Moroni, and so many others. They will rekindle courage and mark the path to faith and obedience. They will help you overcome the bitterness and anguish of transgression.
-If your life is in disarray and you feel uncomfortable and unworthy to pray because you are not clean, don’t worry. He already knows about all of that. He is waiting for you to kneel in humility and take the first few steps. Pray for strength. Pray for others to be led to support you and guide you and lift you. Pray that the love of the Savior will pour into your heart. Pray that the miracle of the Atonement will bring forgiveness because you are willing to change. I know that those prayers will be answered, for God loves you. His Son gave his life for you. I know they will help you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Dallin H. Oaks – 1993
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” Brigham Young University 1992-93 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, BYU, 1993, pp. 111-122.
[Elder Oaks has been an apostle since 1984.]
This evening I will speak about a subject of immense importance. Because of my earlier responsibilities, I have given many talks from this pulpit at BYU. Yet I have no hesitancy in saying that this message is the most important I have ever given here.
-From that vantage point I will speak about what all of us understand to be his central message as President of the Church. I refer to why we are encouraged to study and restudy the Book of Mormon.
-President Benson’s administration as President of the Church has been punctuated by his repeated and fervent pleas for all of us to study the Book of Mormon on a daily basis for the rest of our lives.
-President Benson has often referred to the condemnation that section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants describes as being imposed on the Saints for neglect of the Book of Mormon. This revelation was given to the Church in September 1832, just two and one-half years after the Church was organized.
-Along with other General Authorities, I have a clear recollection of the General Authority temple meeting on March 5, 1987. For a year President Benson had been stressing the reading of the Book of Mormon. Repeatedly he had quoted these verses from the Doctrine and Covenants, including the Lord’s statement that the Saints’ conduct had “brought the whole church under condemnation” (D&C 84:55).
In that temple meeting, President Benson reread those statements and declared, “This condemnation has not been lifted, nor will it be until we repent” (remarks by President Ezra Taft Benson, General Authority Temple Meeting, Thursday, 5 March 1987). He also repeated his declaration of a year earlier that, in our day, the Lord has inspired his servant to reemphasize the Book of Mormon to get the Church out from under condemnation (see Ensign, May 1986, p. 78).
Along with others, I felt the impact of this declaration of condemnation.
-To understand why President Benson has exhorted us to reemphasize the Book of Mormon and why this is necessary to remove us from condemnation, we need to remember the major theme of that book.
In his many messages about the Book of Mormon, President Benson has taught us that the major significance of the Book of Mormon is its witness of Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father, who redeems and saves us from death and sin. Of related and equal importance is its explanation of our Savior’s atonement, which is the most fundamental doctrine of our faith.
-In his conference address in October 1981, President Benson emphasized that the “major purpose” of the record that became the Book of Mormon “is to convince a later generation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (“Joseph Smith: Prophet to Our Generation,” Ensign, November 1981, p. 61). Two years after he became President of the Church, he repeated that characterization in a marvelous talk titled “Come unto Christ.” There he declared that “the major mission of the Book of Mormon. . . is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ'” ( Ensign, November 1987, p. 83).
In the General Authority meeting I mentioned earlier, President Benson distributed some materials to assist us in carrying his Book of Mormon message throughout the world. Included in that distribution were copies of the talk he gave in the 1975 April conference, titled “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God.” I underlined these words from that important talk:
Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. . . . Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains. [“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God ,” Ensign, May 1975, p. 65]
-President Benson has frequently reminded us of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” ( HC 4:461). In a landmark address during the first year of his service as President of the Church, President Benson explained these two ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.
The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. . . . Its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. . .
The Book of Mormon is also the keystone of the doctrine of the Resurrection. [“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, November 1986, pp. 5–6]
Note that both of these ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion focus on our relationship to Christ—our witness of him and our testimony of his atonement and resurrection.
-In addition, President Benson has often reminded us of the Lord’s declarations through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth” ( HC 4:461) and that it “contains . . . the fulnessof the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9). This does not mean that the Book of Mormon contains a full explanation of every principle of the gospel. What it means, President Benson has explained, is that “in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation” ( Ensign, November 1986, p. 6). Most significantly, he notes, “It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement” ( Ensign, November 1986, p. 5).
[Editorial: False, it either contains the “full” or complete gospel or it does not. Jesus was emphatic when he said: “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil.” (3 Ne. 11:40)]
-That is the key: to use the Book of Mormon to become “built on the rock of Christ”! This book is a testament of Jesus Christ. It explains the significance of his atonement and the content of our covenant relationship with him.
-The Book of Mormon is Christ-centered. That is its essential feature, and that is the reason we are commanded to study it continually. We must use the Book of Mormon to bring us to Christ. President Benson has tried to drum that message into our consciousness and into our conduct during his entire tenure as President of the Church.
[The additional requirements put forth by the Doctrine and Covenants and found in the temple speak louder than Elder Oaks words.]
-Thus, the new covenant, the “new and everlasting covenant” the early Saints had received and treated lightly by the time the quoted revelation was given, included all of the commandments and ordinances of the gospel, which are explained most clearly (but not exclusively) in the Book of Mormon.
-In short, in order to escape condemnation, we must come unto Christ and enter into the gospel covenant, not only “to say” but also “to do according to that which [the Lord has] written.”
[Which means, The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon contains all the “to do” requirements. Their error was doing “too much” not “not enough.”]
Robert L. Millet 1994
Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word: Saving Doctrines from the Book of Mormon, 1994, p. 303.
In a broader sense, I believe the condemnation that rests upon the Latter-day Saints is a loss of spiritual power, a loss of blessings, a loss of perspective about eternal possibilities. Perhaps we have not enjoyed the revelations, the divine direction, the sweet promptings of the Spirit, that might have been ours. We have not been the recipients of the fruit of the Spirit–‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’ (Galatians 5:22-23)–as we could have been. Surely we have not enjoyed the understanding, the light and truth, the lens of pure intelligence, that is so readily accessible. In too many cases our minds and hearts have not been shaped and prepared by the Book of Mormon, by its lessons and logic, testimony and transforming power, and thus too often the judgment and discernment so essential to perceiving the false doctrines of the world, and even the irrelevant, have not been as strong as they might have been. Because we have not immersed and washed ourselves in those living waters that flow from the Book of Mormon, we have not enjoyed faith like the ancients, that faith which strengthens resolve and provides courage and peace in a time of unrest. So much of the stress and fear and apprehension and exhaustion that now exist in society is so very unnecessary; ours could be the right to that lifting and liberating Spirit that produces hope and peace and rest. Though the light of the fulness of the everlasting gospel has begun to break forth into a world of darkness (see D&C 45:28), yet too often we walk in darkness at noonday, or at least we traverse the path of life in twilight when we might bask in the bright light of the Son.
Noel B. Reynolds – 1999
A great deal of the information on this page was derived from the efforts of Noel B. Reynolds, a true Semi-Reformed Mormon:
Noel B. Reynolds, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century,” BYU Studies-pdf, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1999.
-The Book of Mormon was underutilized by most Latter-day Saints until interest in it surged during the second half of the twentieth century.
-As the twentieth century draws to a close, the Book of Mormon clearly holds center stage in Latter-day Saint scriptural study and appreciation. Congregations, the Church Educational System, individuals, and families are focusing on the Book of Mormon with unprecedented enthusiasm, largely because of the leadership of President Ezra Taft Benson. In his landmark conference addresses in 1986, President Benson repeatedly cited the Doctrine and Covenants and reiterated his long-standing belief that the Church was under condemnation for taking the Book of Mormon too lightly. He also announced that "the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon." Latter-day Saints responded with an enormous and passionate effort to fully utilize the Nephite record.
Such fervor did not always exist. Early LDS converts were students of the Bible, and with no traditions concerning the Book of Mormon, they did not readily incorporate the new scripture into their devotions. The early Saints valued the Book of Mormon as evidence of the Restoration, but by the Nauvoo period, focus on the book had already decreased. As recently as the mid-1930s, BYU and the LDS Institutes of Religion only occasionally featured the Book of Mormon in their curricula.” (p. 7)
-Although the Book of Mormon was used by early missionaries as a conversion tool, writings in the early years of the church contain remarkably few references to the Book of Mormon. (p. 8)
-From 1832-38…the ratio of Bible references to Book of Mormon references averaged nineteen to one. In some publications…the ratio was as high as forty to one. (p. 8)
-Some of the individuals who have made the most substantial statements on the Book of Mormon are not necessarily the same ones who have cited the Book of Mormon most. (p. 11)
-Some of the most vocal Book of Mormon promoters also tended to cite other scriptures at higher rates. (p. 11)
–John A. Widtsoe wrote an important book on Book of Mormon evidences [fn. John A. Widtsoe and Franklin S. Harris Jr., Seven Claims of the Book of Mormon: A Collection of Evidences, Zion’s Printing and Publishing, 1935.] yet never cited the Book of Mormon in conference talks after 1942. (p. 11)
-Robert J. Matthew’s observation that the Book of Mormon was not widely used in the mission field: ‘It isn’t such a matter of opposition as it was just neglect…We didn’t know we were neglecting it…We were trying to impress the world, we’d go to them with the Bible…We thought that’s how it had to be.’ [fn. Robert J. Matthews, interview by Allison D. Clark, April 22, 1996, p. 2.] (p. 12)
-Hugh Nibley describes being present with the Presiding Brethren in the Salt Lake Temple in the late 1960s when it was revealed during prayer that the Book of Mormon had not been emphasized adequately as a missionary tool. [fn. Hugh Nibley, interview by Allison D. Clark, June 1996, p. 13] (p. 13)
-Given the overwhelmingly supportive attitude that Book of Mormon instruction enjoys at BYU today, both in Religous Education and among the faculty generally, it may be hard to understand or appreciate the intellectual milieu of cultural Mormonism that prevailed in scholarly Mormon circles during the first half of this century. Our interviews with people who were students or faculty members during those years reveal a depth of skepticism and antipathy toward the Book of Mormon, even among the very individuals responsible for teaching it, that one rarely encounters among Latter-day Saints in the 1990s. The holder of such views today would likely be characterized as apostate or dissedent. (p. 20)
–The first fully developed Book of Mormon class was offered in 1937 by Amos Merrill. Introduction of this course faced considerable resistance from some department administrators, remembers Hugh Nibley, and key faculty members wondered how the Book of Mormon could be taught for a whole quarter.
-Chauncey C. Riddle remembers, ‘When I was a student [in the 1940s], the Book of Mormon was scoffed at, sneered at, by a great many of my professors on campus.’ David Yarn, also a student in the 1940s, reports that “in a lot of wards it was hardly realized that we had a Book of Mormon…I think the general membership was woefully ignorant on the Book of Mormon. (p. 25)
-‘Not long ago you would find stake presidents who had never read the Book of Mormon.’ (p. 25)
–O. C. Tanner laid it out about the Book of Mormon, ‘We have to get rid of it, it’s driving the best minds out of the Church.You can’t see it, but with my training, I can know it.’ He’d say to me, ‘Now Joseph Smith was a deceiver, but he was a sly deceiver. The Book of Mormon is not true.’…they [‘Swearing Elders”] had a real active hartred of the Book of Mormon up there even though they were members of the Church. (p. 26)
–1961, the Book of Mormon became the required religion course for all freshmen. (p. 26)
-Glenn Pearson emphasized his view that the Book of Mormon text provided a built-in control on teachers who might have liberal theological inclinations. (p. 27)
Call Number: MSS 2164
Title: Noel B. Reynolds Research on Book of Mormon Use, 1966-1998
Creator: Reynolds, Noel B.
Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections
Extent: 1 box (.5 linear feet)
Biographical History Abstract: Associate Academic Vice-President at Brigham Young University.
Scope Abstract: Research and draft transcripts of oral history interviews, compiled by Allison D. Clark, Reynolds’s research assistant. The material focuses on the growing use of the Book of Mormon in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially in general conference addresses and church manuals. Includes information on the Book of Mormon becoming a required class for Brigham Young University students. Also includes publication data on books about the Book of Mormon. Interviewees include Richard L. Anderson, Glenn L. Pearson, Reid Bankhead, Robert J. Matthews, Richard O. Cowan, Hugh W. Nibley, Chauncey C. Riddle, David Yarn, Harvard Heath, Louis C. Midgley, Reed Benson, and Ellis Rasmussen. Also includes Truman G. Madsen’s responses to interview questions.
Papers, 1966-1998 Folder Item Contents
1 1 Photocopy of Noel B. Reynolds, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century,”Brigham Young University Studies38, 2: 6-47, 1999
2 1 Allison D. Clark, Data and bibliography of Sunday School manuals. 32 p., n. d.
2 2 "Popular Sunday School Manuals." 2 p., n. d.
3 1 Allison D. Clark, "Analysis of Sunday School Manuals." 16 p., n. d.
4 1 Melchizedek Priesthood manuals, 6 p., 1909-1997
4 2 Relief Society manuals, 3 p., 1971-1997
5 1 Allison D. Clark, "FARMS Preliminary Report on the Development of Missionary Plans." 16 p., n. d.
6 1 Statistical information and graphs on the annual publication of books on the Book of Mormon. 26 p., n. d.
Material abstracted fromA Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography, compiled by Donald W. Parry, Jeanette W. Miller, and Sandra A. Thorne (Provo, UT: Research Press, 1996).
7 1 Allison D. Clark, "Analysis of General Conference Talks, 1950-1995." 5 p., 1950-1995
7 2 Various studies abstracting information on the use of the Book of Mormon in LDS General Conference addresses, 1903-1990. 55 p., 1903-1990
Folder 8 contains material from Glenn L. Pearson, focusing on efforts to get the religion course on the Book of Mormon into the freshman curriculum at BYU.
8 1 Pearson’s cover letter, 1996 Apr. 12. 5 p. Includes one page of afterthoughts dated 15 April 1996. 1 p. 1996
8 2 "List of Reasons Why the Book of Mormon should be the Basic Theology Course of the College Level Religious Education Offering of the Church Education System," 6 p. ca. 1960
8 3 Memoranda from BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson regarding Pearson’s proposal; also Pearson’s memos/letters to Wilkinson, 18 p., 12 July 1960-17 May 1961
8 4 Excerpts from minutes of College of Religious Instruction faculty meetings, 16 p. 27 October 1960, 4 November 1960, 5 December 1960, 16 May 1961
8 5 Letter and memoranda from College of Religious Instruction to "President Ernest L. Wilkinson and the Board of Trustees, BYU." Cover sheet initialed by Glenn L. Pearson reads, "This is our Opus as the College. This is what ended up on the laps of the Board of Trustees. Harold B. Lee and Marion G. Romney were assigned the task of reading it and coming back with a recommendation," 28 November 1960
Folders 9-21 contain interviews recorded by Allison D. Clark (except for Truman G. Madsen; see note).
9 1 Richard L. Anderson, 13 p., 2 April 1996
10 1 Glenn L. Pearson, 21 p., 15 April 1996
11 1 Reid Bankhead, 8 p., 18 April 1996
12 1 Truman G. Madsen, 10 p. Clark did not record an interview with Madsen, but the latter provided written responses to her questions, 12 March 1996
13 1 Robert J. Matthews, 11 p., 22 April 1996
14 1 Richard O. Cowan, 12 p., 8 April 1996
15 1 Hugh W. Nibley, 20 p., June 1996
16 1 Chauncey C. Riddle, 8 p., 26 February 1996
17 1 David Yarn, 19 p., 21 February 1996
18 1 Harvard Heath, 17 p., 6 May 1996
19 1 Louis C. Midgley, 33 p., 5 March 1996
20 1 Reed Benson, 7 p., 4 April 1996
21 1 Ellis Rasmussen, 16 p., 27 February 1996
22 1 Excerpts from oral history interview of Dr. Francis W. Kirkham, recorded by Hollis Scott, 3 p. 4 November 1966
LDS – 2012
Though slow on the uptake, the Mormon Church has semi-reformed itself and grown to respect The Most Holy & Sacred Book of Mormon. They have flooded the earth with The Book and required its leaders, faculty, members, etc. to obtain testimonies of it. Thus, the LDS Church has become Semi-Reformed, while its sister church, the Community of Christ has not.
The ways in which the LDS Church has brought it out of obscurity include:
- Missionary Work
-All of these resources make it easier to study and use the Book of Mormon. (Noel B. Reynolds, “The Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century,” BYU Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, 1999, p. 33)
-Today, LDS scholars and laymen generally strive to understand the Book of Mormon as an ancient document and to give diligent heed to Christ’s gospel that it contains. (p. 40)
Of couse the next step is to ditch the Doctrine & Covenants or in the least, those revelations that are an offense to the pure gospel found in The Book.