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The Book of Mormon Vindicated

By Elder I. M. Smith

Chapter 1—The Mission of the Book of Mormon

Elder I. M. Smith
Elder I. M. Smith
Elder I. M. Smith
Elder I. M. Smith

 

In the investigation of that which purports to come from God, it is not safe, as a rule, to make the opinions of men the standard by which to determine its truth or falsity. The Savior has said:

that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15) 1

Then, on the other hand, the Apostle Paul gives us to understand that those things which are "base" and "despised" in the eyes of the world, are the very things which God uses to do His work. After telling us it is "the weak" and "the foolish" things of this world which God chooses to confound "the mighty" and "the wise," he says:

And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are mighty; that no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:28–29)

The Prophet Isaiah also represents the Lord as saying:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)

Now as God abhors the things which men look upon as being grand and noble, and chooses and honors the things which men look upon as being base and despicable; and as God's ways and thoughts are so far above the ways and thoughts of men, we ought to be able to see the folly of judging the work of God by human standards. But when men persist in judging the things of God by human standards, and also persist in condemning without hearing the evidence, it is something worse than folly. The wise man has well said:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Proverbs 18:13)

And Nicodemus, when the priests and Pharisees were so anxious to condemn the Savior, rebuked their injustice by saying:

Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? (John 7:51)

We can all see the force of this rebuke, and also the injustice of the course pursued by the priests and Pharisees. But while it is easy for men to see the folly and injustice of others, it is sometimes difficult for them to properly sense it when it exists in themselves, although it may be constantly showing itself both in their words and in their actions.

A great deal of folly and injustice has been indulged in by the would-be-wise in regard to the book of which I am now writing—the Book of Mormon—and through this folly and injustice, those who believe the book to be true have been misrepresented, slandered, vilified, and greatly misunderstood by the people.

When the Book Came Forth and What It Claims to Be

The Book of Mormon was first published in 1830, and has been, no doubt, the least understood by the people and the most glaringly misrepresented by its enemies, of any book in the English language. This is easily accounted for when we consider the nature and object of the book in connection with the perversity of human nature as recorded in all the history of the past. The book purports to be an inspired record, and to have been brought forth and translated by direct inspiration of God. Not only does it claim Divine inspiration, but its grand object, the main cause of its being sprung upon the world at this time, is to establish a truth; a truth of such great importance to the human family (and so destructive to the Devil's work upon the earth) as to make its promulgators and defenders the special objects of vile slander, intolerant persecution, and unrelenting hatred in all ages of the world.

What the Book of Mormon Is

Before telling you what particular truth I have reference to, I shall tell you in as few words as possible what the Book of Mormon is. The main body of work is a history of a colony of Israelites who came out from Jerusalem about six hundred years before the coming of Christ. Their leader's name was Lehi, a descendant of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. After leaving Jerusalem, the colony divided. Those who were wicked and rebellious followed Laman, the oldest son of Lehi; and the righteous followed Nephi, one of his younger sons; hence they were called Lamanites and Nephites. The Lamanites became idolatrous, while the Nephites worshiped the God of Israel. The Book of Mormon gives the history of this people, their wars and their contentions, their righteousness and their wickedness, their prosperity and their adversity, with the teaching of their prophets and leaders, down to four hundred years after the coming of Christ, making a consecutive history of them for one thousand years. It tells us that Christ came to this continent after His resurrection, showed Himself to the people, preached the Gospel to them, and organized a Church among them; that the Church He organized here, the Gospel He preached here, the ordinances He taught and practiced here, were the same as the Church He organized, the Gospel He preached, and the ordinances He taught and practiced on the Eastern continent, at Jerusalem.

In addition to the history of this Israelite colony, the book gives an account of another people who came from the Tower of Babel at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and scattered them abroad "upon all the face of the earth." This people were led by Jared and his brother, and were called Jaredites. They came to this continent under the direction of the Lord, rose to be a powerful people, were wonderfully blessed, both spiritually and temporally, turned from the Lord in their prosperity, and when fully ripened in iniquity, were destroyed from off the land just before the landing of the Israelite colony. The Book of Mormon does not pretend to give those records in full. The Israelite or Nephite record was abridged by Mormon, one of the Nephite prophets. To this is added a brief synopsis of the Jaredite record by Moroni, the son of Mormon. The bulk of the work, however, was written by Mormon, which accounts for its being called "The Book of Mormon."

Some four hundred years after the coming of Christ, Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophets, being directed of the Lord, took those records and hid them in the earth, having been promised of the Lord that they should be brought forth in the last days and translated by the gift and power of God. This promise has been fulfilled, we believe, in the present century. Many have rejected the work without examining it, simply because of its marvelous nature—because of the peculiar strangeness which attaches to it. Such people should remember that "truth is stranger than fiction," and that the works of God are generally "counted as a strange thing" by the human family.

The Lord Used Joseph Smith to Bring Forth the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon was brought forth, translated, and published to the world by Joseph Smith, Jr. That he was divinely inspired for the accomplishment of this work will surely appear to all who will lay aside their prejudice and, in the light of God's Word and the signs of the times, make a critical examination of his claims and the work he did. From the history of Mr. Smith we learn that he was born December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont; that in 1820 he lived with his father's family in Manchester, New York; that during this year he attended a religious revival and became very much interested in his soul's salvation; and that the question of questions, which then and there confronted him, was "Which of all the churches is right?" He was a boy, without education and only in his fifteenth year, but he clearly saw (what any boy of even ten years ought to be able to see) that it was impossible for all the churches, differing as they do in organization, in doctrine, in teaching, and in practice, to be right. He thought some one of them was right, but he was unable to decide which one it was. In his perplexity he was told to read the Bible. He did so, and among other things he found this:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

Was it wrong for him to read this? You say, "No." Was it wrong for him to believe it? You say, "No." Well, if he reads it and believes it, would it be wrong for him to obey it? Again you say, "No." So say I, so says every Bible believer—and so he thought. He was seeking the Kingdom of God, and was perplexed and in doubt as to which of the many ways presented for his consideration was the straight and narrow way; he really lacked wisdom. He read this scripture and believed it. You say he did right. He found that those who lack wisdom are commanded to ask of God, and having read and believed, he felt that he should obey. He tells us that after he decided to ask God he went to the woods, and kneeling down, poured out to God the fervent prayer of his soul, asking the Lord to show unto him which of all the churches was right. All agree that in this there is nothing wrong, nothing unscriptural. But there is a promise, in connection with this command, to those who ask for wisdom; and that promise is, "and it shall be given him."

Now if this boy had gone back to his religious teachers and told them that this text was false, that he had asked God for wisdom and did not get it, they would have told him that he had not asked in faith, and that if he would only believe, God would hear and answer his prayer.

But this boy did not return with murmurs on his lips and disappointment written on his countenance. When he returned, he declared that while he was pleading with God for the coveted knowledge, a "pillar of light," "above the brightness of the sun," descended from above and rested upon him; that he saw "two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description," standing above him in the air. And in answer to the question, "which of all the sects is right, and which one shall I join?" he was told to "join none of them, for they are all wrong"; that "they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; and that "their creeds were an abomination in his sight"—that is, in God's sight.

This was too much for his religious instructors. The idea of the Lord telling a poor, ignorant boy that all the creeds and fine-spun theories of the scholastic divines of the nineteenth century are an abomination in the sight of God, was too much for their human pride to bear. To them it was blasphemy; and like the self-righteous bigots who stoned Stephen, "they stopped their ears" and "with one accord" declared it was all of the Devil; that visions, spiritual manifestations, were all things of the past and that God did not reveal Himself in miraculous power now as He did in the days of Stephen, Paul, and John; thus confirming the truth of what Mr. Smith says the Lord told him in the vision; that is, that they have a "form of godliness" but deny "the power thereof."

On the night of September 21, 1823, Mr. Smith was visited by another heavenly messenger, and of him he says:

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues2 or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people. He said there was a book deposited written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants. Also that there were two stones in silver bows, and these stones fastened to a breastplate constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim, deposited with the plates, and the possession and use of these stones was what constituted seers in ancient or former times, and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. [RLDS History of the Church 1:12–13]

Without commenting on the foregoing I shall ask the reader to examine it carefully, as it will be of help to him as he progresses with his investigation. But if any should feel that the appearance of Moroni (a prophet who lived upon the earth fourteen centuries ago), as an angel, is unscriptural, I would respectfully ask him to read this, concerning the angel that appeared to John upon the Isle of Patmos:

for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book; worship God. (Revelation 22:9; also Revelation 19:10)

These texts, in connection with the fact that Moses and Elias appeared unto Christ and three of His disciples on the mount (Matthew 17:1–8), are sufficient to show that the claim here made is in harmony with the history of the past.

In 1827 the plates referred to above were delivered by the angel into the hands of Mr. Smith who, with the Urim and Thummim and the help of the Spirit, proceeded to translate them into our English language. The translation was completed in 1829, and in 1830 it was published to the world as "The Book of Mormon."

The Book of Mormon Establishes that Jesus Is the Christ

I have given the foregoing outline of what the book purports to be and of how it was brought to light, as briefly as I could consistent with clearness. Now I am prepared to tell you what grand truth the book was brought forth to establish; and if you know nothing of this book, only what you have heard from its enemies, you may prepare yourself for a surprise. For as stated above, it has been the most glaringly misrepresented of any book in the English language, or in any other language. The book is so plain and pointed in regard to its own mission that I shall let it speak for itself. The preface to the book says it shall come forth

to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off for ever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ ... manifesting himself unto all nations.

Again, in speaking prophetically of the relation the Book of Mormon shall sustain to the Bible, it says:

These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues and people, that the Lamb of God is the son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him or they can not be saved; and they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb. (1 Nephi 3:192–194)

The book referred to here as the "first" records is the Bible, more particularly the New Testament part of it; hence the "last records" (the Book of Mormon) are to establish the truth of the Bible and make known to the people that they must obey the Gospel as taught in the Bible, or they cannot be saved.

Again it says:

And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ ... and also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus whom they slew, was the very Christ, and the very God. (Mormon 1:86–88)

Again:

Now these things are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob.... And behold they shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go; that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Mormon 2:39, 41)

The grand truth then, that the Book of Mormon was brought forth to establish, is that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD, and THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD. Do you think it strange that a book of this kind, with such a grand mission, should be hated, despised, and misrepresented? Well, it is true; not only in this, but it is true of men also. Those who have accepted the Christ and contended for a full acceptance of and compliance with His teaching, have shared a similar fate in the past—and His followers are taught to expect the same in the future, as is witnessed by the following:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years of discretion, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ... esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. (Hebrews 11:24, 26)

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers. (Acts 7:52)

And ye shall be hated of all the world for my name's sake.... If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household. (Matthew 10:19, 22)

yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)

It is not necessary to multiply quotations. The foregoing are sufficient to show that at least as far back as the days of Moses, people had to suffer reproach because of their faith in Christ. That He, when He came in the flesh, was slandered and misrepresented by His enemies, misunderstood by the masses, and finally crucified as a criminal. And that those who were sent to tell the world that He was the Christ were told that they, in like manner, should be hated, spoken evil of for His name's sake, called Beelzebub, and even put to death by men who would think that they were doing God service. And Paul, after several years' experience in preaching Christ, says:

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Please do not imagine that the world has grown so wonderfully good since those scriptures were given that they have become untrue. No, that will not do, for the last quotation is a prophecy of that which shall be "in the last days." And the verse following the one quoted says:

For evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)

Satan Desires to Destroy the Book of Mormon and Its Testimony

Reader, do you believe the Bible? Do you believe the foregoing quotations from the New Testament? If you do, come, let us reason together. The Book of Mormon comes to us as an inspired record. Its avowed mission is to prove that Jesus is the Christ, and to convince both Jew and Gentile that they must come to Him and obey His Gospel or they cannot be saved. It comes to us to confirm the truth of the Bible. In the Bible we have the testimony of God's children on the Eastern continent that Jesus is the Christ, and in the Book of Mormon we have the same testimony from His children on this continent. And as the testimony of a second witness in court confirms and makes doubly strong the testimony of the first, when they agree, so the testimony of the Book of Mormon confirms and makes doubly strong the testimony of the Bible. Now do you think that Satan would sit still and allow an inspired book to go to the world on such a mission as this, without making a strong and persistent effort to destroy its influence for good? Would he not do all in his power, by slander and misrepresentation, to poison the minds of the people, prejudice them against it, and thus keep them from investigating and examining its claims? All this he has done, and is still doing. Bad as the Devil is, I believe he has never been accused of being lazy nor of neglecting his business. He is represented as a "roaring lion," walking about "seeking whom he may devour." As to his servants, however much they may disregard the Bible as a whole, there is one saying of the Savior that they have incorporated into their creed, and to which they adhere with strict fidelity, and that is:

Knew ye not that I must be about my Father's business? (Luke 2:49)

And their father's business is described by the Savior in the following language:

he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)

It must be said for his servants that they have attended strictly to their "father's business," so far as the Book of Mormon is concerned. They have told the people that it "supplants the Bible"; that it is to "take the place of the Bible"; that it "supersedes the New Testament in the same sense that the New Testament supersedes the Old"; "that it teaches a new gospel"; "does away with the work of Christ"; "puts Joseph Smith in the place of Christ"; and many other lies of a similar nature too numerous to mention. Thousands of honest people have been deceived by those falsehoods, and thus kept from reading the book for themselves, and also from hearing its claims presented by those who believe and know it to be true. Satan has left no stone unturned in his efforts to destroy this book, and the work connected with it. He has chosen men and women of all professions, and of all classes and shades of society, to carry on his nefarious work; but as in the days of our Savior's ministry in the flesh, ministers of religion have been his special favorites. Don't be startled. Look to the history of the past and learn wisdom. Remember that Cain was religious, and offered sacrifice to God. But his brother offered a different kind of sacrifice and God accepted it, while Cain's offering was rejected. We all know the result. The false prophet and man-made priests and teachers of Israel were the most bitter enemies with which the prophets of God had to contend, from Moses down to Christ. Was there any change then? No. The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, priests, high priests, D.D.s, and LL.D.s were the most bitter, the most persistent and unrelenting in hating, misrepresenting, and murdering both the Savior and His immediate followers. Those people were very religious; but like Cain, when they saw that God had more respect for the offering of those who dared to worship differently from them, than He had for theirs, it was too much for their pride to bear. Human nature is the same now that it was then. The same class of people that murdered the Son of God—man-made priests and religious bigots—have been the loudest in reviling, ridiculing, and misrepresenting the Book of Mormon. This too is in fulfillment of prophecy. Listen:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers ... false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good ... having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.... Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1–3, 5, 8)

There are two points in this prophecy that I want to impress on the mind of the reader. The first is, it is to be "in the last days"; the second is, those "false accusers" who "resist the truth," are the "despisers of those that are good," are to have "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." If you will go to those who are so bitter against the Book of Mormon and ask them, "Is the power of God with His people on the earth now as in the days of the apostles; do the angels visit them now; are the sick healed; devils cast out; the blind restored to sight; and the lame made to walk; do they have the gifts of tongues, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and revelation?" they will tell you, "No—that these things are all done away and are not for us." Now if Paul's prophecy concerning the "last days" is true, wouldn't you expect that class of people to "resist the truth," be "despisers of those that are good," and also "false accusers"? The very fact that they teach that those blessings are not for the children of God now, is positive proof that they don't enjoy them, that God "had not respect" unto their offering; hence they desire, Cain-like, to put to death those whose offering God does respect. There is nothing strange then in that class of people opposing the Book of Mormon. It is just as predicted. It is just what would be expected by anyone who understands and believes the Bible.

An Invitation for Further Investigation

Now reader, are you prepared to lay aside your prejudice, examine the evidences in favor of the Book of Mormon, and then weigh them impartially? If so, please come with me to the Bible, the standard by which we are to try all that comes to us as inspiration. That standard says:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning. (Romans 15:4)

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scriptures is given of any private will of man. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:20–21)

The disciples of Christ, in proving the Divinity of His mission, appealed to those things "written aforetime," as is witnessed by the following:

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (Acts 8:35)

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ. (Acts 18:28)

saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. (Acts 26:22)

I believe the Book of Mormon and the work connected with it are the things "which the prophets and Moses did say should come," and shall therefore appeal to them for proof. I shall also try and refrain from putting a "private interpretation" upon God's Word, believing that truth needs no sophistry nor deceit to help sustain it. If I cannot prove from the prophecies of the Bible that such a book and such a work were to come forth in the latter days, in the manner and at the time of the coming forth of this work, then I shall not ask you to accept it.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

1 Editor's Note (PPC): All Bible references are quoted from the Inspired Version of the Holy Scriptures. Since this work originally used the King James Version, when verses number differently they are listed after the Inspired Version reference, followed by the letters KJV.

2 With quotations used in this work, whether scriptural or historical, I have taken the liberty of italicizing the words to which I designed to call special attention, but with no design whatever of changing, in any sense, the meaning of the author quoted. (I. M. S.)

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