See also Over 300 Books on Mormons (Latter Day Saints) on DVDrom - For a list of all of my disks and digital books click here
“Thus saith the Lord” is the one claim of all the religious systems of the world. Accordingly we find that the adherents of all the great religions have their sacred books, which they venerate as revelations from heaven, from whence they claim their doctrines have emanated. The Brahmin has his Vedas; the Buddhist has his Tripitaka; the Zoroastrian has his Avesta; the Jew has the Law and the Prophets; the Christian has the Old and New Testaments; the Mohammedan has the Koran. In like manner, the Mormon has the “Book of Mormon.” But the Book of Mormon is not the only inspired book of the Latter-Day Saints. They adopt the Bible, the “Book of Mormon,” and the “Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” as their inspired Scriptures; and these are the sources of their doctrines.
1. The Mormon Bible.—By those not familiar with Mormon literature, the Mormon Bible and the “Book of Mormon” are frequently confounded. The former, however, is simply our English version of the Scriptures, with such modifications and distortions as Joseph Smith, the inspired translator, saw fit to make. He twisted some passages in Genesis so as to turn statements connected with the life of the patriarch Joseph into prophecies relating to a great prophet called Joseph, who should come forth in the latter days—referring to himself. He even had the audacity to make interpolations in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount; but our Bible, as translated by Smith and interpreted by him and his successors, is accepted by every Mormon as inspired, and is to be found in every Mormon Church.
2. The “Book of Mormon” is the next source of their doctrines, and is the more modern revelation, and therefore takes precedence over the Bible. The supernatural origin of the book, according to the Mormon belief, we have already given in Chapter I.
Mormon, after whom the book is called, was the last of the sacred prophets of ancient America. He was the leader of a race called the Nephites, and perished in a battle between his own race and the Lamanites in a.d. 420.
Both Nephites and Lamanites were descendants from the family of Lehi, an Israelite of the tribe of Manasseh, who emigrated from Jerusalem to America during the reign of King Zedekiah, 600 b.c.
The wars between these two races form the great bulk of the book. In the year a.d. 420 the decisive battle was fought at Cummorah, in Western New York. The Nephites were exterminated, with the exception of a few individuals. Mormon, their leader, was slain, and with him 230,000. The descendants of the victorious Lamanites are the North American Indians.
The “Book of Mormon” is said to be the condensed record of the history, faith, and prophecies of the ancient inhabitants of America, made on golden plates by the prophet Mormon. These plates he intrusted to his son Moroni, who survived the awful battle of extermination. He was the last of the Nephites to die, but before dying he sealed up the golden plates on which all these events were written and hid them in the Hill Cummorah, the very site of the final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites; and there Joseph Smith, guided by the spirit of Moroni himself, found them in 1827, took them to his home, translated them by means of his magical spectacles, and had them printed under the title “The Book of Mormon.”
It is certainly a unique work. It is a collection of sixteen separate or distinct books professing to be written at different periods by different prophets. Its style is in imitation of the Bible, and it incorporates about three hundred passages directly from the Holy Scriptures.
Among the records of the book are accounts of three different migrations to the American Continent: 1. A colony from the Tower of Babel soon after the flood, which was led by Jared, and which in time became a great nation, but was destroyed for their sins. 2. A colony led by Lehi from Jerusalem, which gave rise to the Nephites and Lamanites. 3. A number of Israelites who came from Jerusalem about eleven years after Lehi.
The book also declares that a supernatural light which lasted three days and three nights informed the inhabitants of America of the birth of Christ, and later a terrible earthquake announced His crucifixion; and three days afterward Jesus Himself appeared, descending out of heaven into the chief city of the Nephites in the sight of the people, to whom He exhibited His wounded side and the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. He remained with them forty days, and repeated to them His Sermon on the Mount, and appointed twelve American apostles, and gave them orders regarding baptism and His holy communion.
This book was the foundation of Mormonism; and Sidney Rigdon said: “The ‘Book of Mormon’ is to govern the Millennial Church;” but whatever may have been its uses to the Saints in the beginning of their career, it has had little to do with their practices for many years, save as a text-book.
3. The “Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”—Another source of Mormon doctrine—and a more fruitful source than the Book of Mormon—is the “Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” This is a collection of all the multifarious revelations that Joseph Smith claimed to receive and which he promulgated, together with the only revelation put forth by Brigham Young—the one which he set forth at Council Bluffs in 1847 to inspire and guide the Saints in their projected western pilgrimage through the wilderness.
4. Living Oracles.—The fourth source of Mormon doctrine is what has well been called the “Living Oracles,” the divine communications made continually to the priesthood. Theoretically the Mormons hold the Bible and their two sacred books to be the inspired Scriptures for their guidance: the Old Testament, as addressed particularly to the Jewish Church; the New Testament to the Judaic and European Christian Church; the “Book of Mormon” to the Church of America, and the “Book of Doctrine and Covenants” to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But practically, authority and guidance for them emanate from their living leaders, and few of either chiefs or masses read any of the three sacred books in order to know and follow the recorded teachings.
Thus Mormonism, through its belief in a continual revelation to the priesthood, especially the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, has marvellous ability to change itself to meet every emergency.