Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Wicked Take the Truth to Be Hard (1 Nephi 16 Part I)

Listen now!Despite Nephi having urged his brothers to pray to know the truth of what he and their father Lehi had been teaching them from the beginning of this journey, Laman and Lemuel continue to protest being taught.

1 Nephi 16:1
And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.
Notice that even they admit that the things they were told were "hard things" and "more than we are able to bear", not that they were necessarily false. This is one of those scriptures that speaks volumes about our own period in history, where good is called evil and evil is called good. One need only open the newspaper, or a magazine, or turn on the television or surf the Web to see that the things that were once considered decent, and a high-water mark of civilized society are now being called evil, selfish, and indulgent practices.

Take, for example, the erstwhile ideal of having large families. It used to be that a large family was considered a blessing, even a necessity in keeping family businesses, farms, and other economies thriving. When a person mentioned to an acquaintance that he/she had eight children, they received congratulations and were afforded a certain amount of respect. However, I know from my own experience (and hearing that of others) that this is no longer the case. Mention that you have more than one child and you're likely to get stares of disapproval, or even outright rude comments such as, "Well, I certainly hope you're finished now."

On the other hand, things like pornography, drug abuse, violence, gossip, taking advantage of another person to get rich, etc. are all acceptable, even respectable facets of our society. Not that they didn't exist before, but at least there was a healthy dose of stigma attached to them.

In the early history of America you could cause a man to feel real shame when you confronted him with a sin or transgression he was committing against God, himself, his family, and humanity. Try confronting, say, a pornography purveyor today with the real-world, heartbreaking consequences of his business and you will be laughed off as being out of touch with "what the people want" and "good business" and "market forces". As if being popular and rich were a virtue rather than a tipping point for being ripe for destruction.

That is the state in which we find Laman and Lemuel. The good news, at least in the short term, is that they accept Nephi's truth-telling and realize they need to repent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prayer as a Commandment (1 Nephi 15)

Listen now!After Nephi had received this vision, he had to come back to the harsh realities of this world, for his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, despite their previous experiences with angels and God's protection, were still not believers in revelation from God.

Nephi relates that his brothers came to him with many questions about what he and their father, Lehi, had seen.
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be aunderstood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.
They told Nephi that they couldn't understand what Lehi and Nephi were telling them about natural branches of an olive tree, a rod of iron, a tree with fruit, and a filthy river. Nephi was direct in asking them, "Have ye inquired of the Lord?"

"We have not;" they said, "for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us."

Nephi responded, "How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?"

In other words, they had been taught, correctly, that asking God is a commandment whenever we are in doubt or are confused about anything at all. It's not something to be treated lightly or tossed aside because of our unbelief or doubts. We have an obligation to approach God and ask Him for wisdom.

This is the principle problem with the Book of Mormon. Not that the book itself has problems, but that people will renounce it out of hand, after reading just a few pages, by declaring it unreadable, boring, difficult to understand.

What they really mean is that they don't understand or don't want to comply with the commandment from God to "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matt. 7:7)

How is it done? Through prayer! When we feel that we should not pray to know the truth of something, we are paying more attention to the devil than we are to God. For, "if ye would hearken unto the aSpirit which teacheth a man to bpray ye would know that ye must cpray; for the devil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray."

Alma, a prophet we will read about in a later book, taught:

Alma 34:17-27
17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your afaith unto repentance, that ye begin to bcall upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is amighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in aprayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your afields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 aCry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your aenemies.
23 Yea, acry unto him against the bdevil, who is an enemy to all crighteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must apour out your souls in your bclosets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your ahearts be bfull, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your cwelfare, and also for the welfare of dthose who are around you.

It is a theme that is repeated frequently in scripture.
  1. 22 And all athings, whatsoever ye shall bask in cprayer, believing, ye shall receive.
  2. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: aask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
  3. 3 Ye aask, and receive not, because ye bask camiss, that ye may dconsume it upon your elusts.
  4. 22 And whatsoever we aask, we receive of him, because we bkeep his ccommandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
  5. 15 Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to apreserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.
  6. 21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive...
  7. 20 And awhatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
  8. 29 Therefore, aask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
  9. 26 And after that he came men also were asaved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the bsons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: cWhatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.
  10. 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  11. 9 And whoso shall ask it in my name in afaith, they shall bcast out cdevils; they shall heal the dsick; they shall cause the blind to receive their esight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.
  12. 31 Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a aspirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.
  13. 9 Lay your ahands upon the bsick, and they shall crecover. Return not till I, the Lord, shall send you. Be patient in affliction. dAsk, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  14. 63 aDraw bnear unto me and I will draw near unto you; cseek me diligently and ye shall dfind me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  15. 52 And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be abaptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of bgrace and truth, which is Jesus cChrist, the only dname which shall be given under heaven, whereby esalvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.
It is clear from these and many other passages what the Lord wants us to do. He wants us to talk to Him and ask Him for wisdom.

Will you ask God whether what you are reading in the Book of Mormon is true?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gentiles in America and the Conditions of the Last Days (1 Nephi 14)

Listen now!Nephi learns what the Gentiles need to do to stay in favor with God while inhabiting the lands of the Americas. The requirements are simple. The Gentiles:
  • shall hearken unto the Lamb of God
  • [shall] harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God
  • [shall] repent
The blessings they will receive for their faithfulness are great.
  • taking away of their stumbling blocks
  • they shall be numbered among the house of Israel
  • they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever
  • they shall be no more brought down into captivity
  • the house of Israel shall no more be confounded
  • that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction
Nephi is taught about a "marvelous work and a wonder" that God would bring to pass around the time that the Gentiles immigrate to the Americas. This work would be as the dividing of the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, "either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil".

Nephi is reminded of the part of the vision he saw wherein there was a great and abominable church, representing the world at large, or anything or anyone that fights against the kingdom of God. In comparison to that church, the kingdom of God on the earth would be very small.

Nephi sees the great and abominable church gather against the seemingly small church of God, who were scattered across all the earth and armed with righteousness. God, seeing this imbalance, pours out wars and rumors of wars among those of the church of the devil. At the beginning of all of this conflict, the work of God commences, "preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel."

At this point, Nephi is shown a man, who is identified as one of the "twelve apostles of the Lamb" who would write down everything that would happen in those days of wars and conflict. This is obviously whom we know to be John the Revelator, who wrote the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Others also wrote the visions they were given of the same happenings, but those records were sealed up to be revealed later, when God decides to reveal them. The brother of Jared, mentioned in the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, wrote one of these accounts which makes up the sealed portion of the gold plates Joseph Smith received, but was not permitted to translate. Even though Nephi is allowed to see all of those things, he is not allowed to write them himself because it is not part of his mission.

At this point Nephi's vision ends. Who can doubt that we live in these times that Nephi foresaw? During what age of the world's history have we had such a density of conflicts between worldly organizations and the kingdom of God? When have the righteous been more persecuted and martyred on such a global scale? Think of the Holocaust, and those that continue to follow it in diverse parts of the globe. It is the mark of a desperate enemy of God who knows he has little time to hinder God's work of restoring the Gospel to all the earth.

Which church do you belong to? The one which supports God's work, or the one that fights against it? Look at all of your beliefs, affiliations, alliances, and practices and ask yourself whether they help or hinder those who are trying to build up God's kingdom.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some notes on the name Nephi

The Book of Mormon starts with a narrative written by a man named Nephi. Nephi, in the opening verses of the Book of Mormon writes the following:

"I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents..." (1 Nephi 1:1)

What is interesting (aside from the fact that Nephi here in his introduction from verse 1 to 3 is employing a perfect example of an Egyptian literary device known as a Colophon) to note is the possible meanings of Nephi's name. Latter-day Saint scholars are - by and large - in agreement that Nephi's name is of Egyptian origin. This should not be surprising, as not only was ancient Israel saturated with Egyptian influences during Nephi's time, but that Nephi himself gives indication that he and his family had knowledge of Egyptian culture and language (See, for example, 1 Nephi 1: 2 and Mosiah 1:4).

But what does Nephi's name mean in Egyptian? There are several possibilities. John Gee, a scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, for example, says the following (found here http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=&chapid=618):

"Three of the four etymologies proposed for the name Nephi are Egyptian; these are the Egyptian names Nfr "good," Nfw "captain," and Nfy "wind.""

Dr. Gee then concludes:

"Thus, one may confidently conclude, whether from Nfr or Nfw, the name Nephi is an attested Egyptian name."

The late Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley agrees with Dr. Gee, as is detailed in his book Lehi in the Desert, page 27.

What is also interesting to note is that Nephi's choice of the word "goodly" to describe his parents may be a play on words. Brant Gardner, in his recent Book of Mormon commentary Second Witness, notes the following:

"Is there a possibility that "goodly" is a play on words? Matthew L. Bowen noticed an interesting correlation between the plausible etymology of "Nephi" as a personal name and this description of "goodly" parents." (Vol. 1 page 60)

Gardner then quotes from Bowen, whom I shall quote in full:

"A proposed etymology of the Book of Mormon name Nephi is that it derives from the ancient Egyptian word nfr which is an adjective that means "good," "fine," or "goodly" and as noun denotes "kindness" or "goodness". By Lehi's time, this word was probably pronounced "nefe" (NEH-fee)...Nephi's use of words that translate into English as "goodly" and "goodness" makes this passage even more beautiful and meaningful if we also understand the name Nephi to denote "goodly" or "goodness." The wordplay perhaps suggests why the name Nephi so befits its bearer: he is nf, or "goodly", because he was born of "goodly parents" and is one endowed with a "knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God.""

This is an interesting insight to the Book of Mormon that not only gives us a more deeper appreciation for it as a literary work, but also is further internal consistancy that rules out Joseph Smith - or any of his contemporaries, for that matter- as a likely author of the Book of Mormon.




Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nephi Sees Conditions Leading to Latter-day Events (1 Nephi 13, Part III)

Listen now!In Part II of this chapter, we covered the arrival of the Gentiles and their wars and contentions with their mother nations. We also covered the book they brought with them which, it is abundantly apparent, is the Bible as we know it today.

In Part III, we finish 1 Nephi Chapter 13 by discussing Gentile influences on the descendants of Nephi's brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Christopher Columbus wrote in journals regarding his experience in mounting his voyage to the New World:
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me.... For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.
The passages of Isaiah he refers to are as follows:

Isaiah 18:1-2
1 aWoe to the land shadowing with wings, which is bbeyond the rivers of cEthiopia:
2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of abulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have bspoiled!
Isaiah 49:1, 5-6
1 aListen, O isles, unto me; and bhearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath ccalled me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
5 ¶ And now, saith the Lord that aformed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a alight to the bGentiles, that thou mayest be my csalvation unto the end of the earth.
Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard, who studied the extremely spiritual character of Columbus, wrote:
Men may doubt this, but there can be no doubt that the faith of Columbus was genuine and sincere, and that his frequent communion with forces unseen was a vital element in his achievements. It gave him confidence in his destiny, assurance that his performance would be equal to the promise.... This conviction that god destined him to be an instrument for spreading the faith was far more potent than the desire to win glory, wealth, and worldly honors, to which he was certainly far from indifferent.
In the secularized world of today, with its so-called "separation of church and state", and perpetual hand-wringing over America's erstwhile participation in the slave trade, the topic of Columbus can certainly make for uncomfortable dinner conversation among mixed company. For, as the argument goes, if Columbus hadn't set foot on his ship and come here, nothing bad would have happened.

Utter nonsense. To believe such a thing is to ignore patterns of human development and behavior in all nations and by all nations, especially their tendency to invade and enslave their neighbors. It is to imagine that only Columbus would ever have stumbled upon the Americas.

If not Columbus, then someone else--perhaps with unabashedly ignoble motivations--would have taken his place.

It certainly can't be denied that the impact of European contact with American natives was enormous. However, contrary to popular, uninformed opinion today, Europeans unknowingly carried with them certain strains of microbes and viruses that had not existed in the Americas, accidentally causing the deaths of great numbers of those already living here. They didn't arrive with a knowledge of what would happen in the future any more than you or I know whether we will be safe going to and from work in the morning or if we will, by some innocent choice or errant left turn, cause accident or injury to others.

Columbus was a humble, yet noble, learned, and religious man. So were several (but not all) of those who traveled with him on his first voyages. Those who were the more righteous and well-intentioned part did the best they knew how with what knowledge of the Gospel they possessed in the scriptures they had inherited from their fathers. They were therefore zealous in their desire to convert the natives they found on Hispa├▒ola and other islands of what is now known as the Bahamas.

Among many, a great example of these good intentions is found in a quote from a copy of Columbus' original Journal of the First Voyage as written by Bartolom├ę de Las Casas and quoted in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations:
...And I say that Your Highness ought not to consent that any foreigner does business or sets foot here, except Christian Catholics, since this was the end and the beginning of the enterprise, that it should be for the enhancement and glory of the Christian religion nor should anyone who is not a good Christian come to these parts.
Tragically, when word got out about the great resources and riches of the New World, others who were not so much inclined towards religious benevolence as to monetary gain, took it upon themselves to exploit and plunder whatever they could find. The Native Americans, being in the way of their greed, took the brunt of this exploitation in that they were turned from friends into slaves and made to do the work of those who wanted what the new land had to offer.

Again, in today's political climate, we often hear a revisionist interpretation of these events: as if somehow Columbus was the purposeful instigator of the mistreatment of God's children on the American continents. However, those who malign Columbus do not have the perspective that the Book of Mormon offers to us--and to Native American descendants who remain. God foresaw all of these events and has designed a higher purpose in their tragedy and suffering that transcends our own limited perspective and interpretation of events. When people make wrong choices and suffer consequences, God provides for even greater blessings than those that were lost, if they will but repent and obey Him. Sometimes those blessings come much later, but the do come.
30 Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the aland of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the bmixture of thy cseed, which are among thy brethren.
31 Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall adestroy the seed of thy brethren.
32 Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that aabominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.
33 Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be amerciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.
First, God makes a promise to Nephi that his family's descendants will not be completely eliminated. He promises to be merciful to the Gentiles and, through them, to restore what was once lost from the written Gospel they carried with them. How would he do this? Through the seed of Nephi and his brethren.
35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them [the Book of Mormon], which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, athese things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.
36 And in them shall be written my agospel, saith the Lamb, and my brock and my salvation.
37 And ablessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my bZion at that day, for they shall have the cgift and the dpower of the Holy Ghost; and if they eendure unto the end they shall be flifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting gkingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall hpublish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
The fulfillment of this prophecy is the restoration of the Gospel, through Joseph Smith, who descended from these first European-American Gentiles, and the Book of Mormon, which was written by Nephi's, Laman's, and Lemuel's descendants.

Verses 38 through 42 can be summed up thusly: God saw that people would make wrong choices and intervened to help them. When precious parts were taken out of the Bible, either intentionally or unintentionally, He made sure that the Book of Mormon would be made available to support the Bible's teachings and provide clarification as to what was lost. In the end, the Jews, who were the first to receive the Gospel, and the Gentiles, who received it second, would be brought together and unified towards fulfilling all of the prophecies in both books.

Research hints that Columbus was of Jewish descent. It is certainly possible that God meant for Columbus' journey to be one of many symbols of the literal fulfillment of the unification of Gentiles and Jews in the latter days in this vision given to Nephi.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Nephi Sees Conditions Leading to Latter-day Events (1 Nephi 13, Part II)

Listen now!Nephi now sees that the Gentiles who have come to the Americas (to Nephi, "the promised land") have family troubles of their own. The "mother Gentiles" from which they came arrived by sea to do battle with them. We know this as the various wars that led up to and followed the Revolutionary War.

Nephi also sees that the Gentiles are not alone in their struggles against their mother nations.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together aagainst them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were adelivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
As we will read later, and quite often at that, one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon is this: that no people will be able to prosper here unless they believe in God, their Creator.

Now, Nephi sees that they have something else with them that is "of great worth". He writes:
20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a abook, and it was carried forth among them.
21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
22 And I said unto him: I know not.
23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The abook that thou beholdest is a brecord of the cJews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the dplates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
In short, they carry with them a record of the Jews who were left at Jerusalem. Remember, now, that Nephi only has everything up to and including the reign of Zedekiah, Nephi's contemporary, and then his record is of his own people in the Americas. He would have known nothing about the Christian Bible as it came forth from the Middle East and Europe after the third century A.D. The book he sees in the vision is entirely new and unexpected, especially, as he writes, that they are "of great worth unto the Gentiles". Why would they have been of such great worth to Gentiles if they were considered "outsiders" to ancient and traditional Hebrews?

Here's why.
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the abook proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the aJews in purity unto the bGentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
It contained (past tense) the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, which the twelve apostles also shown in this vision bore testimony. The words that were originally written by the Jews at one time were uncorrupted when they arrived in Gentile hands. But then...
26 And after they go forth by the ahand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews bunto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that cgreat and abominable dchurch, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have etaken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are fplain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and aprecious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
29 And after these plain and precious things were ataken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
You can read the howls of heresy across the Internet as I write this. Hundreds of anti-mormon web sites exist for the sole purpose of denouncing us for believing that the Bible is not 100% the inerrant and flawless word of God. All kinds of rhetorical gyrations are engaged in by anti-Mormons to show that the Bible (no matter which of the hundreds of translations now published) has never, ever been tampered with...or that if it has, God "made it okay" somehow and that it's just a mystery we'll never understand.

We respectfully disagree.

We disagree on the grounds that any document that passes through the hands of men, as the Bible has done for the nearly 1600 years that it has existed more or less as a single book (there were 400 years during which it was scattered to the four winds), has the potential of being changed. To claim that God somehow forced each handler to be precise, even when making mistakes in translation or interpretation, either on purpose or by accident, is completely illogical and at odds with the clearly accepted Christian doctrine that God respects free agency.

No. There is another explanation that makes much more sense, does not require incredible claims with virtually no evidence, and does not contradict God's law of free agency: a second record. God knew that there would be mistakes and deliberate changes made by translators and those who made handwritten copies. Instead of forcing those individuals to "do it right" in some unexplainable way (and forcing us to believe without providing some other witness as to authenticity), God prepared other records, the principle of which is the Book of Mormon, to help re-establish what was lost in terms of doctrine and "plain and precious things" that once existed in the Bible.
  1. 6 aAt the mouth of btwo witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to cdeath; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
  2. 15 ¶ One awitness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two bwitnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
  3. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three awitnesses every word may be established.
  4. 1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three awitnesses shall every word be established.
  5. 19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three awitnesses.
  6. 28 He that adespised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
  7. 28 And now, behold, I give unto you, and also unto my servant Joseph, the akeys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry; and in the mouth of two or three bwitnesses shall every word be established.
  8. 3 Now, in relation to this matter, it would be very difficult for one recorder to be present at all times, and to do all the business. To obviate this difficulty, there can be a recorder appointed in each ward of the city, who is well qualified for taking accurate minutes; and let him be very particular and precise in taking the whole proceedings, certifying in his record that he saw with his eyes, and heard with his ears, giving the date, and names, and so forth, and the history of the whole transaction; naming also some three individuals that are present, if there be any present, who can at any time when called upon certify to the same, that in the mouth of two or three awitnesses every word may be established.
The Book of Mormon is that sacred, second witness that fills in what Satan tried to have removed from the Bible. Why else was Joseph Smith killed, among other things, for claiming it to be true scripture? Why else were thousands of Mormons forced from their homes and made to flee from the most religiously free nation on earth? Why else would Mormons be so hated for propagating it to all the world? It so enrages the enemy of God to know that his original plan to create confusion and contention among thousands of breakaway Christian sects because of misunderstandings about passages found in multiple of versions of the Bible was thwarted, that he will stop at nothing to discredit a second witness.

And that is why God establishes truth via multiple testimonies, including the Book of Mormon. To destroy the works of the devil and to establish His Word among all nations...not just those dwelling in one region of the world.

For more on this subject from a Book of Mormon perspective, go to www.fairlds.org:
Also see 2 Nephi 29.