Monday, May 30, 2011

What Evidence Would You Need?

What evidence would you need to be convinced that the Book of Mormon is true? What would be the criteria for knowing that it is scripture? What would you need to help you know that it is the word of God? I have thought of several things that might help, that I wanted to share with you.

Joseph Smith said that he translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates. He said that an angel of God showed him where to find the plates. He also said that after he finished translating the Book of Mormon, the angel retrieved the plates, so we do not have them now. If someone besides him had seen the plates, would that help you to believe? Actually others were allowed to see the plates. Here is the testimony that they wrote, which is contained in the Book of Mormon:

The Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Martin Harris

In the Bible we are taught the law of witnesses. It teaches us, "...In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." 2 Cor. 13:1 Here we have three witnesses who saw and touched the golden plates. Is three witnesses not enough? Would eight witnesses be enough? Here are the testimonies of eight witnesses who also saw and touched the golden plates:

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

Maybe it would be difficult to believe the testimony and witness of other people. Maybe you would like some evidence to show that Joseph himself didn't write the Book of Mormon. It is interesting that as I was thinking about this topic, I came across this article that I would like to share with you.

"It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I have struggled to complete a doctoral dissertation. For whatever reason, I have taken months and years, and have started over more than once as I have tried to find something that adds to the scholarly conversation of religion and politics.

Even when I have sound findings, I have struggled. I write, rewrite, edit, cut, add back in, sweat, burble, grow frustrated, avoid my project, stress, sleep poorly and then write some more. I next realize I missed something vital, so I start the process over again. This strange activity has consumed months and years of my life.

Truth be told, I enjoy writing. My friends tell me is it something I do reasonably well. I have access to the greatest books ever written on the media subjects I study. The Internet provides scores of examples of writing of this type and great papers that might be considered life changing. I have a laptop upon which I can write and edit even as I sit quietly in parks. My colleagues and friends are all well-trained and provide useful insight. I communicate with some thousands of miles away.

But I struggle.

This difficult personal struggle increases my faith in Joseph Smith and in our Book of Mormon.

I have years of training, great editing and access, and it has taken me years to write a dissertation that will make a minor, forgettable contribution to scholarly thought about media and politics, should I finally finish my paper.

My intense document is significantly shorter than what Joseph Smith produced with scratch paper and with three years of education. Consider the remarkable poverty in 1829 through which he operated, while living under persecution in someone else’s home. No laptops, experts or profound libraries to help him. And, depending on how you count, he produced it in only three months with little editing. It was an astounding event, regardless of the feelings any observer might have of its otherworldly origins. The millions who read the Book of Mormon testifies to its contribution.

This week, I couldn’t bring myself to write about the big media story of the week: Oprah’s last episode and of her contributions to religion in the country because I wanted to mark the quiet decision by the church to post a simple, beautiful video online from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testifying of the Book of Mormon. I hope many see it.

This week, I needed to raise my voice about the miraculous Book of Mormon.

Pretend for a minute that the Book of Mormon was a work of fiction or the work of a gifted imagination — and I don’t imagine for a minute that it is such a work. One way to judge its staying power would be to look for new insights and for its power to influence lives.
As for insights, have you ever pondered in depth 2 Nephi 2 or Alma 42? The theological implications and solutions to grand dilemmas posited in those chapters seem nothing short of miraculous in their clarity of writing and thought. These can be considered profound contributions to any discussion of world theology worthy to note, and that’s merely assuming the Book of Mormon was a product of Joseph Smith’s imagination.

When I consider the implications of the book’s miraculous origins, I quail with awe at the power and breadth of those implications.

As for its ability to change lives, I can only say it has changed mine by providing comfort in dark hours, some of which occur as I labor over doctoral writing.

I sometimes compare my minor troubles with those of a handful of faithful believers huddled together around 375 A.D. listening to the speech that became Moroni 7 as genocide, apostasy, and torture and death raged around them as the possibility for a bright mortal future ebbed to shadow.

I think of Mormon’s almost plaintive question amid that trauma: How is it possible that to lay hold upon every good thing? His answer moves and comforts and implores. I pray to be filled with the love he describes.

Finally, I think sometimes about the history of the word “medium.” It is a strange word in some ways — a go-between or a connecter. Media "go-between" people as they exchange communication ideas. Beyond that, however, medium is an old spiritualist term. A medium is someone who allowed connection with ghosts. Media "go-between" the dead and us.

The Book of Mormon provides access to authentic, ghostly voices who truly cry from the dust and these voices among the millions of modern, mediated voices have something truly, rarely important to say.

I love the Book of Mormon. I am only one person, but I do know it to be true. It is the modern world's true medium.
(The Book of Mormon: The true medium Published: Monday, May 30, 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT By Lane Williams, For Mormon Times)

Now, that testimony I have just shared may not convince you that the Book of Mormon is true. And frankly, that is not the way that I would like you to come to believe. I don't even want you to rely on the testimonies of the three, and the eight witnesses. In my opinion, the only way to really know for sure if the Book of Mormon is true, is to do what the writers of the Book of Mormon suggested, and that is to ask God.
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:4,5

Don't take my word for it. Don't take the testimony of members of the church who have read it, and have prayed to know if it is true. Don't take physical evidences as your determining factor. Read the Book of Mormon for yourself. Read it with "real intent" to know if it is true. Then ask God. I know he will answer your prayer because he has answered mine.

Here is the video mentioned above:

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