Inspiration or Not? by Heather Duncan
The Most Correct Book?
My Mormon friends shared their testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was God’s true church in many ways. They spoke of the blessings of the temple and having their families together forever. They pointed out similarities of the Mormon church to the New Testament church, such as not having paid preachers and the emphasis on every member spreading the gospel. They rejoiced in receiving new revelations from God through modern-day, living prophets. But, most especially, they emphasized that “We have the fullness of the gospel,” contained in the Book of Mormon.
I wondered, “Why not?” Why couldn’t God use a sincere, poor 14-year-old country boy to reopen His channel of prophetic revelation and restore long-lost scripture through him? It certainly seemed to make sense that the early settlers on the American continent were Jesus’ “other sheep” (John 10:16) who needed to hear the gospel.
So when the missionaries came to my house to teach their discussions, they had all the right answers for all my wrong questions. When they asked me to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, I did. In fact, I “received a testimony” of its truthfulness long before I finished reading the book.
The problem was, I was looking for confirmation that what my friends and the missionaries had said to me was true. I did not read with discernment to see if it lined up with the truth that God had already spoken in the Bible. I didn’t even verify the factual accuracy by comparing the Book of Mormon to independent historical, archaeological, or scientific evidence.
The significance of the Book of Mormon was further impressed upon me in the new converts’ class I attended. “Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon into English through the gift and power of God. He said that it is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4:461; Gospel Principles, 1979, p. 50)
A couple years later as I was studying more thoroughly to learn God’s truths from the Book of Mormon, I became aware of some discrepancies in the book. This was disturbing to me because God doesn’t make mistakes. If the Book of Mormon was scripture inspired by God and correctly translated by the “gift and power of God,” there wouldn’t be any mistakes. Then I noticed that the Book of Mormon, instead of saying that it was inspired by God or “thus saith the Lord,” contained a number of disclaimers. Here’s what I discovered:
Work of God or Work of Man?
“And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.” (1 Nephi 1:3)
“Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.” (1 Nephi 19:6)
“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.” (2 Nephi 2:17)
“Wherefore, Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven. And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious, that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi.” (Jacob 1:1-2)
“I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge.” (Jacob 7:26)
“Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.” (Alma 40:20)
“Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept … it must needs be that I write a little but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations.” (Jarom 1:1, 2)
“Behold, it came to pass that I, Omni, being commanded by my father, Jarom, that I should write somewhat upon these plates, to preserve our genealogy— … But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” (Omni 1:1-2)
“And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and hear, and call it the Book of Mormon. And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe; Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; … and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.” (Mormon 1:1-4)
“Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father … And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.” (Mormon 8:1, 12)
“Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been. And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” (Mormon 9:31-34)
“And now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.” (Ether 5:1)
“And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou has made us mighty in word by faith, but thou has not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands … Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.” (Ether 12:23-25)
“Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites.” (Moroni 10:1)
Inspiration or Frustration?
These quotes are conclusive evidence that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was producing a work of man, not the work of God. If God wanted the Book of Mormon to be His work, He would have inspired its author(s). But, as we have seen, the authors to which the Book of Mormon is ascribed didn’t even claim to be inspired by God. They wrote from their own human opinions, according to their own knowledge, with their own errors and imperfections, and according to their own memory, at the commandments of men. These authors would not have said that their work was written either by inspiration or by revelation.
The Bible says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). The men who God inspired to write the books of the Bible clearly acknowledged that God was their source:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses.”
“The Lord spake unto Joshua.”
“The vision of Isaiah … for the Lord hath spoken.”
“The word of the Lord came to” Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, and the other Old Testament prophets. The New Testament gospels are written eye-witness accounts of what Jesus actually did and said. Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude all wrote as servants “of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Book of Mormon claims to be translated by “the gift and power of God.” Why would God inspire Joseph Smith to translate an imperfect work perfectly with all the errors intact? God isn’t in the translation business; that’s the work of man. God is in the inspiration business. The real God does not inspire true scripture with errors or disclaimers in it. Would a work of errors come from God?
“Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men.” (D&C 3:3).