FAIR Study Aids/Gospel Doctrine/Book of Mormon/Lesson One

Table of Contents

FairMormon Study Aids: Gospel Doctrine, Book of Mormon, Lesson One


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual

Lesson 1: "The Keystone of our Religion"

Disclaimer: The information provided here is a supplement to the lesson manual to assist teachers in addressing issues that might arise in the course of teaching. It is in no way intended to replace or supplant the lesson materials provided by the Church. It is intended only to be used as background information for prior preparation by teachers and should not be used in any way to replace correlated lesson materials.

LDS Lesson Manual

Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual - Lesson 1: The Keystone of Our Religion

1. The Book of Mormon is the Keystone of Our Religion

Helpful Insights

  • The Keystone of Our Religion: The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion because the essence of our religion is revelation, and the Book of Mormon is tangible evidence that revelation has been received. This is why Terryl Givens calls the Book of Mormon the “sacred sign” of our faith. [Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 62-88. ISBN 019513818X. ISBN 0195168887.]
  • Witness of Christ: Of the 6,607 verses in the modern editions of the Book of Mormon, 3,925 of them make direct reference to Jesus Christ, an average of 1 reference to Christ every 1.7 verses. [Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 16-18.]
  • Keystone Witness of Christ: If Book of Mormon is true, then the resurrected Christ was seen and touched by thousands of people in ancient America. Thus, Jesus really rose from the dead and the Atonement is real.
  • Fullness of Doctrine: The Book of Mormon lays out a six point formula as the “gospel” or “doctrine” of Christ. [Noel B. Reynolds, "The Gospel as Taught by Nephite Prophets," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992).]
  • Keystone in Doctrine: If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and the doctrines taught in the revelations he received are also true.
  • Model for Testimony: The Book of Mormon presents a revolutionary model for revelation as a dialogue that ultimately provides the means for seeking one’s own testimony [Terryl L. Givens, "The Book of Mormon and Dialogic Revelation," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2 (2001): 16–27. off-site wiki ]
  • Keystone in Testimony: If a person gains a testimony of the BoM, then they also gain a testimony that (1) God exists, (2) Jesus Christ's atonement is real, (3) Joseph Smith was a prophet, and (4) the Church is true. Introduction to the Book of Mormon

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Some critics have said the Book of Mormon teachings of Christ are reflective of Joseph Smith’s environment, rather than an ancient Israelite's environment.

Response
Recent research actually shows that Book of Mormon teachings about the Messiah are consistent with ancient Jewish beliefs.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
The title page says Jesus Christ is the “Eternal God.” Some critics say this is evidence that Joseph Smith started out as a modalist or Trinitarian. Source(s)
{{{sources}}}


|link=

  • Ari D. Bruening and David L. Paulsen, "The Development of the Mormon Understanding of God: Early Mormon Modalism and Other Myths (Review of: Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution)," FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 109–169. off-site

|title= }}


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Some critics complain the Book of Mormon does not contain the “fullness of doctrine” or the “fullness of the gospel” because it is missing distinctive “Mormon” doctrines.

Response
“Gospel” or “doctrine” as used in the Book of Mormon is not meant to be comprehensive.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Some critics say that praying about the Book of Mormon is not an “objective” means of testing it and that the Bible is the only standard that can or should be used.

Response
This idea is contradicted by the Bible itself.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Critics say that “Moroni’s challenge” is circular reasoning. Such critics are actually engaged in some circular reasoning of their own. Source(s)
{{{sources}}}


|link=

|title= }}

Faith Affirmations

2. Many Witnesses have Testified of the Book of Mormon

Helpful Insights

  • Angels and Books: The Joseph Smith story actually fits an ancient pattern where prophets are given a heavenly book or hidden record by an angelic messenger. [1] or [2]
  • In his 2009 General Conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talked about how Joseph and Hyrum Smith went to their death bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon, a powerful evidence of its divinity. (Ensign)
  • Various witnesses have left behind a description of the plates. [3]
  • Informal Witnesses: In addition to the official Book of Mormon witnesses, some others got to feel the plates while covered or got to see them under special circumstances. (Other Book of Mormon Witnesses)

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Moroni’s Visit: Critics have attacked the story of Moroni’s visit in various ways. Source(s)
{{{sources}}}


|link=

|title= }}


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Weight of the Plates: Some critics say the plates would have weighed too much to be lifted and carried as Joseph and others claimed.

Response
This assumes the plates were pure gold.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
The Three and Eight Witnesses: Various criticisms have been leveled at the Book of Mormon witnesses.

Response
All of these have been responded to by faithful Latter-day Saints.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Fraudulent Plates? Some critics suggest that Joseph Smith could have manufactured a fake set of plates. Source(s)
{{{sources}}}


|link=

|title= }}

Faith Affirmations

  • Metal Plates: Since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, numerous examples of writing on metal plates have been unearthed. Here are some examples. [4] or [5] or [6]
  • Subscription: This is the ancient Near Eastern practice of placing the title and authorship of a text at the end of the record, rather than the beginning. Interestingly, Joseph Smith said the title page was a translation of the very last of the metal plates. [7]
  • Doubled, Sealed, and Witnessed Documents: Joseph Smith and others who saw the plates said that a portion of them were sealed. This is consistent with known legal practices of the ancient Near-East. [8] or [9]
  • Despite leaving the Church, none of the witnesses ever denied their testimony of seeing the plates [10] or [11]

3. The Book of Mormon was Written for Our Day

Helpful Insights

  • The Book of Mormon is An Ancient Book: While the Book of Mormon was indeed written for our, it is important to remember that the Book of Mormon was not written in our day. Brant Gardner has explained it this way:
“It is popular (and theologically appropriate) to claim that the Book of Mormon was written for our day. This statement emphasizes the modern value of the Book of Mormon. It necessarily treats the text ahistorically. Regardless of the value for our day and the obvious fact that it came forth in our day, it was not written in our day, nor in our language, nor in our culture. Even internally, there is little evidence that Mormon conceived of a future people who were significantly different from those he knew.” [Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 1:viii.]

Thus, it is important not to impose modern standards and expectations on to the record. Of course we still can, and should, “liken” the text to our own lives, but at the same time caution must be taken to remember that “likening” is a tool for practical application, not a method of scriptural exegesis. Understanding this is important because many criticisms against the Book of Mormon rely on modern assumptions about the it, rather than what it actually says.

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information

Faith Affirmations

4. The Book of Mormon can Bring us Nearer to God

Helpful Insights

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
“Most Correct Book”: It is claimed that because Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon is the “most correct book” it should be error-free.

Response
These critics are taking this quote out of context. The introduction to the Book of Mormon itself notes that any mistakes in the book are the "mistakes of men."
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Textual Changes: Some critics point to textual changes as evidence of changing theology or covering up mistakes.

Response
Most changes are minor edits to punctuation, spelling, and grammar. The few more significant changes have been examined and discussed by knowledgeable Latter-day Saints.
For more information

Faith Affirmations

Additional Information Related to the Introductory Material in the Book of Mormon

In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, it says that the Book of Mormon is a “record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas” and that the Lamanites are “among the ancestors of the American Indians.” This opens up a number issues related to Book of Mormon geography, archeology, populations, and modern DNA studies. The following may be helpful to Gospel Doctrine instructors who would like to be prepared should any of these issues arise during their lesson:

  • Archeology: It is claimed that archeology contradicts the Book of Mormon. [12]
  • Geography: Most people assume that the Book of Mormon events spanned across the entire continent. A close reading of the text reveals fairly tight spatial relations. [13]
  • DNA and the Book of Mormon: It is claimed that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon, while some members have claimed that DNA provides evidence for the Book of Mormon. Both claims are incorrect. [14]

The Introduction also mentions that the Book of Mormon was translated "by the gift and power of God." There are several issues related to the translation of the Book of Mormon that may arise. We have prepared several articles which address those topics [15]

Additional Information Related to the Translation Process

Joseph Smith said very little about the translation process - only that it was done "by the gift and power of God." However, there are accounts available from others, which critics have recently put the spotlight on. Brant Gardner discussed this in his 2009 FAIR Conference presentation. [16]